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They Called Us Enemy

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A graphic memoir recounting actor/author/activist George Takei's childhood imprisoned within American concentration camps during World War II. Experience the forces that shaped an American icon -- and America itself.

Long before George Takei braved new frontiers in Star Trek, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father's -- and their entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future.

In 1942, at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, every person of Japanese descent on the west coast was rounded up and shipped to one of ten "relocation centers," hundreds or thousands of miles from home, where they would be held for years under armed guard.

They Called Us Enemy is Takei's firsthand account of those years behind barbed wire, the joys and terrors of growing up under legalized racism, his mother's hard choices, his father's faith in democracy, and the way those experiences planted the seeds for his astonishing future.

204 pages, Paperback

First published July 16, 2019

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About the author

George Takei

32 books461 followers
George Hosato Takei is an American actor best known for his role in the TV series Star Trek, in which he played the helmsman Hikaru Sulu on the USS Enterprise. His baritone earned Takei recurring appearances as the announcer for The Howard Stern Show starting on January 9, 2006, after that show's move to satellite radio.

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5 stars
22,956 (56%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,766 reviews
Profile Image for Zoë.
328 reviews65.8k followers
June 9, 2020
This was phenomenal. I've been a big fan of graphic memoirs ever since reading Persepolis, and this book is the perfect example of why.

We follow a four-year-old George Takei and his family as they are forced into concentration camps during WWII because of their Japanese ancestry. Seeing this all through a young child's eyes was even more heart-wrenching. While his parents are just trying to get through the day and keep their family safe, young George and his brother Henry think they are going on a vacation or an adventure. Through flash forwards from the '40s to present day, we see the repercussions this terrible experience has on George as he finds his voice while processing what his country put him through.

We are also shown the repercussions this period has on American politics. Our history books are notoriously white-washed, never delving into the parts of our past that makes white Americans look like the "bad guys." For example, I was never taught about these American concentration camps in my public school history class, though we spent every year of middle and high school learning about those in Europe.
Takei touches on that throughout this graphic memoir. He desperately tries to research his past, though no book makes any mention of it. America has pushed this period of its history under a rug, thereby silencing all those who were there to witness it. Only through stories from his father, was he able to process the atrocities they went through.

As we never fully addressed this atrocity (or hundreds more that we committed), we are thereby doomed to repeat them. This is evident by the last couple of pages, which illustrate ICE detention centers along the U.S.-Mexico border and Trump's 2018 ban on immigration from Muslim countries.

I thought this was an excellent graphic memoir that should be required reading in history classes! I highly suggest you also check out George Takei's TED Talks on YouTube.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
October 31, 2019
I couldn't reconcile what I read in these books about the shining ideas of our democracy with what I knew to be my childhood imprisonment.

What can I even say? Everyone should read this book.

I am becoming a big fan of these graphic novel memoirs, and George Takei's look at his childhood imprisonment inside an American concentration camp might be the most powerful yet. It succeeds wonderfully and horrifically on several levels. It acts as a reminder of a shameful time in America's history; a time so terrifyingly recent. It offers far too many parallels with the present day, cautioning us against how very easy it is to turn a neighbour into an "other" into an enemy.

It is also just a portrait of a childhood, and this might be what truly stuck the knife in my heart and made this read so absolutely devastating. Takei recalls being a young boy and feeling, at first, like he and his family were going on an adventure. Not understanding his parents fear and humiliation, but just trying to play games, run around, and be human in a country that was determined to see him as something else.

It is tough to read, but absolutely necessary. Also: his parents were fucking heroes.

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Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.5k followers
August 15, 2019
George Takei played a relatively minor character, Sulu, in the first iteration of Star Trek which ended far too soon. Years later, many people got to watch this show in endless reruns, and he, with the rest of the cast, became famous to new generations. Takei has become even more famous as a social activist and humorist on social media, which opened up the possibility for him to use his fame to speak widely on behalf of a variety of social causes (including gay rights), and develop a Broadway performance based on his life. This book is basically another version of his life with a focus on his having grown up--imprisoned--in a Japanese internment camp for a few years from the time he was four years old.

In 1942, at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, every person of Japanese descent on the west coast was rounded up and shipped to one of ten "relocation centers," and seen as "enemies of the state." Unlike now, where we separate refugee families into separate camps, the Japanese-Americans in these camps were allowed to stay together, and Takei's drew closer as a family, but this unacceptable and shameful practice nevertheless became a scar in American history.

