They Called Us Enemy by George Takei (co-writer), Justin Eisinger (co-writer), Steven Scott (co-writer) & Harmony Becker (artist)
A graphic memoir recounting actor/author/activist George Takei’s childhood imprisoned within American concentration camps during World War II. Experience the forces that shaped an American icon — and America itself.
Long before George Takei 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 1942, at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, every person of Japanese descent on the west coast was rounded up and shipped to one of ten “relocation centers,” hundreds or thousands of miles from home, where they would be held for years under armed guard.
They Called Us Enemy is Takei’s firsthand account of those years behind barbed wire, the joys and terrors of growing up under legalized racism, his mother’s hard choices, his father’s faith in democracy, and the way those experiences planted the seeds for his astonishing future.
I was really excited to read this book because it addresses a period in history that I didn’t really know too much about. Also, I’m a fan of George Takei, and I was interested to see his own personal reflections on this time in his life.
This graphic memoir is really well done. Not only is the story conveyed in a way that anyone can understand, it’s structured really well. While there are several co-authors, the story is very put-together and seamless, making for an easy read.
I appreciated all the context that the authors provided in the midst of the story. There is detailed talk about the Executive Order and about the way the camps were structured, and the politics surrounding this. Even though the authors convey a lot of technical and historical information, the story doesn’t feel weighed down by this. It all fits perfectly into context and the book is still very coherent.
I think I was really impacted by Takei’s story, particularly given the current climate in the United States as it pertains to illegal immigrants. Right now, in the 21st century, we have again resorted to camps to house undesirables. Many current politicians have tried to describe these camps in a variety of ways to keep people from viewing them like the Japanese Internment camps, but they are very much the same. It makes me sad that we don’t seem to have learned anything from this event in history and we are yet again repeating history.
The art in this book is also one of the many reasons I really enjoyed this story. Becker’s crisp, clean lines capture so much. I love how expressive all the people are and how much emotion is captured within each page. I think that the book itself is really beautiful and it feels very professional.
I would definitely recommend this book. Even though it’s a memoir, I think I’d even recommend this book to teens, because it is very accessible and I like that the authors chose a graphic format because it makes it that much more accessible. I think the story itself is so compelling that anyone reading it will feel emotional or connect with the people whose stories are being told. This is one of those books you could read quickly, like within a day, because it’s hard to put down!
If you haven’t read the book, definitely check it out. Not only will you learn something, you’ll also be really drawn to the story and to Takei. It’s beautifully illustrated and it sends an important message about US history, particularly our nation’s struggles with racism and hysteria.
Definitely Worth the Read
What are your thoughts? Do you have this one on your TBR? Any fans of Takei here? Let’s chat in the comments!