Foreword–Part 1

Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston was only seven when her Japanese-American family was forced to leave their home in Long Beach, California for an internment camp during World War II. This is her story.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. impact
    a forceful consequence; a strong effect
    Writing it has been a way of coming to terms with the impact these years have had on my entire life.
  2. armada
    a large fleet
    They floated awhile, then they began to grow, tiny gulls becoming boats again, a white armada cruising toward us.
    "Armada" is related to "army" and usually refers to a fleet of warships. Here, the word refers to fishing boats owned by Japanese Americans. The example sentence makes them sound threatening. This was not actually the case, but the description foreshadows the perspective of the US government during World War II.
  3. ransack
    search thoroughly
    Five hundred Japanese families lived there then, and FBI deputies had been questioning everyone, ransacking houses for anything that could conceivably be used for signaling planes or ships or that indicated loyalty to the Emperor.
    The verb also means "steal goods; take as spoils." The FBI deputies would not agree that that was what they were also doing. But the Japanese families whose houses were searched and possessions confiscated would apply that meaning, especially since they never got their possessions back.
  4. saboteur
    someone who deliberately destroys or disrupts something
    To the FBI every radio owner was a potential saboteur.
  5. turbulent
    characterized by unrest or disorder or insubordination
    The confiscators were often deputies sworn in hastily during the turbulent days right after Pearl Harbor, and these men seemed to be acting out the general panic, seeing sinister possibilities in the most ordinary household items: flashlights, kitchen knives, cameras, lanterns, toy swords.
  6. futile
    producing no result or effect
    But I think he knew it was futile to hide out or resist.
  7. persecute
    cause to suffer
    They would swagger and pick on outsiders and persecute anyone who didn’t speak as they did.
  8. ambush
    concealing yourself and lying in wait to attack by surprise
    Each day after school I dreaded their ambush.
    The word is often used in connection to war. But here, the dreaded ambush never happened. The example sentence reflects the fear of seven-year-old Jeanne, who was unused to being surrounded by so many Japanese faces who could not speak English. Ironically, her mother had moved the family to Terminal Island because she thought it would be safer.
  9. humiliate
    cause to feel shame
    The secondhand dealers had been prowling around for weeks, like wolves, offering humiliating prices for goods and furniture they knew many of us would have to sell sooner or later.
  10. refugee
    an exile who flees for safety
    The American Friends Service helped us find a small house in Boyle Heights, another minority ghetto, in downtown Los Angeles, now inhabited briefly by a few hundred Terminal Island refugees.
  11. internment
    confinement during wartime
    There was a lot of talk about internment, or moving inland, or something like that in store for all Japanese Americans.
  12. inevitable
    incapable of being avoided or prevented
    These were mainly days of quiet, desperate waiting for what seemed at the time to be inevitable.
  13. hostility
    a state of deep-seated ill-will
    This was the first time I had felt outright hostility from a Caucasian.
  14. irrational
    not consistent with or using reason
    Tolerance had turned to distrust and irrational fear.
  15. alleviate
    provide physical relief, as from pain
    It was grueling work up there, and wages were pitiful, but when the call came through camp for workers to alleviate the wartime labor shortage, it sounded better than their life at Manzanar.
  16. endure
    put up with something or somebody unpleasant
    It was a humiliation she just learned to endure: shikata ga nai, this cannot be helped.
    The verb also means "face and withstand with courage." Papa might argue that putting up with humiliation is more a sign of weakness than courage. But Mama needed inner strength to swallow her pride and "subordinate her own desires" in order to make the best of a bad situation for herself and her family. In this light, Mama can be seen as stronger and more courageous than Papa, who tried to avoid his unpleasant situation by drinking.
  17. collapse
    break down, literally or metaphorically
    My own family, after three years of mess hall living, collapsed as an integrated unit.
  18. barrack
    a building or group of buildings to house military personnel
    In the barracks facing ours there lived an elegant woman who astounded me each time I saw her.
    "Elegant" can mean "suggesting taste, ease, and wealth." This makes the woman even more out of place in the barracks. As the definition for "barrack" shows, the housing at Manzanar was built by the War Department. But this was hastily and badly done not for its own military personnel but for Japanese American civilians who were viewed as enemies and treated as prisoners.
  19. evacuate
    move people from their homes or country
    Evacuated to Manzanar and given the job of caring for some fifty orphans interned there, they set up what came to be known as “Children’s Village,’’ and they had one barracks turned into a chapel.
    An evacuation is usually concerned with moving people to protect them from an unsafe location. While the authors suggest that this was partly true ("They had all heard stories of Japanese homes being attacked, of beatings in the streets of California towns. They were as frightened of the Caucasians as Caucasians were of us."), the evacuation of the Japanese Americans from the western coastal states was intended to protect the country's war efforts against Japan.
  20. pacify
    fight violence and try to establish peace in
    No one could pacify him.
  21. collaborator
    someone who cooperates with an enemy occupying force
    Years later I learned that inu also meant collaborator or informer.
  22. wrath
    intense anger
    I knew his wrath could turn on any one of us.
  23. brandish
    move or swing back and forth
    Mama began to weep, great silent tears, and Papa was now limping back and forth beside the bunk, like a caged animal, brandishing his long, polished North Dakota cane.
  24. tirade
    a speech of violent denunciation
    Kiyo must have felt something similar, because at the height of Papa’s tirade he threw his covers back, and in his underwear he jumped out of bed yelling, “Stop it, Papa! Stop it!”
  25. oblivion
    total forgetfulness
    He kept pursuing oblivion through drink, he kept abusing Mama, and there seemed to be no way out of it for anyone.
  26. emasculation
    loss of power and masculinity
    He had no rights, no home, no control over his own life. This kind of emasculation was suffered, in one form or another, by all the men interned at Manzanar.
  27. renounce
    turn away from; give up
    During the First World War he had served in the U.S. Army in France and in Germany, and he was so frustrated by his treatment at Manzanar he was ready to renounce his citizenship and sail to the old country.
    The verb can also refer to the giving up of power, but this meaning does not apply to the example sentence. Rather, it was the lack of power that made the man want to renounce his seemingly useless American citizenship. This man was not Papa, who had nothing in Japan to return to, or Woody, who was anxious to prove his loyalty and worth as an American.
  28. detachment
    a small unit of troops of special composition
    Meanwhile the mob heading for the police station had been met by a detachment of military police carrying submachine guns and M1s.
  29. forswear
    formally reject or disavow
    Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of America and faithfully defend the United States from any or all attack by foreign or domestic forces, and forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, or any other foreign government, power, or organization?
    (yes) (no)
    —from the War Relocation Authority Application for Leave Clearance, 1943
  30. espionage
    the systematic use of spies to obtain secrets
    No self-respecting espionage agent would willingly admit he was disloyal.
  31. militant
    showing a fighting disposition
    Yet the very idea of the oath itself—appearing at the end of that first chaotic year—became the final goad that prodded many once-loyal citizens to turn militantly anti-American.
  32. repatriation
    the act of returning to one's country of origin
    If he said NO NO, he could be sent to Tule Lake camp in northern California where all the “disloyal” were to be assembled for what most people believed would be eventual repatriation to Japan.
  33. resistance
    group action in opposition to those in power
    Pro-Japan forces were trying to organize a NO NO vote by blocks, in massive resistance.
  34. commotion
    a disorderly outburst or tumult
    I was hurrying back to the barracks when I heard a great commotion inside the mess hall, men shouting wildly, as if a fire had broken out.
  35. livid
    furiously angry
    I had never seen him so livid, yelling and out of his head with rage.
Created on December 21, 2014 (updated September 5, 2018)

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