I have been reviewing other books focused on the "internment," but this was developed from Takei's life story by two writers and illustrated as a kind of graphic memoir, with teens and possibly younger students as intended audience. It's an inspirational story, and should be read widely, again using his fame as a way to address a shameful period in American history, issues that are ongoing in American life, and in other countries as well. The art is okay, the adapted story is okay, I'd say 3 stars, but I bump it up to 4 stars for the timely topic and because I hope it will be used in schools and read by young people everywhere.
Profile Image for Bookishrealm.
2,085 reviews5,069 followers
January 15, 2021
This is the type of graphic memoir that should be included as required reading for U.S. History courses. For some individuals this memoir would be the only that they would ever hear about the Japanese internment camps. CW: racism, racial slurs, discrimination, violence, mistreatment of Japanese Americans, mention of death

They Called Us Enemy was a graphic memoir that I head a lot about. It made to the top of my TBR list and I began reading it in November. After a few sections, I made the decision to take a break not because the memoir wasn't good, but because I wasn't in the right head space. Honestly, I'm glad that I did because I would not have appreciated this book in it's entirety. George Takei uses the space within this graphic memoir to inform readers about his experience living in Japanese internment camps. It should be noted that George was a child during these events so he's had to rely on the stories from his father as well as bits from his own memory. Because of this, this story almost has two different lens. One from the perspective of adults who were able to recognize the horrors and astrocities placed on them by the US government. And another perspective belonging to a child who looks at certain aspects of this experience as an adventure while still trying to navigate the shock of such intense changes. Takei takes readers through the entirety of what his family and other families experienced while living in the internment camps. He highlights the individuals responsible for making the decisions to send Japanese Americans to this camp and he also discusses what happens to Japanese families after the war ends.

One of my greatest takeaways from reading this graphic memoir was George Takei's plea for Americans to understand the danger of a single story. When we don't teach both sides of the story history will continue to repeat itself. The inability of the US educational system to teach children about Japanese internment camps has let to the creation of laws and policies that mimick those from WWII further harming marginalized groups. It's amazing to see that we, as a nation, refuse to acknowledge what leaders of this country have gotten wrong when it is perfectly HUMAN
to make mistakes and learn from them. If we continue to hide the mistakes of past leaders, new leaders will follow in their footsteps and make the same pitfalls. There was so much to take away from this graphic memoir and I'm beyond happy that it exists for us as readers to consume. The artwork was brilliant and I hope that more people take the opportunity to read this memoir.
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,978 reviews1,989 followers
September 29, 2019
A graphic memoir? Me? And give it five stars?!? Never. Will not happen.

Yet here we are:

The horror of interning United States citizens based solely on the color of their skins!

Oh wait...we do that now..."interning" being synonymous with "incarcerating"...well, anyway, it's appalling and abominable. The Takei family is rousted out of their Los Angeles home by Executive Order 9066. They're shipped as far away from the Pacific Ocean as they can get: The Great State of Arkansas! *shudder* A swampy bit, as well...the Takeis weren't familiar with the climate, hot and humid summers with cold and snowy winters; the worst of all possible worlds for Mediterranean-climate natives!

George, brother Henry, and sister Nancy are lucky, however, as their father is a take-charge kind of a guy with a glad-handing streak as well as organizational capabilities, patience in abundance, and a generous heart. Mama Takei is sure her family will be okay despite everything because she is going to by-god *make* things okay. Her efforts to clothe and entertain her family, her strenuous work ethic keeping the children clean and as healthy as she can, mean that they're better off than many...so the Takeis help them. Because of course...those with nothing find a way to share with those who have even less.

There were good times as well as bad. Takei senior, as a helpful and useful inmate, got the family occasional privileges, like the use of a Jeep for a day out:

Not everyone in Arkansas thought the Japanese belonged in the camps. Not everyone in the US agreed with this vile act, this blot on the national escutcheon.

But tell that to the men who were young and patriotic enough to want to serve their country in the global war against fascism.

Their mistreatment at the hands of the democratic institutions designed to defend a citizen's life, liberty, and ability to pursue an existence that will make them happy radicalized them, leading to protests and horrors of oppression still worse than internment at Federal penitentiaries.

