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CHAPTER 13: "Outings, Explorations"


The school in Manzanar tries to create a normal learning atmosphere, both in academics and extracurricular activities. The Manzanar children are exposed to music and dancing, just like children outside the camp. They are also allowed to wear the fashions that are popular with all children. The atmosphere for the young people is artificially normal.

Jeanne takes up baton twirling, at which she is very good, and participates in overnight camping trips with her fourth grade class. She also attempts to learn an old Japanese style of dancing known as Odori, but is disappointed in the attempt. Ballet is also disappointing for her. Jeanne's interest in Catholicism continues to grow, not out of a thirst for spiritual knowledge but out of a hunger for attention; new converts are showered with attention. Jeanne asks her family for permission to convert to Catholicism, but she is stopped by her father, who angrily declares she will never find a Japanese husband who is Catholic.


This chapter makes it clear that attempts are made for the children in Manzanar to have a normal life and education in spite of the fact that they are in a detention camp. Jeanne avails herself of the many extracurricular activities that are offered including camping, ballet, Odori, and baton twirling. She also goes through her share of childish fascinations and rebellions. She is drawn toward Catholicism, for she sees that the young converts are showered with attention, which she craves. Although she wants to convert herself, Ko will not allow it. As a child, she resents her father's intervention, but as an adult she appreciates his wise advice.

With such pleasant descriptions of Manzanar, it is obvious that Jeanne Wakatsuki-Houston is fulfilling her purpose of coming to terms with life in Manzanar. She is acknowledging that Manzanar was a different kind of concentration camp; although there was pain in the camp, especially in the beginning, it became a decent place to live. The pretense of normality, however, will always be frightening and unforgettable for her.

CHAPTER 14: "In the Firebreak"


Jeanne's oldest sister, Eleanor, joins the Wakatsukis for the last months of her pregnancy and is showered with attention. Her husband, Shig, is away, fighting for the United States in Germany. Suddenly Jeanne, who has been spoiled as the youngest Wakatsuki child, realizes that she will no longer receive all the family's attention.

Since the hospital at Manzanar is not a well-equipped one, the Wakatsukis are nervous for Eleanor. One of Jeanne's sisters-in-law miscarried and bled to death in that hospital. Fortunately, all goes well for Eleanor. When the baby arrives safely, Mama and Ko embrace in a rare moment of tenderness and togetherness. Jeanne watches them from a distance, detached yet curious. Jeanne realizes that she is growing up. No longer will she be the youngest child around, and no longer will she receive all the attention.


Jeanne feels her first pangs of separation from her parents in this chapter, though the separation is not physical. For most of her childhood, Jeanne is showered with attention since she is the youngest; but she is growing up and can no longer expect to be pampered. When the new baby arrives, she feels a sense of adulthood, of individuality, that is strange and exciting. With a new sense of maturity, Jeanne quietly observes her parents supporting each other and also sharing the happiness of the safe delivery of the baby.

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