HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: I Am an American: A True Story of Japanese Internment
Author: Jerry Stanley
Publisher: Scholastic, republished in 1998
ISBN-13: 978-0517597866 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 0517597861 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-0590684446 Paperback
ISBN-10: 0590684442 Paperback
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 8-10 and up
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Stanley, Jerry. I Am an American: A True Story of Japanese Internment (published in 1994 by Crown Publishers Inc., 201 E. 50th St., New York City, NY 10022; republished in 1998 by Scholastic Inc., 555 Broadway, New York City, NY 10012). Shiro (Shi) Nomura was the son of Hachizo and Tsuro Nomura who had emigrated from Japan to Hawaii in 1900 and then to Berkley, CA, in 1905. Shi was born in the United States, and the family finally settled on a farm southwest of Los Angeles at Keystone where Shi became a student at Banning High School and fell in love with Amy Hattori. But the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, changed his life drastically. On Feb. 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 9066, which resulted in the forced internment (it’s internment, folks, not interment) of 120,000 Japanese-Americans, two-thirds of whom were United States citizens, in concentration camps throughout the western United States.
Shi and his family ended up at Manzanar, just south of the desert town of Independence in Inyo County, eastern California. Amy was sent to Amache near the town of Lamar in Colorado. Illustrated with copious black-and-white period photographs and numerous maps, I Am an American tells the true story of the Japanese internment by specifically following the life of Shi at Manzanar, where he lived with his parents, his older brother Shigeru and his family, and his older sister Sadae and her children; through his furlough work on A. T. Tjaden’s farm at Conrad, north of Great Falls, MT, and return to Manzanar; to his visit to Amache in a vain attempt to rekindle his relationship with Amy and final freedom after which he married Mary Kageyama.
On the one hand, we can partially understand the anti-Japanese hysteria because our nation was at war with Japan and, while the vast majority of Japanese-Americans were loyal to the United States, there were some spies and traitors, however few they might have been. On the other hand, there is no doubt that most of the mania was the result of simple racial prejudice that resulted in one of the saddest chapters in America’s otherwise mostly commendatory history. I am sure that there was enough blame to go around, but it is interesting that it was a Democrat administration and a Democrat-controlled Congress which allowed this to happen. There are some references to dancing, and the “d” word is used once by protesters to describe “Japs.” Otherwise, this is a good source of material to accompany a study of World War II.