The tale ends, as we all know, when the war is over...but the country's wounds aren't healed so much as papered over. Now the returning African Americans, veterans and war workers, would need to gain civil rights...and there were injustices against the Japanese Americans unaddressed...and so on and so forth, to this good day, with others now in the victim role. Takei specifically draws parallels with the Muslim refugee crisis and the Hispanic emigration atrocities. He lived it. His voice carries authority: What we-the-people are allowing, even (I am nauseated to say) enjoying, to occur to Hispanic families is unconscionable, inexcusable, and proof that the lessons of history are lost on far too many of us.

Takei's journey took him into our living rooms on Star Trek: The Original Series, and its many sequels. He's spent his many years since riding that amazing introduction back into our lives advocating for positive social changes and fairer, more equal access to the USA's immense and unprecedented benefits for all. His life has been very well-lived and spent generously working to bring the American Dream into reality, only for *all* Americans.

Be like George, as the meme says.

(Only I like this one better.)
Profile Image for Blaine.
782 reviews658 followers
December 29, 2020
I thought I knew a fair amount about the internment of Japanese-Americans in WWII, but I learned quite a bit from this book, about how the process was carried out, and how the Japanese-Americans were given difficult choices along the way that made the experience even worse. I had no idea about the role Earl Warren (later a liberal lion on the Supreme Court) played in starting the country down this road.

The book also gives a taste of what it must have been like to actually go through this experience. Living with his family as prisoners in a horse stable, then forced to relocate to Arkansas, George, as a child, adapts and still has some fond memories of that time: a ride in a Jeep, his first snowfall, a visit from Santa Claus. But he remembers the pain his parents went through, losing everything, trying to protect him and his siblings, and choosing to work within the system to make their lives as normal as possible until they could no longer accept the unfair terms.

At the end, Mr. Takei compares the internment of Japanese-Americans with the caging of children on our borders by the Trump administration. He also notes that the Supreme Court’s Korematsu decision that permitted the internment camps during WWII was finally overturned in 2017, yet it was overturned in a decision that curtailed the rights of other immigrants. He’s right on both counts, or course, but I was also reminded of 9/11, and how the U.S. did not repeat the mistake of WWII and attempt a similar internment of Muslim-Americans.

They Called Us Enemy is a very informative, and also very moving, graphic novel. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Jon Nakapalau.
5,113 reviews728 followers
July 12, 2023
Heartbreaking - George Takei takes us on a journey with his family as they are relocated to several internment camps. His father and mother try to hold the family close even as their world is shattered; forced to answer questions of loyalty many decide to reject the country that has rejected them. This book shows us how far we can go once 'otherness' is used as a way to dehumanize others - powerful and inspired - highest recommendation.
Profile Image for Andy Marr.
Author 3 books786 followers
November 28, 2019
Even if I hadn't loved it, I'd have found it impossible to give less than five stars to such a powerful and important book as this. But I did. I loved every single page.
Profile Image for Calista.
4,074 reviews31.3k followers
October 18, 2019
I did know about the Japanese internment camps. I didn't think much else about that other than the blight on our country. George Takei has taken his story, he lived through the entire internment process, and he has made an excellent story out of his life. When I am able to see what it was like, it outrages me and horrifies me. It seems to stupid now, putting people in camps because they are from Japan. I'm so glad that George has a good story. The whole thing was so humiliating for all involved and there were some dirty tricks played on these people.

My favorite part of the story is at the end. George is giving a talk and he remembers his fathers words. George is older and his dad tells him stories about the camps that George didn't remember. George thinks his father would hate or at least be angry with American and he says:

"Of all the forms of government that we have, American democracy is still the best... Roosevelt pulled us out of the depression and he did great things... but he was also a fallible human being... and he made a disastrous mistake that affected us calamitously. Despite all we've experienced, our democracy is still the best in the world... because it's a people's democracy and the people can do great things."

Reading that line just gave me chills. These people suffered for four years and to see that still is from a wise and powerful person.

I feel like I understand what happened here better and I'm so glad that George shared his story with us. It's an important story.

The writing is a bit dry, but it's totally worth the read if you are interested in our countries history, mistakes and good deeds. George writes true and fair.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,782 reviews14.2k followers
February 16, 2021
I was a late watcher of Star trek, only started watching it when my hubby and I found it replaying on reruns. So, I recognize well the character of Sulu. Did know about the Japanese internment from many history books and historical novels, but reading the story of one you recognize makes it more personal.

