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Looking Like the Enemy: My Story of Imprisonment in Japanese American Internment Camps
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Looking Like the Enemy: My Story of Imprisonment in Japanese American Internment Camps

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  432 ratings  ·  60 reviews
The author at 16 years old was evacuated with her family to an internment camp for Japanese Americans, along with 110,000 other people of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast. She faced an indefinite sentence behind barbed wire in crowded, primitive camps. She struggled for survival and dignity, and endured psychological scarring that has lasted a lifetime.

This memoi
Paperback, 227 pages
Published April 18th 2005 by NewSage Press (first published March 10th 2005)
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Average rating 4.06  · 
Rating details
 ·  432 ratings  ·  60 reviews

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Rebecca McNutt
Nothing short of utterly shocking, Looking Like the Enemy is a reminder of a very dark time in world history, and why time and time again we're in danger of repeating it every time we judge a person for their race, religion or ethnicity and not by their actions or character as human beings. In an age where the Holocaust and Pearl Harbour were haunting the nightmares of many, it was easy to allow fear to develop into a sort of xenophobia to the point where it's understandable, but not justifiable ...more
We had lost our right to be in the privacy of our own home, the right to come and go as we pleased, the right to voice our opinions openly without fear of retaliation, the right to be involved in creative activities of our choosing. I was loyal to the country that guaranteed these rights—and that country no longer existed for me. The sudden loss of all these rights forced me to realize that this whole mass movement against the Japanese in America was the culmination of more than a half-century o
Sep 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Students, Playwrights
Recommended to Bill by: Diana Gruenewald
Several reviewers decried the author's writing and/or dismissed it as young adult fiction. While the writing style is certainly accessible to younger readers, this is, after all, a memoir. As a memoir, it is well-written and eye-opening. One gets the sense that it is not embellished ala James Frey. Like most baby boomers, I am well aware of the plight of Japanese Americans and their abrupt imprisonment after Pearl Harbor and for much of World War 2. I was not aware that these people were require ...more
Oct 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
I have read a lot about the mass incarceration of the Japanese American community. Most of the first-hand, published accounts I've read were written fifteen or twenty years ago (or more). Reading Looking Like the Enemy, I realize how those earlier authors held back in what they produced for public consumption--heartbreaking though all their books are.

Mary Matsuda Gruenewald strikes me as a very courageous woman, writing at a time when the silence surrounding the mass incarceration has finally ac
Sep 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I must issue a disclaimer. This will be the most biased book review ever! Reason being, the author, Mary Matsuda Gruenewald, is my aunt by marriage, and the mother of three terrific cousins.

Now that I have that out of the way, let me begin. I read this book shortly after it was published. I was home to see my parents and my mom said Aunt Mary had written a book. Oh, well, that's nice, what did she write about? I came home with an autographed copy, and it sat on my bookshelf awhile, until I got a
Hannah Notess
Apr 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It took the U.S. government four decades to apologize for interning 120,000 innocent people on the basis of their race. Mary Matsuda Gruenewald waited 60 years to publish her memory of that experience as a teenage girl. And yet you can tell by reading this that she did not forget a single thing about what happened to it and how it made her feel. This book is not written in a literary style, but it's so vivid, maybe especially because the narrator/author is a teenage girl trying to figure out her ...more
Jun 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yet another of the heartbreaking and heartwarming stories of a dark period of US history. Although there are better books out there, this one is well worth reading, especially if you are interested a story of what happened to some of the Japanese in the Puget Sound during WWII. The author skillfully recounts the horror experienced by so many Japanese as they were herded into internment camps in WWII. We need to remember this history so we do not repeat it on some other group in the future.
Jan 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
I was surprised by how little I knew about Japanese internment camps and this book did an excellent job at shedding some light on my ignorance of the matter. The book has a very colloquial feel to it that makes it really easy to enjoy. I really felt like I was right there with the Matsuda family.

