Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Farewell to Manzanar

I should have read this a long time ago, but I finally got to Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston. (Turns out I interviewed Jim for the McWilliams bio; he was a big fan of C-Mac.) What a delightful book. It certainly brings out the injustice of the Japanese internment during World War II, but its simplicity, understated elegance, and humanity go far beyond lamentation.

Farewell is on the reading list for one of my classes at San Francisco State (Values in American Life). I've worried at times that the materials for this course, which focuses on migration and immigration, are too bleak. (I had to pull them together on very short notice, courtesy of California's budget problems.) But although this book focuses on a sad chapter in American history, its main subject is a family under extraordinary pressure. The portrait is very specific, but I suspect that anyone with a family can relate to it at some level.

We read The Grapes of Wrath before this. The books have a lot in common, but Grapes is longer and more relentless. Farewell was a tonic by comparison.


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