I Call to Remembrance: Toyo Suyemoto's Years of Internment (book)
Creators: Toyo Suyemoto, Susan B. Richardson (editor)
The memoir of poet Toyo Suyemoto that spans her years of incarceration in Tanforan Assembly Center and later, at Topaz in Utah, from spring 1942 to late autumn 1945. The book, published in 2007 by Rutgers University Press, focuses on the quotidian life in an American concentration camp, while coping both physically and psychologically with the brutality of imprisonment behind barbed wire. The book is dedicated to Suyemoto's son Kay and details his short life from birth in Berkeley, California, to his first steps at Tanforan in a crowded horse stall, and finally to Utah where he developed a serious asthmatic condition and pneumonia in the harsh atmosphere of camp which eventually lead to his premature death. Suyemoto's memoir includes the impact of policies and wartime decisions on her family and the larger Japanese American community, bringing insight on complex and controversial questions of loyalty, citizenship and resistance. She also chronicles her observations of the Issei women and men around her and recounts in detail the ways in which gender and identity evolve and change over the duration of their wartime incarceration.
Poetry played an essential part in Suyemoto's life as she struggled to survive and adjust to the painful changes she experienced in Topaz. Most of the poetry Suyemoto wrote during her incarceration years is interwoven with the narrative text, including all of the poems published in the camp literary magazines, All Aboard and Trek , which provided an important creative outlet for numerous artists and writers at Topaz. Since Suyemoto was also camp librarian at the Topaz Public Library during her final years of incarceration, an entire chapter is dedicated to the establishment of the library and the benefits it brought to the community. The book also includes a biographical introduction by book editor Susan B. Richardson. The pen-and-ink drawings included in I Call to Remembrance come from the margins of the Topaz Public Library's visitor guest book. The drawings are unsigned, and up to the publication of the book, the artist had not yet been identified.
The title of the book is drawn from Psalm 77:66:
"I call to remembrance my song in the night; I commune with mine own heart; and my spirit made diligent search."