His mother, was an amazing person who made the journey to the camps seem like a vacation. Soon though, it became apparent it was not. Such a horrible time, as a society we continue making the same mistakes. Now, Chinese are being targeted with violence because of Covid. So many details provided in a reader friendly way, graphic novels are good at this. Pictures tend to imprint these stories in minds, often longer than most words.

Warren and his role I had no idea, this man who became Chief Justice and was often the defender of personal liberties, fairness. I do wish it hadn't skipped around as much as it did, going from now, Ted talks and to the past where he spent the years from five to nine. A poignant look, a personal story if an injustice that continues to play out in our time, in other races.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews611 followers
November 7, 2022
Powerful graphic memoir!!!

The author and his family spent time in two different internment camps during WWII.

It was informative and emotionally gripping.

Many thanks to Kim!!!! My friend and book sorcerer 💕
Profile Image for Woman Reading .
434 reviews286 followers
May 2, 2022
Memory is a wily keeper of the past... usually dependable, but at times, deceptive.

I know that I will always be haunted by the larger, vaguely remembered reality of the circumstances surrounding my childhood.

This is George Takei's memoir of his incarceration experience from age 5 to 9 years and how it spurred his social activism. He is an American citizen, because he had been born in California, as also his mother and his two younger siblings had been. But in the hysteria and fear in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941, the "day that will live in infamy" truly did. President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed on the same day that all adult Japanese citizens were "alien enemies" before Congress had even approved a declaration of war against Japan. Prior to the mid 20th century, the US government had prohibited immigrants of Asian ancestries from obtaining citizenship. George's father had arrived in the US as a teenager. His language fluency in English should have conveyed his level of integration into his current homeland but to no avail.

Asian immigrants' port of entry was usually in California. Because of the 1849 gold rush, the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, and the burgeoning agricultural economy, California was also the likeliest state of their settlement. When economic conditions worsened, California became a hotbed of anti-Asian sentiment and spawned discriminatory legal policies that lasted for at least a century. It was Earl Warren, then Attorney General for California, who initially invoked inflammatory rhetoric to "lock up the Japs" after the Pearl Harbor attack. (Yes, this is the same Earl Warren who eventually served as a Supreme Court Justice - https://racism.org/articles/law-and-j...). There were nearly 100,000 persons of Japanese ancestry in California, but the majority of them were American-born and thus citizens.

On February 19, 1942, President FDR issued Executive Order 9066. This authorized the military to establish areas "from which any and all persons [are] to be excluded" and to provide provisions for these excluded people. Although this Order didn't specify any ethnicity, the purpose soon became obvious. Without any evidence to substantiate fears of espionage or sedition and without any semblance of due process for American citizens, approximately 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry were locked behind barbed-wire fences and under military guard from 1942 until 1946.
Most Japanese Americans from my parents' generation didn't like to talk about the internment with their children. As with many traumatic experiences, they were anguished by their memories and haunted by shame for something that wasn't their fault.

Shame is a cruel thing. It should rest on the perpetrators but they don't carry it the way the victims do.

George's parents and his youth protected him somewhat but no one emerges from total disenfranchisement completely unscathed. George recounted key memories, positive and negative ones ranging from the first Christmas to the tears and humiliation as their possessions had been stripped from them. George's family occupied three different camps, all in poor physical and crowded conditions. The final camp was reserved for the "No-no's" - the persons who chose to protest the ethically-illicit internment. The entire experience was one in which the Japanese Americans had to grapple constantly with this question - what does it mean to be "American" in terms of acceptance or resistance to government action that runs completely contrary to American democratic principles? But in actuality, all Americans should give serious consideration to this question for we contribute to the checks-and-balances system that is fundamental to our democracy.

Although I would have preferred a more chronologically-organized recounting, there is no doubt that They Called Us Enemy is a powerful story. It is also one that anybody interested in American history should read. Given its graphical format, this is a quick read with a tremendous amount of history efficiently packed in. This memoir springs from a TED talk he gave in 2014 - https://www.ted.com/talks/george_take...

4.5 ☆
Profile Image for Lisa Vegan.
2,802 reviews1,234 followers
October 26, 2019
Extremely well done! I loved it. Full 5 star book!

