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Desert Exile: The Uprooting of a Japanese American Family (Classics of Asian American Literature) Paperback – January 1, 1982
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"A sensitive, readable account that captures with insight and human warmth the feel of what it was like to be sent by one's own government into exile in the wilderness. It is a work worthy of an unforgettable experience."―Pacific Citizen
"In Desert Exile the happy life of a Japanese-American family before concentration camp makes their surrealist nightmare experience after December 7, 1941 all the more inexplicable and horrifying."―San Francisco Review of Books
"Yoshiko Uchida has given us a chronicle of a very special kind of courage, the courage to preserve normalcy and humanity in the face of irrationality and inhumanity. Her family's story, told in loving detail, brings alive the internment experience and is an important book for all Americans. It is not a history of the decisions that were made during this period, but rather it is the story of the human lives touched and molded by those decisions. As such it is infinitely more important, and infinitely more precious."―United States Senator Daniel K. Inouye
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Yoshiko Uchida had been living a fairly normal life with her Nisei sister and Issei family in Berkeley, California. Though she was aware of her Japanese heritage (sometimes moreso than others), Yoshiko never considered herself to be anything but an American. So when the American government tells her and her family that they have 10 days to report for relocation, Yoshiko suddenly finds her entire identity thrown into turmoil. If she isn't American, and she isn't Japanese, then who is she?
Much of this story was familiar to me, because I have read The Invisible Thread, another book by Uchida covering the same topic, but written for children. In each book, she speaks with anger, with sadness, and with fondness. She speaks of the confusion felt by the Nisei at being treated as criminals - actually, with less rights than criminals - by their own country. She speaks of the horrific living conditions at Tanforan and Topaz. She speaks of the fortitude of the Issei and Nisei, who meet the challenges present to them with typical Japanese aplomb.
There are any number of books out there by survivors of the Japanese internment during World War II. Uchida's is particularly well told, and should be read by anyone who think that "things like that couldn't happen in America." This is particularly pertinent now, when we seem to be in danger of following the same slippery slope.