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Manzanar Rites (book)

Creators: William Minoru Hohri


Coming of age novel by William Hohri about two teenage boys from West Los Angeles who end up at Manzanar with their families.

Close friends Ken Yamanaka and Freddie Inouye have both just started high school, when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor plunges the U.S. into World War II. Ken's father, a gardener, is soon arrested and sent to the Missoula , Montana, internment camp, where he is joined by his younger and more militant gardener friend Shochiro Hayashida. Freddie, who can pass for white, lives with his German American mother, his Japanese American father having left the family. A few months later, Ken and Freddie—now going by Kenzo and Frederick—are sent to Manzanar with their families. While going to school, playing sports and interacting with teenage girls, the two boys also become politicized by observing the goings on at the camp. Though Ken's father and Hayashida soon are returned to Manzanar, the former is soon sent back to Missoula, accused of fomenting unrest. In reaction, Hayashida puts together a group to wage a complaint to the Spanish consul, leading to a confrontation with the camp's administrators that will come to have tragic consequences.

Author Hohri, perhaps best known for his role in the Redress Movement , was about the same age as his two protagonists and was also incarcerated at Manzanar as a teenager. Though the characters are nearly all fictionalized, many are clearly based on real people, including ineffectual camp director Richard Malman (based on Ralph Merritt), vain and racist assistant director Jack Shoup (Ned Campbell), Kitchen Workers Union head Saburo Genda ( Harry Ueno ), and older Hawai'i Nisei leader Mat Ohara ( Joe Kurihara ). Frederick's uncle also turns out to be Karl Bendetsen , perhaps the main architect of the forced removal and incarceration. Hohri also uses a fictionalized version of the Manzanar Riot/uprising as the book's climax, though he shifts the date forward to August (instead of December), 1942 and changes many aspects of it.

Hohri dedicated the book to Kurihara and Ueno. He self-published it in 2002.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

Might also like The Climate of the Country by Marnie Mueller; Fox Drum Bebop by Gene Oishi; When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka.

Media Details
Author William Minoru Hohri
Pages 162
Publication Date 2002