They were scheduled to leave on May 1, 1942 for the Tanforan Assembly Center at the race track in San Bruno, California. At the camp they were assigned a former horse stall in a stable to use as their living quarters, with no privacy or conveniences (pg 35 below right.) It was here that Miné decided to use her talent as an artist to record the day to day life and small events in an internment camp.
On September 16, 1942, Miné and her brother were relocated again, this time to the Central Utah Relocation Center called Topaz. Conditions here were somewhat better, and eventually restrictions were loosened making life more bearable until they finally left.
Citizen 13660 is the first personal account of what life was like for people in a Japanese internment camp. It was originally published in 1946, but went out of print in the 1950s when people wanted to forget the war. By the 1960s and early 1970s many Sensi, or Japanese-Americans who were born in the camps, were incensed about what had happened to their parents and grandparents and that it had all been forgotten, brushed under the rug, so to speak. Wanting to understand more about their historical past in the US, these students were a moving force behind the establishment of Asian Studies programs as part of many university curriculums. One of the results of this was a reprinting of Citizen 13660 in 1973 and again in 1983.
The structure of the book is similar to a picture book. Each page has one graphic with text below it. Each graphic is done in black and white, some are done in great detail, and others are simpler, while text can range from one line to very extensive. Miné is in every graphic, reinforcing the idea that she has witnessed what she draws and writes, and never relies on rumor or hearsay. The loss of her family name for a number sets the tone of this memoir, which is decidedly impersonal factual reporting. Aside from the author, the reader never learns the name of any other person not even that of her brother reinforcing the feeling of invisibility the Miné must have felt. Ironically, this objective technique proves to be a very effective style for conveying the feelings of the internees, their anger, confusion, disgrace, humiliation, injustice, loss and even patriotism, resulting in a very emotional document about this period in American history. It is not surprising that this technique works for her – Miné Okubo once described herself as “a realist with a creative mind.”
The National Park Service has provided information on Tanforan Assembly Center at the National Park Service Confinement and Ethnicity
More information about the Topaz Internment Camp at the Topaz Museum
Miné Okubo passed away on February 10, 2001 and her obituary may be found at Miné Obuko; Her Art Told of Internment
This book is recommended for readers aged 12 and up.
This book was borrowed from the Hunter College Library.
For those who don’t know about Classics Illustrated, they were a series of comic books, which were adaptations of classic literature. I remember using this one in 7th grade (the other one was Black Beauty; I did go back and really read The Red Badge of Courage, but not Black Beauty)
Non-Fiction Monday is hosted this week by Tales from the Rushmore Kid