Farewell to Manzanar

Farewell to Manzanar

by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, James D. Houston


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During World War II a community called Manzanar was hastily created in the high mountain desert country of California, east of the Sierras. Its purpose was to house thousands of Japanese American internees. One of the first families to arrive was the Wakatsukis, who were ordered to leave their fishing business in Long Beach and take with them only the belongings they could carry. For Jeanne Wakatsuki, a seven-year-old child, Manzanar became a way of life in which she struggled and adapted, observed and grew. For her father it was essentially the end of his life.

At age thirty-seven, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston recalls life at Manzanar through the eyes of the child she was. She tells of her fear, confusion, and bewilderment as well as the dignity and great resourcefulness of people in oppressive and demeaning circumstances. Written with her husband, Jeanne delivers a powerful first-person account that reveals her search for the meaning of Manzanar.

Farewell to Manzanar has become a staple of curriculum in schools and on campuses across the country. Last year the San Francisco Chronicle named it one of the twentieth century’s 100 best nonfiction books from west of the Rockies.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780618216208
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 04/29/2002
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 187,705
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.75(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

James D. Houston is the coauthor with his wife, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, of the bestselling Farewell to Manzanar, and author of six other novels, including Continental Drift, Love Life, and The Last Paradise . His nonfiction works include Californians and In the Ring of Fire: A Pacific Basin Journey . He lives in Santa Cruz, California, in the house where Patty Reed spent the last years of her life.

Read an Excerpt

What Is Pearl Harbor?

On that first weekend in December there must have been twenty or twenty-five boats getting ready to leave. I had just turned seven. I remember it was Sunday because I was out of school, which meant I could go down to the wharf and watch. In those days — 1941 — there was no smog around Long Beach. The water was clean, the sky a sharp Sunday blue, with all the engines of that white sardine fleet puttering up into it, and a lot of yelling, especially around Papa’s boat. Papa loved to give orders. He had attended military school in Japan until the age of seventeen, and part of him never got over that. My oldest brothers, Bill and Woody, were his crew. They would have to check the nets again, and check the fuel tanks again, and run back to the grocery store for some more cigarettes, and then somehow everything had been done, and they were easing away from the wharf, joining the line of boats heading out past the lighthouse, into the harbor.

Papa’s boat was called The Nereid — long, white low-slung, with a foredeck wheel cabin. He had another smaller boat, called The Waka (a short version of our name), which he kept in Santa Monica, where we lived. But The Nereid was his pride. It was worth about $25,000 before the war, and the way he stood in the cabin steering toward open water you would think the whole fleet was under his command. Papa had a mustache then. He wore knee-high rubber boots, a rust-colored turtleneck Mama had knitted him, and a black skipper’s hat. He liked to hear himself called “Skipper.”

Through one of the big canneries he had made a deal to pay for The Nereid with percentages of each catch, and he was anxious to get it paid off. He didn’t much like working for someone else if he could help it. A lot of fishermen around San Pedro Harbor had similar contracts with the canneries. In typical Japanese fashion, they all wanted to be independent commercial fisherman, yet they almost always fished together. They would take off from Terminal Island, help each other find the schools of sardine, share nets and radio equipment — competing and cooperating at the same time.

You never knew how long they’d be gone, a couple of days, sometimes a week, sometimes a month, depending on the fish. From the wharf we waved good-bye — my mother, Bill’s wife, Woody’s wife, Chizu, and me. We yelled at them to have a good trip, and after they were out of earshot and the sea had swallowed their engine noises, we kept waving. Then we just stood there with the other women, watching. It was a kind of duty, perhaps a way of adding a little good luck to the voyage, or warding off the bad. It was also marvelously warm, almost summery, the way December days can be sometimes in southern California. When the boats came back, the women who lived on Terminal Island would be rushing to the canneries. But for the moment there wasn’t much else to do. We watched until the boats became a row of tiny white gulls on the horizon. Our vigil would end when they slipped over the edge and disappeared. You had to squint against the glare to keep them sighted, and with every blink you expected the last white speck to be gone.