I already knew most of what was described as happening in the wider world and in the camps in general because I’ve already read so many books, seen films, seen interviews with people who were there.

It was the first I’d heard of the involvement of Vroman’s Book Store (still in business in the Los Angeles area) and Herbert Nicholson, a Quaker missionary, who delivered book to several of the camps. What a great man! Heartening to know how many people opposed the internment of Japanese Americans (my parents included) but even better to know of people who tried to make things better in various ways.

While I did already know a lot about what happened to those of Japanese ancestry and in the camps, I liked reading this personal story of George Takei as a young boy and of his parents and brother and sister. I’d actually heard him speak of this, but it was great reading a book with a more in depth account than what I’d already heard. I’ve always liked him. I first saw him on the original Start Trek tv show when I was 13 (I watched that first Star Trek show as regularly as I could) to his guest spot on The Big Bang Theory (I wish there had been more) and I always enjoy watching him being interviewed and I admire him as a person. He’s an effective activist for human rights causes.

The black and white and gray/brown tones illustrations do a great job of showing people’s facial expressions and depicting the story that’s told. They’re a bit too cartoonish for my personal taste but I enjoyed them in this book. I love the image that’s faded out that pairs with George saying he didn’t remember something, in this case their last Christmas at Tule Lake with his father already gone. There are only two color illustrations and they’re on the front and back covers.

My library has this shelved in their teen section so I did put it on my young adult shelf. Adult readers who normally don’t read young adult books should not let that label (or the fact that it’s a graphic book) put them off. This is just as much of a book for adult readers and many older preteen children will also enjoy it.

Sometimes I feel as though I can’t get enough of these stories. Every person’s story/family’s story is important and should be known. Kudos to the three authors and the one illustrator who created this book and especially to George Takei for sharing his story.

I love musicals. How could I never have heard of either Fly Blackbird! Or Allegiance?! I guess I have been out of the loop re musicals/plays for a long, long time.

I appreciated how times and several things post WWII are covered, including our recent immigration crisis and how people who seem to some like “others” are still being ill-treated. This is a perfect book for this time in our history.

I got a kick out of his interview audition for the show Star Trek. It really was a great show, and ahead of its time.

It was interesting to see George’s feelings about his father and his relationship with his father from the time he was a young boy until after his father’s death, and this account is a loving tribute to his father.

Heartbreaking and heartwarming and with important things to say about how we all view and treat one another, as well as a compelling memoir.
Profile Image for Hamad.
1,048 reviews1,383 followers
December 9, 2019
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★ I have discovered this book through the GR choice awards this year. I have read many good graphic novel this year and I think this one should win because it is important for more people to read it. I am not a fan of historical books but this year, I have been learning much history through graphic novels and lighter novels.

★ I read much about the Jew concentration camps but this story is a bit different. It talks about the American concentration camps for the Japanese people and I never thought of this before and it was such an eye-opening book.

★ There are 2 choices that were smart regarding this book, that the main character was a kid and the artist did a great job with the black and white illustrations! I think it succeeded in capturing the vibes of the story so well! Not to mention that the artist had a very simple, clean and accurate art style.

★ The kids always make this kind of stories lighter for me -but sadder- and there is just something great in reading about their innocence and that war is always a bad choice! I don’t have much to say about this but if you have a few hours to spare, then this is a great book for sure and I hope it wins the GR awards although I am certain it won’t.

★ Summary: an important story with great art style, great characters and an important message. Read it if you like graphic novels and historical books.

You can get more books from Book Depository
Profile Image for Scott.
1,799 reviews131 followers
October 1, 2019
"On February 19, 1942, seventy-four days after [the attack on] Pearl Harbor . . . [President Franklin Roosevelt] issued Executive Order# 9066. The order never used the word Japanese or camps - it authorized the military to declare areas "from which any or all persons may be excluded" . . . as for what kind of 'persons' would be 'excluded,' that quickly became obvious." -- pages 22 and 23

Actor George Takei - best known for his role as 'Sulu' in the durable Star Trek TV and film franchise - teams with writers Justin Eisinger and Steven Scott plus illustrator Harmony Becker to present his childhood experiences in the historical / sociological graphic novel They Called Us Enemy. Drawn in stark black and white, the book mostly details the four years (1942 to 1946) when Takei and his family - father, mother, brother and sister (all American-born, except for the father - who was a respected and successful small business owner in Los Angeles) - were relocated to / imprisoned in internment camps with tens of thousands of other Japanese-Americans for the duration of WWII.

