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They Called Us Enemy
Cover of They Called Us Enemy
They Called Us Enemy
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George Takei has captured hearts and minds worldwide with his captivating stage presence and outspoken commitment to equal rights. But long before he braved new frontiers in Star Trek, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father's—and their entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future. In a stunning graphic memoir, Takei revisits his haunting childhood in American concentration camps, as one of over 100,000 Japanese Americans imprisoned by the U.S. government during World War II. Experience the forces that shaped an American icon—and America itself—in this gripping tale of courage, country, loyalty, and love.

George Takei has captured hearts and minds worldwide with his captivating stage presence and outspoken commitment to equal rights. But long before he braved new frontiers in Star Trek, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father's—and their entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future. In a stunning graphic memoir, Takei revisits his haunting childhood in American concentration camps, as one of over 100,000 Japanese Americans imprisoned by the U.S. government during World War II. Experience the forces that shaped an American icon—and America itself—in this gripping tale of courage, country, loyalty, and love.

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Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from July 8, 2019
    Takei, best known for his role on Star Trek, relates the story of his family’s internment during WWII in this moving and layered graphic memoir. Japanese-Americans were classified as “Alien Enemy” after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and were forced to relocate to camps when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. Takei, who was five years old, along with his father, mother, and young siblings, was held from 1942 through January 1946, first at Camp Rohwer, Arkansas, and then later at Tule Lake, Calif.. The manga-influenced art by Harmony Becker juxtaposes Takei’s childlike wonder over the “adventure” of the train trip with the stress and worry carried by his parents. As much as possible, Takei’s parents took pains to ensure their children were shielded from the reality of their situation, though Takei still relates traumas and humiliations (and a few funny stories). It was only years later, during talks with his father, that Takei was given insight into his past. As a teenager, Takei lashes out in anger over the treatment of Japanese-Americans, and his father calmly states that “despite all that we’ve experienced, our Democracy is still the best in the world.” Takei takes that lesson to heart in a stirring speech he delivers at the FDR Library on the 75th anniversary of the Day of Remembrance. Using parallel scenes from Trump’s travel ban, in the closing pages, Takei challenges Americans to look to how past humanitarian injustices speak to current political debates. Giving a personal view into difficult history, Takei’s work is a testament to hope and tenacity in the face of adversity.

  • Library Journal

    July 26, 2019

    Takei, social media darling, out-and-proud octogenarian, and member of the original Star Trek cast, spent a part of his early childhood in Japanese internment camps during World War II. This purposefully pointed graphic novel, cocreated with writers Justin Eisinger and Steven Scott and artist Becker (Himawari Share), recalls his family's experience in the camps while providing solid historical context of the incarceration's broader implications. The story is Takei's parents' as much as his own--first-generation Japanese immigrants trying to care for and protect three young American-born children while imprisoned as enemies of the state by virtue of their race. Subtle hints of manga conventions are threaded through straightforward panel comics that serve the narrative at a quick clip. This particular story is expressly crafted for a general audience, with great potential for classroom use, walking a fine line between textbook history and personal anecdote. As the adage suggests, if we forget history, we are doomed to repeat it, and the echoes of internment policies in today's treatment of immigrants are truly chilling. VERDICT Takei is nothing if not savvy about his cultural influence, and here he uses that to share a fully fleshed-out and articulate vilification of America's most xenophobic tendencies.[Previewed in Ingrid Bohnenkamp's Graphic Novel Spotlight, "Mass Appeal," LJ 6/19.]--Emilia Packard, Austin, TX

    Copyright 2019 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from June 28, 2019

    Gr 7 Up-In the wake of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, 120,000 Japanese Americans were rounded up, incarcerated in camps, and stripped of freedoms in the name of national security. Among them was future television star and political activist Takei, who as a child was imprisoned along with his family by the U.S. government. Takei, joined by writers Eisinger and Scott, tells a powerful, somewhat nonlinear story spanning 80 years of U.S. history, starting right after Executive Order 9066 was enacted in 1942. The Takeis quickly lost everything they couldn't carry with them and were treated as criminals, but they persevered and eventually made it out of the camps. As the narrative draws to a close, the writing team strategically refers to the imprisonment of children at the U.S. southern border, the Supreme Court ruling Trump v. Hawaii (which upheld the "Muslim travel ban"), and President Barack Obama's inaugural address, calling upon readers to ensure that history does not repeat itself. Becker's grayscale art makes heavy use of patterned hatching to add focused textural intrigue but also casts the individuals in a shadow that reflects what became of their lives. Japanese, used minimally throughout the text, is presented in italics, with translations denoted by an asterisk, though there is at least one occurrence of untranslated Japanese. There is infrequent cursing and violence. VERDICT This evocative memoir shares stories of the nation's past, draws heartbreaking parallels to the present, and serves as a cautionary tale for the future. For all readers old enough to understand the importance of our collective history.-Alea Perez, Elmhurst Public Library, IL

