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The insult to his pride and dignity is nearly unbearable. Woody deals with family heritage in a completely different way. As a second-generation Japanese-American, Woody has never known Japan, yet he is thrust into a detention camp even though he is an American. To prove his loyalty to the only country he has ever known, he wants to fight in the war against Japan; he wants to overcome his heritage, his Japanese ancestry, in order to claim his birthright: his American citizenry. During the book, Woody visits Hiroshima, meets some of the relatives from the Old World, and comes to terms with that part of him that is real but invisible-his Japanese ancestry; ironically, he accepts that which he has fought so hard to overcome. As a youth in America, Jeanne tries to deny her Japanese heritage, repressing all the customs, traditions, and beliefs of the Old World. She wants to become totally Americanized; dressing, acting, and thinking like her peers. It is only when she is an adult that she successfully deals with her heritage after thirty years of avoidance. The memoir is her attempt to put the old and the new into proper perspective.
The injustice of the war and subsequent detainment of Japanese-Americans is also an ever-present and obvious theme of the memoir. War and paranoia are single-handedly to blame for the sheer existence of Manzanar and the subsequent shame and insecurities that the Wakatsuki family members must face. The racism and discrimination experienced by Jeanne and her family are intolerable and unfair. The very thought that an American organization, such as the Girl Scouts, that stresses the strength of young women would discriminate against a child because she is Japanese is horrifying and unpalatable. Jeanne's awkward age of trying to fit in is complicated by a government-sanctioned racism against Americans who happen to be Japanese in ancestry.
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. 09 May 2017