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.


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.

George Takei.jpg

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.

japanese american internment camp.jpg
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.

They Called Us enemy page 1.jpg

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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Tonoharu by Lars Martinson – A Review


Tonoharu by Lars Martinson
Graphic Novel
Goodreads | Amazon
Published by Pliant Press
Released May 1, 2008
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_stars

Whenever I’m at my local library, I always try to search out a couple of books I’ve never heard of before to check out. I’ll walk down random aisles, grabbing books off the shelf until I find something that sounds interesting. Tonoharu by Lars Martinson was one of those books for me.

I was near the graphic novel aisle looking for some Neil Gaiman titles when I randomly picked this one up. The synopsis on the back details the story of Daniel Wells, an American who travels to Japan to become an assistant junior high school teacher in a rural community. The story is about Daniel’s loneliness in a culture where he barely speaks the language.

The aspect of this graphic novel that I enjoyed the most was the art. Done in black and white, it’s incredibly appropriate for the story and is entertaining to look at. I’m always impressed by artists who can portray emotions on drawn faces so simply, and Martinson is definitely gifted in that department. I also liked the simple layout of the book.

Daniel’s story showed how isolating a language barrier can be, and also how hard it can be to settle into a new city. Even without a different language to tackle, moving to a place where you don’t know anyone is daunting and the struggle of making new friends as an adult is very difficult (I’m speaking from experience here). It’s refreshing to see a writer/artist tackle that topic.

I found myself wanting more from the story, however, and the reason I’m rating this graphic novel three stars is that I never felt connected to the characters or cared that much about them. The book is short and a quick read, so perhaps if it had been longer it would have been easier to connect with Daniel. When I don’t feel that connection with the main character, I find that I quickly forget the plot and find myself not wanting to ever come back to the story. There is a sequel to Tonoharu, but I won’t be reading it.

I would like to stress that Tonoharu is a well-made graphic novel and I would recommend it to people wanting something different, but I just wished there had been more to it.