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Jeanne is the protagonist of the memoir, even though she is only seven years old at the start of the tale. As a result of her youth, she cannot understand the magnitude of Pearl Harbor or why her family must move to Woody's house. As a small girl, she then observes with confusion the arrest of her father and the subsequent move to Manzanar. Everything is a blur to Jeanne as a child, but the adult narrator is able to put more meaning and understanding into the incidents that occur after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Having been trained in sociology, Jeanne, the narrator, is able to make deductions and correlations from childhood confusions and impressions.
At the start of the book, Jeanne's father is a proud, dignified, self-respecting Japanese-American who loves to be in command of his wife and ten children. He works hard at fishing and in the canneries, trying to realize the American Dream of wealth. He feels that if he is successful in America, it will honor his wife and children. Born in Japan, he has immigrated to the United States to find a better life; he still, however, has strong ties to his native land, for all of his extended family is still in Hiroshima.
In the beginning of the memoir, the family life of the Wakatsuki family is presented as entirely normal. Then, the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor and everything changes for the Wakatsukis. Ko, the father, immediately knows that Pearl Harbor will bring all Japanese immigrants under suspicion. Out of fear, he goes home and burns his country's flag and his papers tying him to Japan; it is a symbolic act that shows he is severing his connection with his native land. Unfortunately for him and his family, they cannot change or hide their looks; it is apparent that they are of Japanese descent, a fact that will cause them many troubles and sorrows.
Jeanne undergoes a quick succession of changes in her young life. She is abruptly moved to the home of her older brother, Woody. There she watches her father be arrested and taken away. Then she learns that he has been charged with treason and will remain in custody. Soon the entire family is moved into Manzanar, a Japanese detention camp near the Mojave Desert. It is no wonder that the seven-year-old child is upset and confused.
The author's style of narration is simple and lucid, totally devoid of ornamentation. It is almost as if a young girl could have written the memoir. The title of the first chapter also expresses innocence; the Japanese-Americans really had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor, not even knowing of its existence or location. Then through no fault of their own, they are suddenly alienated from their neighbors and placed in internment camps.
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. 11 May 2008