I was especially intrigued by the "Yes/Yes" and "No/No" dilemma that Japanese-Americans faced. In an attempt to ascertain the loyalty of those in camps the US government surveyed them asking whether or n
Judith Praag
Jul 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Readers interested in Japanese American Internment camps, WWII, USA history, Seattle
Recommended to Judith by: Alan Lau
Many of us have a story within that begs to be told. We put it off, and off, telling ourselves: "One day, I'll sit down and write it down." Often we need a little push.

Around 1990, Mary Gruenewald Matsuda's son and middle child said, "Mom you have never told us about Grandma and Grandpa and Uncle Yonei." Gruenewald (65 at the time) figured that if her own three children, and her brother Yoneichi's four daughters (their father died in 1985) were interested in their family history, it was up to he
Sarah Crawford
Jan 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a thoroughly excellent book on the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. It's a first-person account of a girl who was 17 at the time. It covers her life and family before the internment, during and after the internment, and goes into a lot of very interesting detail about her life and the life of her family. They were at several camps and one assembly area during the time period.

One of the more moving parts is about what happened on December 7th, 1941, how the family fo
Carol Brusegar
May 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Finally, near her 80th birthday, Mary Matsuda published the story of her and her family's internment during World War II. Her account of their removal from their home, a strawberry farm in Vashon Island, Washington, into a series of internment camps in desolate areas provides a unique view into those horrible years.

She was 17 years old when they were first removed because they were Japanese and not trusted after Pearl Harbor. Her parents were born in Japan, she and her brother were nissei--born
Mary and her family raised strawberries like many of the other Japanese families on Vashon Island but life came to a crashing halt with Executive Order 9066. As a teen, Mary experienced anger and confusion about being American and Japanese; as an American-born, how could her own country treat her this way? Yet as a Japanese, Americans would never see her as anything but. Despite this scary, frustrating time, her parents’ stoicism and faith that all would work out keep her grounded at the times ...more
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have known personally Japanese and Japanese-Americans who had been detained and then put into the camps after the attack on Pearl Harbor. And I knew generally what they had gone through. But Looking Like the Enemy really brought home to me the deeper implications of what they had lost. Mary Matsuda's family was more fortunate than most as they were able to recover the family farm and start their fruit and vegetable business up again. Many lost everything and recovered nothing. She gives a very ...more
May 07, 2008 rated it liked it
If I was to judge this book purely by its writing, I would say it is poorly written and give it a lower review. However, that is not what this book is about. This book is the true story of one survivor of the Japanese Internment Camps. It sheds some light on what Japanese Americans endured during WWII. I thought her story was interesting, but on the surface. Being an internee from Washington, where prejudice was at a minimum, Matsuda experienced life in the camps quite differently than a number ...more
Mary Lou
(My Story of Imprisonment in Japanese-American Internment Camps) I appreciated the glossary of Japanese words & phrases & a bibliography. An 80-yr old recalls her family's eviction from their farm & subsequent incarceration. They had enough warning to make arrangements for their farm to be worked in their absence & thus did not lose it. They felt very fortunate as many other Japanese lost all of their belongings. While they were deprived of all their rights, Mary was required to recite the pledg ...more
When Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941, Mary Matsuda was a high school junior living on Vashon Island in Washington. Mary’s first encounters with racism came in the following days. Her family was soon sent to the first of the four internment camps, leaving their farm in the care of a local deputy sheriff. The book describes life in each of the camps, the challenges facing the internees at all times, intensified when asked to affirm their loyalty to the U.S. near the end of the war; her ...more
Feb 07, 2016 rated it liked it
Enjoyed the local connections of this story, which starts and ends on Vashon Island, an important place in my own youth. I vaguely remember the author's brother, who taught at my high school. I can only imagine how his experience may have shaped his social studies classes.