    Copyright 2019 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    A beautifully heart-wrenching graphic-novel adaptation of actor and activist Takei's (Lions and Tigers and Bears, 2013, etc.) childhood experience of incarceration in a World War II camp for Japanese Americans. Takei had not yet started school when he, his parents, and his younger siblings were forced to leave their home and report to the Santa Anita Racetrack for "processing and removal" due to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066. The creators smoothly and cleverly embed the historical context within which Takei's family's story takes place, allowing readers to simultaneously experience the daily humiliations that they suffered in the camps while providing readers with a broader understanding of the federal legislation, lawsuits, and actions which led to and maintained this injustice. The heroes who fought against this and provided support to and within the Japanese American community, such as Fred Korematsu, the 442nd Regiment, Herbert Nicholson, and the ACLU's Wayne Collins, are also highlighted, but the focus always remains on the many sacrifices that Takei's parents made to ensure the safety and survival of their family while shielding their children from knowing the depths of the hatred they faced and danger they were in. The creators also highlight the dangerous parallels between the hate speech, stereotyping, and legislation used against Japanese Americans and the trajectory of current events. Delicate grayscale illustrations effectively convey the intense emotions and the stark living conditions. A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today. (Graphic memoir. 14-adult)

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. (Online Review)

  • Booklist

    Starred review from July 1, 2019
    Takei has spoken publicly about his childhood experiences in internment camps during WWII, and this graphic memoir tells that story again with a compelling blend of nostalgia and outrage. He was very young when he and his family were forced out of their California home and sent to Camp Rohwer in Arkansas, so some of his memories of that time are touched with gentle affection, though that fondness is short-lived. As he grows older and they're relocated to a camp with harsher conditions, it seems less like an adventure and more like the atrocity it truly is. Takei, together with Justin Eisinger and Steven Scott, interweaves scenes of his adult realizations and reflections, as well as key speeches and historical events of the period, among the accounts of his childhood, which is very effective at providing context for those memories. Becker's spare, fine-lined, manga-inspired artwork focuses intently on faces and body language, keeping the story centered in the realm of the personal. Ultimately, though Takei is grateful for the official apologies he and other Japanese Americans received, he's careful to note how similar attitudes today mean that other immigrant communities in America are facing discrimination and internment. This approachable, well-wrought graphic memoir is important reading, particularly in today's political climate. Pair with John Lewis' acclaimed March series for a thought-provoking, critical look at the history of racism in American policies and culture.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2019, American Library Association.)

  • DOGO Books swirlycool - Based on a true story, George Takei grew up during the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Due to the event, the U.S. deemed any individual who was of Japanese descent. Families were forced to leave their homes and ride on a train to who knows where. Upon their arrival, they were placed in assigned homes. George vividly remembers the heat that hit him when he entered the house. Using the resources available along with a sewing machine they brought against the rules, George Takei's mom made curtains, clothes, and other necessities that were not readily available in the house. After living in these houses in dreadful conditions that became home, there was a form families were brought to fill out. After being forced to live in these conditions because of their heritage, the questions asked were ludicrous. For instance, the questions included were asking if the person would fight in the war if they were called upon, and if they would leave everything to fight. Why would they fight for a country that forced them into these conditions due to racism? The people who answered no and no were moved to new houses with more security and guards. Later, the U.S. asked if they would like to go back to Japan or stay. George Takei and his family stayed. Later, near the moving of people going back to Japan, they learned the 7.S. had bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. George Takei and his family went back to their original home, and he started his career in acting. He continued his acting career and became apart of Star Trek. Overal, this comic book was very interesting and it gave me more knowledge to what it was like during this time in history. I recommend this book to people who want to learn more about the Japanese camps during the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
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George Takei
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