It is a timely, affecting story. It also taps into a certain dark fear - whether as a child (as Takei was at the time) or an adult (his parents), life irreversibly being turned upside-down by forces beyond your control is something that frightens or should frighten all of us, even if we don't care to really admit it. I certainly don't want to imagine simultaneously losing my job, my house / property, and my rights.

Also of note is that Takei drops in a few moments of humor (better to laugh than cry, right?) that he recalls amidst this depressing situation, and much later instead of becoming an angry or resentful adult he channels said experiences / memories into his at-first unplanned role as an activist. He also briefly shines a light on the U.S. Army's 442nd regimental combat team -- comprised of Japanese-Americans, it was one of the most decorated units in the military during WWII. These men fought with valor, possibly because they understood better than anyone what they were really fighting for.
Profile Image for Deborah.
751 reviews55 followers
September 17, 2019
George Takei, who was Sulu of Star Trek, relates his childhood of being imprisoned during World War II by the U.S. government for around three years. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, approximately 120,000 of Japanese ancestry, who were living along the West coast regardless of U.S. citizenship or that they had never been to Japan, were either arrested or incarcerated in relocation centers. They were forced to abandon their homes, jobs, and possessions. It was believed that they were loyal to the Japanese emperor simply because of their ancestry and that they could not be assimilated. Yet, the American Germans were never subjected to this same atrocity. This illustrated memoir depicts his family's and the other detainees' struggles and choices against this legalized racism. It is a stark reminder that injustices, whether legalized or not, have and continue to occur because of discrimination.
Profile Image for Steve.
945 reviews141 followers
July 22, 2019
Well done, George Takei (and, of course, kudos to the co-authors and artists), and thank you for using your (frankly, enormous) reputation (OK, let's put it out there, from Star Trek) to advance the common good (generally, and specifically, at this time) of society and our fragile nation.

So, where to start? Yes, yes, it's a graphic novel, but it's much, much more. It's non-fiction, it's autobiographical, it's current, it's important, it's historic, it's informative, and .... and, yes, as graphic novels go (or as these types of autobiographical efforts go), it's quite good, and it's highly accessible, and he's (obviously) a celebrity, so it's getting a lot of coverage (including a massive spread in this weekend's Washington Post) ... so it's a powerful tool.

OK, it won't be all things to all people. Depending upon the circles you run in - particularly among people who read literature - I might recommend (even though it's fiction) that folks who want an empathetic introduction to the Japanese Internment debacle instead start with Julie Otsuka's When the Emperor Was Divine (appreciating that, Otsuka's book is fiction, and very much micro, and Takei's, frankly, is not only personal-yet-macro, but also more informative or fact-rich). Having said that, particularly with his springboard, it's a solid piece of work, and the timing couldn't be better.

To the extent this is a graphic novel, I expect that many folks will immediately make analogies to Art Spiegelman's iconic Maus, but I fear that it's a tough comparison - for Maus, many stars aligned, and timing - coming at the tale end of the late-1980's/early 1990's birth/rebirth of adult graphic novels - think, I dunno, Kingdom Come, Sandman, Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, etc. - was a big part of it.... Rather than Maus, I immediately thought of Marjane Satrapi's similarly powerful Persopolis, which I found to be quite good (and thought-provoking and emotive). Heck, you might also want to throw Max Brooks' informative and well-done Harlem Hellfighters onto that pile. But let's be clear, graphic novels can be a very effective tool for opening people's eyes to facts and ideas that may not previously have been familiar, or come to grips, with.

But, drifting to non-graphic non-fiction books that humanize the country's (less-than-flattering, OK, heinous) history of racial oppression, it was interesting to read this immediately after finishing Michael Kranish's (very recent and quite good) The World's Fastest Man, about "America's First Black Sports Hero," .... in my review of that one, I suggested that, the book's primary contribution may be helping some folks (cyclists? sports fanatics?) to gain familiarity with our oft-ignored history of race and racism. In that context, thinking about other excellent examples of compelling non-fiction on race, I might comfortably shelve that book alongside Isabel Wilkerson's monumental Warmth of Other Suns, Gilbert King's Pulitzer Prize winning Devil in the Grove, or maybe even David Grann's stunning Killers of the Flower Moon, but, of course, these are all just the tip of the iceberg.

