Our federal government’s treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II is not a topic that is covered in most history books. In all of my studies, I have only seen it addressed twice; both were books of juvenile fiction. And yet, it is a story which should be explained and taught in all of its infamy.
For Yuki Sakane and her family, December 7, 1941, is just like any other Sunday. They have just returned from church in Oakland and are sitting down to dinner when terrible news is broadcasted over the radio. The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor. Initially the Sakanes are unsure what to think. Is this some sort of joke? Or perhaps a radio drama? Surely Japan would never have done so stupid a thing!
Suddenly, men from the FBI knock on their door. They have come to take Yuki’s father away. They cannot say when he will be allowed to return. Yuki and Mrs. Sakane are asked to remain in their house. All Japanese Americans have become objects of suspicion.
Soon rumors begin to surface. It is said that the government plans to evacuate all the Japanese from the west coast. It seems too bizarre to be true, but so does everything else that is happening to them. And then, on February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issues an executive order giving the Secretary of War authority to prescribe areas from which any persons could be excluded. What this means for Yuki and her family is that they will be torn away from their home and friends and shipped off to a prison camp in the arid deserts of Topaz, Utah, simply because they have Japanese blood in their veins. How long will this infamy last? How long will Yuki and her friends be forced to live as prisoners in their own country?
Yuki comments that she thinks her father would prefer to stay home and garden than attend church with her mother.
Before they are sent to the camp, several of Yuki’s acquaintances call her names. She feels very bitterly about this.
One of Yuki’s friends at camp has a very grumpy, depressing grandfather. When the friend speaks disrespectfully to him on one occasion, Yuki praises her.
When one of Yuki’s pets dies, Mrs. Jamieson comforts her by saying, “Perhaps he has met up with my old parrot, wherever it is that pets go, and who knows, maybe my good Captain is looking after them both.” [pg. 84]
Yuki’s brother, Ken, presents a great many problems. Rather, he is a problem. When his father is taken away, he tries to take care of his family, but he is simply disconnected. Throughout the course of the book, he spends much more time with his peers then he does with his family. He occasionally speaks sarcastically to adults and arrogantly to Yuki, with whom he enjoys arguing. He makes the decision to join the army with his friends without any reference to his family and merely informs them of his decision once he has already reached it. It’s mentioned that he likes girls.
‘Golly’ is used four times.
Conclusion. Journey to Topaz tells a very unique story through a likable protagonist. A great addition to World War II studies. Purchase a copy here.
Note: I have now reviewed Journey Home, sequel to Journey to Topaz!
Review © 2012 Laura Verret