They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger and Steven Scott, art by Harmony Becker. Top Shelf, 2019. 9781603094504
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5
What did you like about the book? Actor and activist George Takei narrates this memoir of his family’s internment during World War II. Alternating between history and politics around the War, his family’s story, and a TED talk he gave on the subject, Takei takes the reader on an exploration of the shameful treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Stunningly racist views, such as that of the Attorney General of Los Angeles, are part of the story of how the incarceration of innocent civilians was justified: “the absence of evidence against Japanese Americans was the evidence.” Takei’s parents were almost super human in their efforts to shield their three children from the ugliness of their years in captivity, and Takei’s admiration for them is affecting. With little notice that they had to vacate their home and take only what they could carry, his father said they were going on a vacation. Little George found it to be an adventure, and the fact that his mother loaded up her one bag with treats for the children seemed to confirm that idea. The story is heartbreaking at times, but there are moments that are inspiring, funny and sweet. The authors do a great job of making the period’s racism come to life, which makes it relatable to current struggles. The simple black and white manga-like art complements the drama of the story, with interesting textures employed for shading, background and mood.
Anything you didn’t like about it? No
To whom would you recommend this book? This title is appropriate for all graphic non fiction collections, from upper elementary through adult. It would be a great addition to units on WWII. Highly recommended.
Who should buy this book? Elementary and middle schools, high schools, public libraries.
Where would you shelve it ? Graphic non fiction
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA
Date of review: August 18, 2019