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The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that They Called Us Enemy is a graphic nove memoir of actor and author George Takei's experience in the Japanese internment camps during World War II, written with collaborators Justin Eisinger and Steven Scotti and illustrated by Harmony Becker. It portrays the racist actions of the U.S. government and how Takei's family responded to them. Takei would achieve worldwide recognition as Sulu on TV's Star Trek. Some wartime violence, including gunshots, fistfights, and families taken from their homes at gunpoint. Rare use of "hell" and "damn."
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What's the story?
At the start of THEY CALLED US ENEMY, 4-year-old George Takei awakes to hear that his father's country of birth -- Japan -- is at war with the United States. The family is soon uprooted from their home in Los Angeles and taken to a detention camp in Nebraska, leaving almost all of their possessions behind. George and his younger brother Henry adjust to their new circumstances, only gradually coming to grips with the racism and injustice of their situation. Their parents struggle to keep them safe, but also stick to their long-held beliefs of what it means to be an American citizen. As an adult, Takei earns an important role as Sulu on Star Trek, which later gives him the opportunity to educate people about the internment program, as well as fight for LGBTQ rights.
Is it any good?
This powerful graphic memoir expertly captures the heartbreak of America's Japanese internment camps during World War II and the resilience of those who experienced them. In They Called Us Enemy, George Takei and his collaborators tell a story rich in historical detail and personal triumph. Much of the narrative is from a child's viewpoint, increasing the impact of the story as George and his brother Henry struggle to understand events that leave adults overwhelmed. As an adult, Takei found fame and fortune, but this book makes it clear that his memories of the trauma are never far away. The injustice that occurred more than seven decades ago has left permanent marks on its victims.
Harmony Becker's black-and-white, manga-influenced illustrations give the sometimes grim narrative a shot of good-humored buoyancy. They Called Us Enemy will appeal to a wide range of readers, from Star Trek fans to history buffs to anyone looking for a well-told tale of wartime struggles.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the wartime attitudes and actions shown in They Called Us Enemy. Why was there so much hysteria in the wake of Pearl Harbor? Could a similar situation happen today?
George's father refuses to shake hands with Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who ordered the internment of residents of Japanese heritage. How should you treat someone who's committed a great wrong against the members of your race?
What role did mass media play in making internment seem reasonable? How has media changed since World War II? How can you tell whether a media source is reliable?
- Authors: George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott
- Illustrator: Harmony Becker
- Genre: Graphic Novel
- Topics: Activism, Brothers and Sisters, Great Boy Role Models, History, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Non-Fiction
- Publisher: Top Shelf
- Publication date: July 16, 2019
- Number of pages: 193
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
- Last updated: April 16, 2021
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