But this time they didn’t disappear. They kept floating out there, suspended, as if the horizon had finally become what it always seemed to be from the shore: the sea’s limit, beyond which no man could sail. They floated awhile, then they began to grow, tiny gulls becoming boats again, a white armada cruising toward us.

“They’re coming back,” my mother said.

“Why would they be coming back?” Chizu said.

“Something with the engine.”

“Maybe somebody got hurt.”

“But they wouldn’t all come back,” Mama said, bewildered.

Another woman said, “Maybe there’s a storm coming.”

They all glanced at the sky, scanning the unmarred horizon. Mama shook her head. There was no explanation. No one had ever seen anything like this before. We watched and waited, and when the boats were still about half a mile off the lighthouse a fellow from the cannery came running down to the wharf shouting that the Japanese had just bombed Pearl Harbor.

Chizu said to Mama, “What does he mean? What is Pearl Harbor?”

Mama yelled at him, “What is Pearl Harbor?”

But he was running along the docks, like Paul Revere, bringing the news, and didn’t have time to explain.

That night Papa burned the flag he had brought with him from Hiroshima thirty-five years earlier. It was such a beautiful piece of material, I couldn’t believe he was doing that. He burned a lot of papers too, documents, anything that might suggest he still had some connection with Japan. These precautions didn’t do him much good. He was not only an alien; he held a commercial fishing license, and in the early days of the war the FBI was picking up all such men, for fear they were somehow making contact with enemy ships off the coast. Papa himself knew it would only be a matter of time.

They got him to weeks later, when we were staying overnight at Woody’s place, on Terminal Island. Five hundred Japanese families lived there then, and FBI deputies had been questioning everyone, ransacking houses for anything that could conceivably be used for signaling planes or ships or that indicated loyalty to the Emperor. Most of the houses had radios with a short-wave band and a high aerial on the roof so that wives could make contact with the fishing boats during these long cruises. To the FBI every radio owner was a potential saboteur. The confiscators were often deputies sworn in hastily during the turbulent days right after Pearl Harbor, and these men seemed to be acting out the general panic, seeing sinister possibilities in the most ordinary household items: flashlights, kitchen knives, cameras, lanterns, toy swords.

If Papa were trying to avoid arrest, he wouldn’t have gone near that island. But I think he knew it was futile to hide out or resist. The next morning two FBI men in fedora hats and trench coats — like out of a thirties movie — knocked on Woody’s door, and when they left, Papa was between them. He didn’t struggle. There was no point to it. He had become a man without a country. The land of his birth was at war with America; yet after thirty-five years here he was still prevented by law from becoming an American citizen. He was suddenly a man with no rights who looked exactly like the enemy.

About all he had left at this point was his tremendous dignity. He was tall for a Japanese man, nearly six feet, lean and hard and healthy-skinned from the sea. He was over fifty. Ten children and a lot of hard luck had worn him down, had worn away most of the arrogance he came to this country with. But he still had dignity, and he would not let those deputies push him out the door. He led them.

Mama knew they were taking all the alien men first to an interrogation center right there on the island. Some were simply being questioned and released. In the beginning she wasn’t too worried; at least she wouldn’t let herself be. But it grew dark and he wasn’t back. Another day went by and we still had heard nothing. Then word came that he had been taken in to custody and shipped out. Where to, or for how long? No one knew. All my brothers’ attempts to find out were fruitless.

What had they charged him with? We didn’t know that either, until an article appeared the next day in the Santa Monica paper, saying he had been arrested for delivering oil to Japanese submarines offshore.

My mother began to weep. It seems now that she wept for days. She was a small, plump woman who laughed easily and cried easily, but I had never seen her cry like this. I couldn’t understand it. I remember clinging to her legs, wondering why everyone was crying. This was the beginning of a terrible, frantic time for all my family. But I myself didn’t cry about Papa, or have any inkling of what was wrenching Mama’s heart, until the next time I saw him, almost a year later.