At the end of the day, I recommend the book without hesitation. It's a quick read. Buy it, share it, pass it on to kids in school (not just college or high school ... I think it would play well in middle and junior high schools), friends, neighbors, potential voters, and ... generally ... open-minded people ... and potential voters ... who, for whatever reason, may simply be unfamiliar with the history of race in the U.S. - particularly between the Civil War and the 1960's Civil Rights Movement.

Oh, and, if you're on Twitter, follow the author at @GeorgeTakei - his voice is a unique and refreshing one in these troubling times.
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.9k followers
October 22, 2019

This graphic memoir by George Takei—who was imprisoned, along with his family, in the U.S.’s World War II concentration camps for Japanese Americans—is timely, moving, remarkably objective, and historically necessary.

It is timely because, once again, we have concentration camps in America. Children, snatched from the arms of their mothers, are confined in large wired enclosures as demeaning as cages. Their crime? They dared to cross the border into what was once considered to be the Land of Freedom, in a desperate attempt to escape hunger, poverty, gang violence, and sexual exploitation. It is true that Takei and his family were the victims of yet a crueler irony: they were American citizens. Yet the callous brutality of what is essentially a white man’s government toward people who are different from themselves makes these two situations much the same.

This memoir is particularly moving because it is viewed primarily through the eyes of the children, the most undeniably innocent of all victims, and often the most oblivious. We see them playing contentedly through the railroad journey the camps, unaware—until years later—of the humiliation their parents suffered and the challenges they faced. The pain of the adults becomes more poignant in isolation, and the distance it causes between children and parents compounds the crime.

It is also remarkably objective, taking care to show the occasional non-Asian American who acted with compassion and courage, from the anonymous man who regularly delivered carloads of books to the internment camps to lawyer Wayne Collins who led the fight against deportation during the “renunciation crisis.” It also shows its objectivity—as well as a little irony too—in its account of how many Japanese—including Takei’s father—worked to organize the detainees into a mutually helpful community, organized democratically in a quintessentially American way.

We all owe our thanks to George Takei because, above all other things, this memoir is historically necessary. For it is only by seeing the evil our nation has caused in the past that we are able to recognize the evil happening now and do what we can to stop it.
Profile Image for Chad.
8,144 reviews906 followers
February 1, 2020
They Called Us Enemy details part of America's shameful past through the eyes of George Takei (Sulu from Star Trek) as a child. Shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, 120,000 Japanese-Americans were rounded up and forced into internment camps for the next 4 years. Their businesses, homes, and accounts were seized by the government for nothing more than being born of Japanese ancestry. One of the things I found most surprising was that Earl Warren, later the Supreme Court Justice of the United States, was one of the largest instigators for the internment camps. Takei's family was originally forced to live in a horse stall at Santa Anna race track until permanent camps were built and they were shipped off to internment camps in Arkansas and later Tule Lake, CA. There's an interesting juxtaposition in the book in that Takei was a small child and still took some happy memories away during this awful time, not completely comprehending what has happening.

This book feels more timely than ever given the news of immigrant detention centers and the Muslim ban over the last 4 years. The parallels between now are uncanny (and scary). The book is written in a way that most ages can comprehend. Hopefully it will start to find itself in the curriculum of middle schools and upwards into high school.
Profile Image for destiny ♡ howling libraries.
1,743 reviews5,291 followers
April 4, 2020
What an incredible, powerful memoir.

I knew, going into this, that it was going to be an extremely emotional read. I can't even begin to relate to the level of pain that actual Japanese-American people have felt, and perhaps will always feel, in regard to this horrible, bleak time in US history. As an outsider, though, the stories of internment camps have haunted me since I first began hearing them, and I knew this was a story I had to read. I can't remember the last time I cried this hard reading anything. I started weeping probably 3-4 pages in and could hardly stop until several minutes after turning the last page. This is an absolutely devastating, gut-wrenching memoir that makes me sick with shame over any of it ever having happened to so many innocent people.

