Farewell to Manzanar Summary & Study Guide

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Farewell to Manzanar Summary & Study Guide Description

Farewell to Manzanar Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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Farewell to Manzanar, by Jeanne Houston, is a coming of age story set in the internment camps of World War II used to separate the ethnic Japanese-Americans from any possible espionage activities. The Japanese Navy bombs Pearl Harbor, setting off a mass anti-Japanese hysteria. All Japanese, whether born in Japan or America, are suspected spies, arrested, and interned in ten hurriedly constructed camps located in desolate, isolated locations inland from the Pacific coast.

Farewell to Manzanar is the true story of Jeanne Wakatsuki and her family. She and her family are swept into the fear and unknown of the internment camp shortly after Pearl Harbor is bombed. They are held in the first camp, Manzanar, throughout World War II. As a child of seven, Jeanne is confused by the sudden changes in her large, happy family. The three and a half years in Manzanar change her family and her outlook on life. It takes many years for Jeanne to come to terms with the affects of Manzanar, her shame and attempts to be accepted. Eventually Jeanne is able to learn from her experience and bid farewell to Manzanar and the experiences that changed her life.

The closeknit life of the Wakatsuki family rapidly begins to change when Pearl Harbor is bombed. Papa Ko, a proud Issei and patriarch of the family, is arrested as a Japanese spy and sent to Fort Lincoln, near Bismarck, North Dakota. Here his feet freeze, and he is left with a slight limp, and a beautifully crafted cane. He leaves the family fearful and confused, until they are ordered to report for pickup. Mutual fear of the Japanese and Caucasians encourage the family to move to the relative safety of government protection.

The Wakatsuki family are among the first to be relocated. They are sent inland to the first of the camps opened, Manzanar. It has been built hastily and is still under construction when the family arrives. Mama Wakatsuki manages to keep her family together. The miserable conditions, total lack of any privacy, and the inability of families to join together at mealtimes aids the rapid collapse of the integral structure of the family. Mama tries to maintain the integrity of her family, but over the years of camp life, the family loses its cohesiveness.

The return of Papa Ko Wakatsuki is both joyous and difficult for Jeanne and her family. His nine months as a prisoner of war changes him. Because he has acted as an interpreter for the government, he is met with suspicion from the community. He spends many months secluded in the small cubicle assigned to them, drinking his home brewed rice and apricot wines and ranting and yelling at his wife and children.

Jeanne lives in Manzanar from the ages of seven to eleven. She endures lack of privacy, dust, cold, illness, loss of freedom, and cultural distrust. The greatest difficulty is the confusion of being citizens of the United States and yet being so mistrusted that they are confined in camps. As Manzanar is completed, conditions improve, and they became a typical American town, surrounded by a square mile of barbed wire fence. There are schools, churches, clubs, other activities and opportunities to volunteer to work. Mama and brothers and brothers-in law choose to work.

Jeanne spends time observing the Japanese people, with whom she has little acquaintance. From these she gains some idea of what it is to be Japanese. However, she is American, and is unable to integrate the old ways into her life. She tries the traditional Japanese dance called odori, but cannot not understand the old geisha's dialect, and fails to return due to discomfort. Jeanne goes to school, and participates in other various recreational activities. After the first year, outings and hikes outside the wires of the camp are allowed. Jeanne enjoyes these hikes, dreaming of what it would be like to have the freedom to go as far as she chose. At the end of the outing, however, she returns, for Manzanar is her home.

The Loyalty Oath is introduced in order to reduce the congestion in the camps and to allow Japanese men the honor of proving their loyalty to the United States. This oath brings intense contention into the camps. Many believe that they have been betrayed and illegally held prisoners. Papa Ko finally leaves the home unit to argue for a Yes, Yes vote. He believes the Japanese cannot not win, his children are citizens, and he does not want to be deported and forced to start his life over in a foreign country.

The Oath enables many to move out of Manzanar if they can find sponsors and work inland, and relieves the overcrowding. Among those who leave are Jeanne's sister, Eleanor and her husband Shig. Later, her brother Woody is drafted into the Army. By the time Manzanar is closed, three and a half years later, many of her older brothers and sisters have moved to New Jersey, hoping to find less anti-Asian prejudices on the east coast.

Jeanne's post-Manzanar years are filled with shame and guilt about whatever colossal behavior merits internment and separation from the community, preventing her from interaction with them for the duration of the war. She longs for acceptance, yet apologizes for being Japanese. She searches for an acceptable way to be accepted. Over the years, she is the first of her family to receive a college education. She marries a man not of her ethnicity, and has three children. It takes her twenty years to process her experiences in Manzanar.

Jeanne's doubts and fears lead her to wonder if Manzanar was a dream or if it really existed. It takes many years to find the courage to go with her husband and children back to rediscover that life. She finds memories and an understanding there that allows her to finally find a peace and acceptance of the experience.

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