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Farewell to Manzanar 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 109 reviews.
dustin_d_wv More than 1 year ago
Book title and author Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, James D. Houston Title of review: Farwell to Manzanar Number of stars (1 to 5): 5 Farwell to Manzanar is a really good book. It's about this girl who doesn't know what Pearl Harbor is. She was only seven years in 1942 when her family uprooted her from the family to go to Manzanar internment camp. When she went to the camp there were one-thousand other Japanese people there. But there was a lot of cool stuff there including cheerleaders, boy scouts, and even more. So I wonder how bad it feels like to grow up behind barbed wire fence. The little girl did like to listen to the band sing 'don't fence me in.' The little girl is so beautiful, she is so smart and I think she is the smartest little girl I know. After she decided that she liked the camp she made friends and had a pretty decent life. One thing I don't like is the camp was in the United States.
JuHyeK More than 1 year ago
*Spoiler Alert Before reading Farewell to Manzanar, I only looked at the perspective of myself and my country, America. I have never looked at the perspective of different people. After reading this book, I’ve come to realize how ignorant I was for not listening or even trying to look at the perspectives of the other side, even though sometimes they may be considered as the “enemy”. I was one of those self-conscious people that did not care about what others thought, like the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Jeanne’s Farewell to Manzanar helps us to picture a life at the internment camp in Manzanar, where many Japanese were captured and forced to live in. This book captures a little eight year old girl had to experience bad weather, sleeping in a cramped cubicle, eating unfamiliar food and worst of all, seeing her family corrupting and separating as the days went by. At one scene, Jeanne saw her father for the first time after he was captured by the Americans and brought to North Dakota. It had only been nine months that they haven’t seen each other, but the family knew he had changed. She says, “I thought I should be laughing and welcoming him home. But I started to cry. By this time everyone was crying. No one else had moved yet to touch him… I hugged him tighter, wanting ti be happy that my father had come back. Yet I hurt so inside I could only welcome him with convulsive tears (46)”. Jeanne was the only one who was brave enough to welcome her father who looked terrible. Even though the Japanese may have bombed Pearl Harbor, many innocent people had to suffer through this event. As Americans, we may think that it must be right to send the Japanese away for bombing us, but many Japanese who did not do anything relevant to the bombing and just lived peacefully in America had to move away because of their appearances and bloodline. Jeanne’s family is one of many innocent Japanese families that had to suffer. This memoir is an amazing story that will always remind to be mindful of other’s perspectives.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Book Review Outline Book title and author: Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston & James D. Houston Title of review: Farewell to Manzanar Review Number of stars (1 to 5): 3.5 Introduction Jeanne looks back on her life in Manzanar concentration camp. She finally voices the thoughts she has kept to herself all this time. I thought the book was interesting because it describes life in a concentration camp through the eyes of a seven year old. Description and summary of main points Jeannie Wakatsuki was exiled into a concentration camp as a little girl. She did not understand what was happening, as she was only seven years old. She tells what life was like inside the gates of Manzanar and what life was like when they were forced into the outside world. She also recalls a visit to Manzanar as an adult. Evaluation In the beginning of the book, the plot is jumble and confusing. The characters are portrayed very well and are completely life- like. The settings are described accurately and detailed. As Jeanne grows older, she comes to realize the meaning of Manzanar. This book voices Jeanne’s thoughts and opinions of Manzanar and life very well. Conclusion This book shows life at Manzanar through the eyes of young Jeannie. She tells her thoughts as a child, teenager, and an adult. Overall, it is a very good book and I enjoyed it. Your final review Though the plot is jumbled at first, you start to understand the book better once you read farther into it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In the book Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuk Houston and James D. Houston, Jeanne is a young, seven year old, girl who was sent with her family to live at Manzanar interment camp in 1942 with 10 thousand other Japanese Americans. This is a true story of a spirited Japanese American family's attempt to survive the indignities of forced detention. The authors do a good job of engaging the reader by having a significant amount of details in the text. For example, on page 76, it says, 'Another nineteen-year-old died five days later.' These details help you understand the story a little bit more. To me, the details are really good and the best thing the authors can do to make the book more interesting. However, I didn't quite understand the beginning of the book until i read the rest of the book. I think that whoever enjoys true stories would really enjoy this book.
Anonymous 10 months ago
