They Called Us Enemy

They Called Us Enemy

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...

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Title:They Called Us Enemy
Author:George Takei
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Edition Language:English

They Called Us Enemy Reviews

  • Sheila Beaumont

    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

    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.

  • Emily May

    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

    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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  • Lisa Vegan

    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

    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.

  • Scott

    -- pages 22 and 23

    Actor George Takei - best known for his role as 'Sulu' in the durable

    TV and film franchise - teams

    -- pages 22 and 23

    Actor George Takei - best known for his role as 'Sulu' in the durable

    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

    . 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.

  • Calista

    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

    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.

  • Steve

    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

    ) to advance the common good (generally, and specifically, at this time) of society and our fragile nation.

    So, where to start?

    It's non-fiction, it's autobiographical, it's current, it's important, it's historic, it's informative, and .... and, yes, as graphic

    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

    ) to advance the common good (generally, and specifically, at this time) of society and our fragile nation.

    So, where to start?

    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

    ) ... 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

    (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

    , but I fear that it's a tough comparison - for

    , 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,

    ,

    ,

    ,

    , etc. - was a big part of it.... Rather than

    , I immediately thought of Marjane Satrapi's similarly powerful

    , 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

    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)

    , 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

    , Gilbert King's Pulitzer Prize winning

    , or maybe even David Grann's stunning

    , 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.

  • David Schaafsma

    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

    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.

  • Tatiana

    A natural companion to

    and a must read.

  • Deborah

    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

    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.

  • Bill Kerwin

    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

    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.

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