They Called Us Enemy by George Takei – A Review

They Called Us Enemy George Takei

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, & Steven Scott
Art by Harmony Becker
Non-Fiction | Graphic Novel | History | Memoir
Published by Top Shelf Productions
Released July 16th, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars

There are parts of American history that the people in power would like for you to forget, and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II is one of those. I wasn’t taught about this in high school, even while discussing World War II, and it wasn’t until college that I found out about the prejudice and hate that Americans of Japanese descent had to live through following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.

Hopefully, George Takei is a name that is already familiar to you. You’ll definitely know him if you’re a Star Trek fan as I am, as he played Hikaru Sulu in The Original Series.

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George Takei was born to Japanese-American parents in southern California in 1937. In 1942, when George was just four-years-old, his family was one of many rounded up unfairly and sent to an internment camp. They Called Us Enemy is Takei’s memoir of his family’s experience living in three different internment camps, one as far away as Arkansas.

Told as a graphic novel with wonderful, simple art done by Harmony Becker, this is a heartbreaking book to read. It’s hard to imagine a level of hate and fear so great that America would support internment camps for people of a particular ancestry.

As I mentioned before, I was not taught about this period of our history in school, which is offensive to the people who had to live through it. Takei’s book is accessible for all ages, and I sincerely hope that it makes its way into schools all over the country.

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As hard to read as this real-life account was, it was also inspiring at times. I was incredibly impressed at how Takei’s parents tried as hard as they could to make their children’s lives normal. His father worked to make conditions better in the camp for everyone while his mother tried to make their new “home” more liveable. All of the families who were sent to these camps lost so much – their homes, possessions, jobs, and links to the outside world.

In many cases, these families were given little to no warning that they were about to be forced to leave their homes behind.

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One of the Japanese-American internment camps

One of the most difficult moments in the book came when the people living in the internment camps discovered that America had dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Takei family had relatives living in Hiroshima, who died that day. They were locked up with their grief, along with other families grieving for their relatives as well, with no way to fight back. They weren’t allowed to travel and were unable to properly mourn for their loved ones in Japan. I can’t even begin to imagine the horror that so many people had to experience.

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Towards the end of the book, Takei writes about how little he realized was happening when he was young and learning about it through his father afterward. The anger he felt when he thought they hadn’t done enough to prevent it to a greater understanding is all portrayed honestly here. Takei also discusses the racism and prejudice that ran rampant in Hollywood when he got started as an actor, and how Star Trek was the role of a lifetime for him.

I cannot urge you enough to read this graphic novel. It’s too easy to forget the horrors that governments and angry citizens can lay down on people, and it’s something that we should never forget. Donate this book to schools, share it with others, read it yourself – let’s not forget what happened to the Japanese-American population during World War II, and let’s prevent it from ever happening again.


Have you read They Called Us Enemy? What did you think? Were you taught about the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II? Let me know in the comments.




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The Early Chinese Empires: Qin and Han by Mark Edward Lewis – A Review

The Book

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The Early Chinese Empires – Qin and Han (History of Imperial China Book 1) by Mark Edward Lewis
Goodreads
Published by Harvard University Press
Released June 30, 2009
Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | ThriftBooks | Books-a-Million

Synopsis

This book focuses on the history of the Qin and Han dynasties in early Chinese history. From how the empires got started, to individual emperors, their wars with the nomadic peoples of the north, and how the lives of normal peasants looked, this non-fiction book contains all the information you need on the Qin and Han dynasties. Throughout the pages are also maps of the areas being talked about and images of ancient Chinese art to help illustrate the ideas.

I wanted to include some of my favorite bits of information from this book, in no particular order, to give you an idea of the types of things you can learn from it:

  • In many of the earliest Chinese empires, such as the Zhou, conformity was favored by the ruling classes, and people saw regional variations in behavior and dress as belonging to a to a lower class of person.
  • Wang Mang’s Xin dynasty was incredibly short-lived, lasting only seventeen years. He was a Confucian ruler who implemented a number of reforms that eventually led to the rebellion that ousted him. Such reforms included confiscating and redistributing land in equal plots, which infuriated much of the population.
  • There was a system in place for people to police one another in much of early Chinese history. For example, if someone broke the law or committed a grievous crime, their entire family could be punished for multiple generations, as well as the entire town in which they inhabited. People failing to report crimes would also be punished, and some of these punishments were harsh: “Anyone who failed to report criminal activity would be chopped in two at the waist, while those who reported it would receive the same reward as that for obtaining the head of an enemy.”
  • Some emperors would build replica palaces of areas that they conquered in battle. “Because palaces were seen as the embodiment of states, the Qin could symbolically annex a state by destroying its original palace and rebuilding a ‘captive’ replica in its own capital.”

Review

Before I begin this review, I would like to preface it by saying that I’ve always loved historical non-fiction. In fact, in high school and my first couple years of university, it was what I primarily read for fun. I grew up loving history and wanting to constantly learn new things, so I was always seeking out new history books to read.

From the time I read Foundations of Chinese Civilizations by Jing Liu I knew I wanted to learn more about the Qin and Han dynasties. The histories of both sounded so fascinating, and I saw this book at my local library when I was searching for books for my #readtheworldchina challenge.

Although this book does contain a lot of interesting information, it was so dry that I had trouble reading it. I didn’t even finish it if I’m being honest. I made it about two-thirds of the way through, and I was starting to feel bored just looking at the cover. I decided to DNF this book because I was no longer able to focus on it. The whole time I was reading it I was actually thinking about other books that I could be reading instead.

I think it’s easy to make non-fiction enjoyable if you focus on the people involved and the reasons behind the things they did rather than minute details and dates. This felt more academic than enjoyable, so if you’re writing an essay on the Qin and Han dynasties of Imperial China, then I actually would recommend this book to you. However, if you’re looking for a fun read, this might not be it.

Verdict

5_Star_Rating_System_2_stars

Although there is great information in this book, it was too dry and laborious for me to give it more than two stars.