This book gives the reader insight into the lives of Americans who are not Wasps.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Farewell to Manzanar is a wonderful and honest depiction of the topic of Japanese internment during World War II. The story carefully picks apart every aspect of this experience in a well detailed personal account. I previously learned about these horrid events in school, but this novel was truly eye-opening to me. The initial move from their home was a powerful passage that described the family's arrival to a new world that they unknowingly would not escape for a long while. The book truly allowed me to live the shame, fear, and deprivation just as if I was with the Wakatsuki family. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a new Federal policy was enacted that labeled Japanese-Americans as a threat to the country and exiled them to remote camps along the west coast. The Wakatsuki family, along with over a hundred thousand more just like them, trudged on from day to day to preserve their family and dignity despite degrading conditions and helpless dependence. As the war ended, the camps were shut down, but their effects on the interned Japanese-Americans were everlasting and would continue on for generations. Truly a fantastic book that deserves more love and attention.
HHS-Students on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by: Matt (Class of 2013)Egad, is a hook! This is a film, but "Farewell to Manzanar" is a book and what this review is about. It¿s a book about Japanese Americans in an internment camp. It starts in 1941, just before the attack on Pearl Harbor, in a fishing community near San Pedro, California. The story follows Jeanne Wakatsuki and the Wakatsuki family.Jeanne is a Nisei, which means that she¿s the child of Japanese immigrants. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, her father, a fisherman, because that¿s what all Japanese people do, is arrested by the FBI. Not long after though, the rest of the family is taken to a Manzanar War Relocation Center. At the camp Jeanne finds solace in the local nuns a mile from the barracks, while the elder members of the family take up small jobs around the camp. Jeanne succumbs to sun stroke in the hundred degree temperatures of the desert one day and is on bed rest for days. Her dad returns from a North Dakota prison in late 1942, almost a year after his imprisonment.At his return he is deeply depressed. The other prisoners call him a dog because they assume that he informed on Japan to earn his freedom. He becomes an alcoholic, and almost hits his wife, but is stopped by his youngest son, Kiyo.An event called `The December Riot¿ occurs sometime between 1943 and 1944, when three prisoners are arrested for beating a man they consider to be a traitor. It ends with the guards fatally shooting two, and wounding ten others.The end section of the book details Jeanne¿s life and school experience, but it¿s incongruous with the rest of the book, so it confused me. It¿s something like how she becomes best friends with a white girl, but later on they drift apart and how the teachers plot to stop her from becoming what sounded like homecoming queen, but she wins anyway.The family goes through a series of ups and downs, but is eventually okay. That¿s it. It¿s a short book at only 170 pages or so. I thought it only appropriate that a review be short as well. I didn¿t really enjoy the book. It feels long and it¿s dull, but then again I¿m emotionally jaded. There¿s not much else that I can say. The book is an autobiography by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, so I guess I could have just read an about the author section and got the same experience, but whatever. She was born in 1934 in Inglewood, California, and she wrote two or three other books that weren¿t as popular. The end is nigh.
DubaiReader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Brushed under the carpet? When Japan attacked Pearl Harbour and America and Japan were at war, a problem arose as to what to do with the thousands of naturalised Japanese living in the States. They couldn't be returned to Japan but nor could they be left to live freely within the US. The country's solution to the problem was to build huge internment camps in the American desert and ship everyone out there for the duration of the war. This was done very hastily and when 7 year old Jeanne and her family arrived they found only the most basic of provision. They lived in cramped "barracks" with foul toilet facilities and suffered repeated sickness due to insanitary food storage. Conditions improved during their stay; schooling was provided and recreational facilities, classes to keep internees occupied, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts etc. Eventually, when the whole enterprise was ruled illegal by American legislation, many of the internees did not want to leave. They had heard tales of Japanese "on the outside" receiving abuse from Americans for their country's part in the war, even though many Japanese chose to prove their loyalty by fighting for America in the armed forces. They had become so conditioned to life in the camps that they could not envisage starting up again elsewhere. The younger members of Jeanne's family left to make a way for themselves but her parents, herself and her brother stayed until the last moment - when Jeanne's father saved face by leaving with a flourish! The book is an interesting comment on the effects of this loss of freedom on the Japanese culture, particularly its effect on her father's pride. It's a short little book but says all that is needed within its concise 145 pages.