On a happier note, George Takei is a lovely storyteller, the art in this was engaging and sweet, and I think George Takei's parents were truly national treasures that deserve to be lauded as heroes. ♥
Profile Image for Diz.
1,607 reviews100 followers
November 6, 2019
George Takei presents his childhood experiences living in an internment camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II in this graphic novel. He also talks about how those experiences influenced his activism later in life. The story is heartbreaking, and Takei reminds us at the end of the book that the same thing is happening again with immigrants from Mexico and Central America. Let's not forget our past and repeat the same mistakes.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,883 reviews16.6k followers
February 14, 2022
An important work, I’m glad that George Takei shared this memoir with us and the graphic novel format made this even more poignant.

Telling his memory of when he was a child during World War II when he and his family were forcibly removed from their homes in California and made to live in internment camps because they were of Japanese ancestry.

I knew that this happened but experiencing the events through Takei’s perspective was illuminating.

Takei goes on to describe the times after his family was able to return and of the legislation that followed to prevent this from ever happening again.

Profile Image for Sheila Beaumont.
1,102 reviews148 followers
July 23, 2019
George Takei's compelling, heartfelt graphic memoir about his family's experiences during the U.S. government's incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II is a must-read.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, 120,000 Japanese Americans, many of them citizens or longtime residents, were sent to concentration camps. The Takeis spent some time at Santa Anita Racetrack (George, at the age of 5, thought sleeping in a smelly stall where a horse had lived was great fun), then they were herded onto a train that took them to a camp in Arkansas (where George thought dinosaurs roamed the swamps outside the barbed wire fence). Later they were moved to Tule Lake in Northern California. Both parents did their best to make the experience a "vacation" for their children.

This book contains much information that is new to me, especially about the aftermath of the incarceration. I hope this book is widely read, especially in light of current government policies that are repeating the same mistakes. It's certainly accessible, since it's in a format that can easily be read by all ages, from middle school on up. This a book that everyone should read.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,115 followers
April 5, 2020
George Takei’s graphic memoir focuses on his childhood during the time Japanese Americans were incarcerated. It’s a story I knew vaguely but I liked seeing it through his eyes and how he has used his fame for the Japanese American community. This is currently a bonus borrows in hoopla (not a paid ad)
Profile Image for Rod Brown.
5,555 reviews197 followers
August 7, 2019
Timely due to our current crisis in immigrant detention, this book is good for you and well done too. Having read Takei's To the Stars and seen the musical "Allegiance," I had a familiarity with some of the material, but I appreciate Takei using this opportunity to get into the details of his family's experience during the Japanese-American Internment during World War II. It's outrageous that these events occurred in the land of the free and that it took decades for apologies and restitution to be made and honor restored.
Profile Image for Dee (Delighting in the Desert!).
282 reviews27 followers
January 3, 2023
4.5 stars rounded up - Everyone should red Geo. Takei’s graphic novel about his family & childhood in the WWII Japanese interment camps - I’ve been to Manzanar & thought I knew, but there was a lot of new info here! A “Must Read”!!
Profile Image for Susan.
518 reviews36 followers
September 24, 2023

George Takei, probably better known as Star Trek’s Hikaru Sulu, tells the story of his childhood experiences in an American relocation camp during WWII, in the form of this graphic novel.

He was only four years old when his family, being of Japanese decent, were interred, along with thousands of others, in camps which were often hundreds of miles away from their previous lives.
They had to leave behind homes, businesses, friends, and often their extended families, for a strange new life behind barbed wire.

I was aware that this had happened, as it did in many countries during the war, when authorities were afraid that people who came from those places that they actually at war with could pose a threat.
I have so many questions as to why this was allowed to happen....I felt horrified, outraged and saddened by what I was reading.....
I read this alongside Daughter of Moloka'i by Alan Brennert, a fictional account these events, and I was struck by the similarities between the real events, and the fictionalised story.

George Takei’s book is through the eyes of a man remembering how it felt to be a child experiencing these times, which was a great perspective.....he remembers the resourcefulness of his parents, how his Mother did her very best to soften the blow of what was happening, of how his Father worked to improve not only his families life, but the lives of all the internees.
There were dark times, but there were also wonderful friendships, forged by the shared experiences of people ripped away from everything they knew and cherished, and thrown into a nightmare they had no control over.
I was brimful of admiration for how these decent, ordinary people coped with these extraordinary, frightening and wholly unfair events.

The graphic format worked so well as a way to tell this story....five stars, well deserved.

Even better second time around, as an actual book rather than on kindle………
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