Sean Meriwether's Reviews > They Called Us Enemy

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei
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it was amazing
bookshelves: books-to-survive-45, graphic-novel, memoir, equality

Takei has positively leveraged his fame as Hikaru Sulu to help make our world more like the inclusive universe of Star Trek. He has been a human rights activist for decades, notably on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community.

They Call Us Enemy chronicles his family’s forcible internment following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when American’s reactionary fear of Japan turned against anyone of Japanese descent. Takei’s family was part of the 120,000 Americans and Japanese immigrants who were jailed without cause or trial. This graphic novel is depicted in effective black and white panels, shuttling between the author's childhood and his misperception of the events as an adventure (thanks to the fierce protection of his parents who shielded their children from the trauma) and his adulthood in which he can reflect back on the bravery of his parents, his father’s sacrifices to help other members of their community, and the power of unifying to make positive change in spite of the circumstances. His family was forced to sell all of their possessions and his father’s business for pennies on the dollar, housed in horse stables and a camp in Arkansas, watched by armed guards, and surrounded by a barbed wire fence. Over years this life became the only one that the children understood, and they feared leaving the safety of the fence when they were unceremoniously evicted after WWII ended. Takei, as he grows into an adult, learns that this chapter of history was missing from the records and used this book, and the musical that was based on the book, to ensure it was not forgotten.

He comes full circle to deliver a talk about the internment at the home of President Roosevelt, who was responsible for the law being put into effect. He also took part in pressuring the government to apologize and give reparations, which came more than 40 years later. African-Americans are still waiting for theirs.

What is most tragic is that despite our understanding that stealing everything a family owns and then jailing them based exclusively on their genetic heritage is wrong, yet the 45th President of the United States with the full support of the Republican Party has repeated this moment in history to jail families of immigrants escaping the gang and drug violence of Central America, as well as intentionally banning religious groups from our country. However, They Called Us Enemy is inspirational, aside from the loving tribute to his parents, because in spite of their experience they maintained the belief in the possibilities of an inclusive America. Takei stands as an example of the benefits of immigration and how this has helped our country prosper and be a beacon to democracy. We, he reminds us, have the choice to choose the world we live in. Intolerance and fear versus acceptance and love. We could use more Americans like him to stand up and make a positive difference.

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Reading Progress

October 21, 2019 – Started Reading
October 21, 2019 – Shelved
October 21, 2019 – Shelved as: books-to-survive-45
October 21, 2019 – Shelved as: graphic-novel
October 22, 2019 – Shelved as: memoir
October 22, 2019 – Shelved as: equality
October 22, 2019 – Finished Reading

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