iecj on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A Japaneese American family is forced to leave their home and move to an internment camp "for their protection". The family begins to become less and less of a unit and basically begins to live seperate lives as they adjust to life in the camp. Jeanne, one of te youngest children, tells of her familie's life before, during, and after the camps. Families were forced to sell most of their possessions for little or nothing and arrived at camps that were not equiped to house familes. The transitions from neighhood to camp and camp to neighborhood were tremendously difficult. This book is appropriate for middle school readers and above.
BookWallah on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Haunting first person narrative of Japanese American girl caught up in the internment during World War II. ¿Farewell to Manzanar¿ deftly deals with racism and internal clashes the second generation of Japanese people in USA experienced. Recommended for anyone who does not believe in racism.
srfbluemama on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a book everyone should read at least once in their lives. The Japanese Internment experience is one that should not be forgotten, and this memoir does a great job of illustrating what it was like.
athenamilis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I decided to read this book because it is a supplemental novel at the tenth grade level at my school. That means, that if we choose to, we can use this book in our curriculum. It is a favorite of many of the teachers on my campus. The story describes the life of a Japanese-American family from the beginning of Japanese Internment to a trip back to their internment camp----Manzanar---years later by the narrator in the story the youngest daughter. I found the novel easy to read and understand. I can see why teachers would use it with students. There are many ways to connect to themes of civil rights, racism, and California history. I feel that English Language Learners would also benefit from a novel they may be able to connect to. I do not feel the book has any weaknesses. I will teach this book next year as everyone in this country needs to remember what happened to prevent it or things like it from happening again.
ithilwyn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Straitforward memoir of the events that led up to Japanese internment during WWII as well as the author's experiences in one of the camps. She also deals with both the short term and long term effects of the internment and the pervasive racism that attempted to excuse it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a student at SJHS and I read this book for a research paper. Farewell to Manzanar was a confusing book to read but the contents of the book made it hard to read as these real people went through these times. The authors of this novel depict a clear picture for the reader to see and it is mind blowing how fellow neighbors treated them. One day they were nice and inviting them to your house and then giving them the cold shoulder and vandalizing their property. Throughout the novel, it was all a memory. Trying to put in to mind that this is a young girl going through these horrific things was very scary. Although it was a different time and age, people should not be evacuated from their homes because of their fear in others. The Japanese-Americans were also scared! By reading this novel, it reveals how cruel society is. Once you place blame on someone publicly, everyone in society is going to judge you differently. The book leaves an impression on you to try not to do anything rash. They placed civilians in these camps that impacted their lives forever.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a high school student and i found that this book was wonderful. It really helped me understand the Japanese internment camps more. I provided e with great information to help me with my project. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about the life inside the camps.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book gives a good account of life in one of the internment areas in US of Japanese-Americans. Also what a mistake it was to do this to citizens of the US.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was really thorough and had spirit, although there were very heartbreaking moments
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston is an engaging, thought-provoking memoir about what was is like to grow up behind a barbed wire fence during the time of World War II. Seven year old Japanese-American Jeanne Wakatsuki was living in San Pedro Harbor, California when Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941. Not long after this tragic event, the Wakatsuki family and 10 thousand other Japanese families got sent to Japanese internment camps. Fortunately, the whole Wakatsuki family got sent to Manzanar Internment Camp. Jeanne and her family had to learn to survive in the terrible living conditions. Although Jeanne didn’t understand much about what was going on in the world at her time in Manzanar, the time she spent there completely changed herself and her life. Decades after Jeanne left Manzanar, she finally found her voice and decided to speak up about the four long years she spent at the Japanese internment camp. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ekh. This book was kind of boring. Countless times I fell asleep while reading it; it's a slow story.
Nakkiah_Stampfli More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book for school and it was one of the better books we read. The story line was solid and well organized. It was also a great way to teach students what it was like for the Asian-Americans after Pearl Harbor, without making them to be the bad guys. We really get a chance to see what went on inside the camps and we can really understand the thoughts and feelings of those in the camps through this book. Gret read, I highly suggest it! Especially for those students who are taking a U.S. History class.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago