Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki

Jeanne Wakatsuki tried to compel herself back to a state of tender age and narrates optimism, dissatisfaction and ambition from her own perspective. As she grew up, she encountered more difficulties than a typical American child. She however, remained resilient and improvised some escape strategies.

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The book entitled Farewell to Manzanar was written by Jeanne W. Houston and her husband James D. Houston. It is a memoir that illustrates the experiences of Jeanne and her family just before being taken to the concentration camp and the events that followed thereafter. Her family was sent to the concentration camp following the internment of Japanese Americans by the US government during the Second World War. The narration was adapted in 1976 and has been selected as one of the best selling non-fiction books. The author was born of a native-born American and lived on Terminal Island with her family. Her father was arrested on 7th December 1941 following an order issued by the US government regarding Americans of Japanese ancestry. This book describes the author’s experience after the imprisonment and the events that followed thereafter.

While at the camp, Jeanne faced several challenges as a child. There were confined and overcrowded living conditions, dust blowing through the cracks of their walls, unfinished barracks and badly prepared food. The occupants of the concentration camp lacked enough clothing to keep them warm and some of them fell ill from poorly cooked food and immunizations. They were also faced with humiliation of non-partitioned toilets. The challenges met by the author’s family led to its disintegration and Jeanne was practically deserted by her family. She was therefore forced to look for an alternative way to survive in the camp. She took interest in other people and joined some two nuns to study religion. Her father ordered her to stop studying religion after she suffered thirst as a result of visualizing herself a paining saint.

The arrest of Jeanne’s father made a turning point in the life of the author. He however, returned after one year and the family was not sure how to greet him. Jeanne was the only person who openly welcomed him. During this time, Jeanne’s father had turned out to be a downward emotional spiral. He had turned into a heavy drinker and was very violent. Due to his violent nature, he had even tried to strike Jeanne’s mother but Jeanne’s youngest brother intervened. The frustrations that men were going through led into the December riots. At this time it was a turning point for the family as they moved into nicer barracks where Jeanne’s father later on took gardening. Jeanne then resumed her spiritual studies but her father intervenes when she is just about to get baptized. The arrest of Jeanne’s father was very significant to the author as it marked a turning point in her life and the perception she had with different family members also changed considerably. Most of the events that later took place revolved around this scene.


As the author narrates her encounters, there are a number of lessons that we learn. Apart from the various challenges that we usually go through in life, there are some that are very unique and can help in shaping our lives. For instance I had once gone through similar suffering when I was abandoned by my family members in a foreign land. Every person was running for his/her dear life due to a civil war that had left hundreds dead. However, it lasted for some time and we were able to reunite once more. However, my view on the family members changed significantly. In relation to Jeanne’s story, there are several lessons that are evident under similar settings. We need to treat every opportunity with caution and ensure that we are not blinded by what we see but should always try to dig deeper and understand why some things happen. This can help us coexist peacefully with each other no matter the origin, religion or race.

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