When The Emperor Was Divine Essay

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In Julie Otsuka’s novel, When the Emperor was Divine, a nameless Japanese-American family is uprooted, exported, and abandoned by their own government. The family, along with thousands of others, lived in an internment camp for the duration of World War II, their only crime being their Japanese heritage. All Americans should know the story well, however, beyond public knowledge, there is a hidden history of Japanese-American imprisonment that extends beyond the less malicious internment of families. It is kept in the dark, easily overlooked, only found when one is willing to search. The history unearthed reveals the shameful truth that the United States government handpicked its own citizens based on their occupations and ancestry and forced …show more content…

Through his short, vague, and censored accounts, readers learn that the father was taken directly from his home in Berkeley to Fort Missoula Internment Camp in Montana by train. At Fort Missoula, the father lived with thousands of Italian, German, and South American men, including 1,000 other Japanese-Americans being held for loyalty hearings ("Alien Detention Center"). According to the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, “[No Japanese American] was ever charged with any act of disloyalty but all were held at Fort Missoula or other camps for the duration of the war.” This proves that racism was the only reason these men were taken and subjected to the horrors of wartime interrogation, and the subsequent psychological …show more content…

So, after his internment at Fort Missoula, the father was transferred to Fort Sam Houston in Texas, which housed a little over 100 actual prisoners of war, before accepting 4,120 American internees in late 1942 along with the nameless father ("Dodd Field at Fort Sam Houston"). The fort, unlike the conventional internment camp where the family was staying, consisted of a double barbed wire enclosure, complete with guard towers and 10-foot high walls surrounding all four sides, hauntingly similar to a prison housing perpetrators of horrendous crimes. Among other rules and regulations, internees were permitted to write two letters and one postcard per week, which the father used as an opportunity to write to his family in Utah. Prisoners lived in 16-square foot walled tents, with wooden foundation and accompanied by prisoners of war from Italy and Germany who were captured from battle, not the comfort of their own homes ("Dodd Field at Fort Sam Houston"). By looking at the story of one nameless Japanese-American prisoner of war, Americans can get a better understanding of the horrors of wartime prisons for thousands of

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