The author explains one motivation for telling her story being to prevent recurrence of the prejudice she faced in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack. Her family's allegiance to the USA was sincere but still they were not
Donna Oyama
Dec 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people interested in American history
Shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, setting in motion the evacuation and relocation of 120,000 Japanese and Japanese-Americans who were then held prisoner in camps for the duration of WWII. This book is the author's story of her family's experience during those years. Because Gruenewald was seventeen at the time, this is also a coming of age story.
I have read several books on this topic. Gruenewald's is one of the better ones
Jun 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book was written for a young adult audience was very well-done. She describes vividly her confusion and disorientation at being perceived as an enemy. She is a legal US citizen and never felt different from her neighbors on Vashon Island, but when Pearl Harbor is attacked, her family realizes they are different. The four members of her family react differently to the internment experience and it's interesting to see their choices. They are assigned to several camps and thus get an interesti ...more
Sep 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Excerpt -- On Taking the Long View
"Let's imagine," she [mother] said after a thoughtful silence, "that we are now twenty years into the future, looking back on our situation as it is right now." She looked at Yoneichi [my brother], then glanced briefly at Papa-san. "Some of us may survive this time. Twenty years from now, we may have nothing more than the memories of how we conducted ourselves with dignity and courage during this difficult time." She paused. "What kind of memories do we want to
Lisa James
Mar 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is one of the few autobiographies that I have read. I went through a little phase of wondering how the Japanese coped with being locked away in internment camps in WWII. All I could find was the Americans side of the story then I came across this and it blows my mind that a country (I understand that it was during a time of war and through fear) could be racist towards its own citizens and how they could force these other human beings to live in such confines. It was good (for me) to hear t ...more
Jun 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
The author was 17 when she and her family were
interned as potentially traitorous people because
of their Japanese ancestry. Once you accept the
given situation, which they had to, their intra-family
adjustments offer a moving sub-plot. Their humanity,
civility, and patience are astonishing, as they lived
out a prolonged situation tragedy that we once thought
couldn't happen here. Land of the free, no; home of
the brave, yes.
Dec 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
Initially I read this book (and went to a reading) because it was written by a friend's mother. However, once I got into the memoir, I found it to be an engrossing account of the Pacific Northwest chapter of Japanese American internment during WWII. Being from the area, and having read and heard family oral history of the Southern California internment experience, it was incredibly enlightening to read an account of local history. Highly recommended.
Apr 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this historical memoir about the Japanese American internment camps of WWII. The author speaks honestly about her feelings and experience of a time in history that many Americans still don't know about. She puts a human face onexperiences similar to those that my father's family (and extended relatives) went through. I definitely recommend this book. I thank the author for bravely writing it. I suggest a box of kleenex while reading it.
Jul 04, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone wanting to learn more about this period in history
Although the writing in this book wasn't that impressive (it sort of felt like it was geared towards children), it was a huge learning experience for me. I feel as though my history classes growing up didn't even touch on this important and embarrassing part of America's history. Therefore I would recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about this period in history.
Dec 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I starting reading this book very uninformed about this part of history. The author's first person account is very moving and heartbreaking. She talks alot about how this imprisonment hurt the social norms and family structure amoung the Japanese Americans. It was very sad yet enlightening for me to read.
May 25, 2009 marked it as to-read
Shelves: book-club, memoir, history
I'm marking this to-read as a method of asking: does anyone I live near have this book? It's the book for this year's Smith faculty book club and there are no copies in the Oakland, Berkeley or San Francisco public library systems, but I would really love to read it because Floyd Cheung is the speaker and I want to ask him good questions. Anyone?
Jun 14, 2011 rated it liked it
I thought it was an important story to know about. There was a time in the middle when it felt like it moved slowly and I wasn't sure I wanted to persevere with the book, but then I picked it up again and had to know how it ended. It's pretty amazing what happened and how people made it through. Worth reading!
Aug 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Fascinating to read about a part of my family history that my mom only spoke to us about once. It made her cry so we never asked her about it again. After reading this story, I can understand why. What I can't understand is why this even happened to American citizens in the first place. I can only hope that something like this never happens again.
Susan Rothenberg
Nov 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A very well written memoir about a Japanese family being interned during World War II, and the author, then a teen, trying to understand why. Her search for her national identity - she was born in the Untied States, and felt American, yet she looked like the enemy. Once again it made me wonder why the Japanese people were interned, but not the Germans.....
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