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Uprooted: The Japanese American Experience during World War II (book)

Creators: Albert Marrin


Acclaimed overview work on the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans by professional historian and prolific children's book author Albert Marrin.

Synopsis

Published in the fall of 2016, Uprooted adds a significant amount of historical context to the core story. The first chapter, "The Pacific Age," starts with the origins of Japan, tracing the exploitation of Asia by the West, the "opening" of Japan to the West in the mid 1800s, and Japan's rapid modernization and militarization in the 1920s and 1930s. The second chapter, "Dreams of Fortune," provides the American context: white supremacism as U.S. doctrine from the beginning and the drive to exterminate Native Americans and the anti-Chinese movement as precursors to the anti-Japanese movement that greeting Japanese immigrants and their families.

The core of the story is told in chapters three through six: the attack on Pearl Harbor and the road to Executive Order 9066 ; the roundup of Japanese Americans from West Coast and their journeys to army-run " assembly centers " and War Relocation Authority (WRA)-run concentration camps; the military service of Japanese Americans (with a focus on the Military Intelligence Service and the encounter with Nazi death camps by some Nisei soldiers in Europe); and the closing of the camps and the change in public attitudes in the decades after the war. A brief final chapter focuses on the parallels with what took place after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the continuing debates on issues of civil liberties vs. security.

In addition to the broader context relative to other overview books for children/young adults, Uprooted includes discussions of lesser known topics such as the attitudes of Jewish, African and other Asian Americans toward the incarceration; draft resistance ; and a discussion of euphemistic terminology used to describe these events. Notes, recommendations for further reading/browsing, and an index are also included.

Background and Historical Accuracy

Author Albert Marrin (1936– ) is a native New Yorker and the son of a Russian immigrant who graduated with B.A., M.Ed., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees from various New York universities, the last two from Columbia University. After a decade as a high school social studies teacher (1959–68), he became a professor at Yeshiva University in New York, eventually becoming chair of the history department in 1978 before retiring in 2001. After publishing four scholarly history monographs from 1971 to 1976, he turned to writing children's non-fiction, and since 1982 has authored over forty such books, nearly all biographies or on historical topics. Called "one of the main chroniclers of American history for young people" by the Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books , he has been awarded the National Humanities Medal and the James Madison Book Award for Lifetime Achievement, both in 2008. [1]

Despite Marrin's professional credentials, the book contains many major and minor errors.

Perhaps the most serious error is the portrayal of the WRA camps as something of a police state, replete with "screaming" sirens awakening inmates in the morning, roll calls, regular police patrols and searches, and night curfews. (114, 119) While Marrin cites sources for all these elements, the sources he cites are all describing the army run "assembly centers," where such things did indeed occur; they did not generally occur in the WRA camps. He also falsely claims that the WRA routinely censored letters and newspapers (129; only letters to and from the internment camps run by the army and Justice Department were routinely censored; while WRA camp newspapers weren't literally censored as the were in the assembly centers, their content was controlled by other means).

Among other false or overly general claims: that teachers in the camps were white (115; many were, but many were also Nisei); that blocks included "sixteen to twenty-four barracks per block" (112; in most camps, there were either twelve of fourteen barracks in a block); that " Toyo Miyatake was the only Japanese American to take pictures inside a concentration camp" (132; for but two counter examples of many, see George and Frank Hirahara who took over 2,000 photographs in Heart Mountain, or Dave Tatsuno , who took color home movie footage in Topaz); that the photographs Dorothea Lange took for the WRA "remained under wraps for the next sixty-four years" (136; many of Lange's most famous photos were shown in the landmark traveling exhibition Executive Order 9066 mounted by the California Historical Society in 1972 and the associated book of the same name); that "[Draft] Resistance groups formed in most camps" (170; while there were draft resisters in all of the camps, the only organized draft resistance group was the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee ); that "... the 442nd... started with 3,886 men—2,686 Hawaiians and 1,200 mainlander drafted from the concentration camps" (171; in addition to misusing the term "Hawaiians," which is properly applied only to those of native Hawaiian ancestry, the "mainlanders" who initiated the 442nd —who numbered closer to 800—were all volunteers, since Nisei remained ineligible for the draft for a year after the formation of the 442nd); that the Evacuation Claims Act "provided a mere $28 million for economic losses due to the uprooting..." (198; the figure was $38 million); and at " Truman 's urging, in 1952 Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality Act ..." (198; Congress passed the 1952 immigration act over Truman's veto).

Marrin also repeats two often claimed, but false myths about the incarceration: that there was a racial quantum requirement of 1/16th (99) and that the Federal Reserve estimated that losses resulting from the removal and incarceration totaled $400 million (195). He also mischaracterizes the alien land laws , claiming that the 1913 California law banned all non-citizens from owning land (63) as well as the Kibei experience, citing Mary Tomita—who first went to Japan at age twenty-one and did not grow up there—as his main example of a Kibei (65).

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

Might also like A Fence Away from Freedom: Japanese Americans and World War II by Ellen Levine; Looking Like the Enemy: My Story of Imprisonment in Japanese-American Internment Camps: Young Reader's Edition by Mary Matsuda Gruenewald; Dear Miss Breed: True Stories of the Japanese American Incarceration During World War II and a Librarian Who Made a Difference by Joanne Oppenheim.

Footnotes

  1. "Albert Marrin." Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2012. Contemporary Authors Online, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GLS&sw=w&u=hono44147&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CH1000064292&it=r&asid=bc0f9a01d3b58134898a0b43a14fb442; http://albertmarrin.com/ , both accessed on June 6, 2017.
Media Details
Author Albert Marrin
Pages 246
Publication Date 2016
Awards Booklist Notable Children's Book, Older Readers, 2017
Reviews

Reviews

Bush, Elizabeth. Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books 70.2 (Oct. 2016): 83. ["… an impressively comprehensive and contextualized overview of the topic."]

Cart, Michael. Booklist , Aug. 2016, 58. ["… this is a prodigiously researched, indispensible work of history…. It belongs on every library's shelves."]

Hunt, Jonathan. The Horn Book Magazine , Jan./Feb. 2017, 115. ["Marrin... wanders far afield from the book's subtitle in order to place his subject in a comprehensively broad context...."]

Kirkus Reviews , July, 20, 2016. ["[Marrin] constructs a detailed, well-researched narrative of horrific worldwide events leading up to the 'day of infamy.'"]

Publishers Weekly , Sept. 5, 2016, 79. ["With a masterful command of his subject and a clear, conversational style, Marrin... lays bare the suffering inflicted upon Japanese Americans by the U.S. during WWII."]