The Journey: Japanese Americans, Racism and Renewal

by Sheila Hamanaka

Children's book illustrator and art director Sheila Hamanaka is also a mural... read more

Children's book illustrator and art director Sheila Hamanaka is also a mural artist. Hamanaka's dramatic fove-panel, 25' x 8' mural depicts the World War II internment of her Japanese American, or Nisei, elders; the mural forms the basis for this distinctive distinguished and important book. As a child in the generation born after the war, or Sansei, Hamanaka and most other Americans - Sansei and non-Sansei alike, were unaware that 120,000 American male and female citizens and residents of all ages with up to one-sixteenth Japanese ancestry were abruptly rounded up and imprisoned in ten concentration camps early in 1942. The book witnesses to Hamanaka's journey through justifiable anger by providing 30 close-up glimpses of mural sections accompanied by a terse uncompromising account of the conditions of the imprisonment. One portion of the mural utilizes the Japanese Bunraki puppet tradition to show U.S. military personnel acting in the "theater of war", while a Noh drama pose is incorporated into the section about a challenge to the imprisonment in the U.S. Supreme Court. The full mural is reproduced on a double-page spread at the end. The 9 3/4" x 11 3/4" book begins and ends with the visual and intellectual connection of tradition (the tale of Momotaro, or Peach Boy), U.S. labor history (peach picker) and hope (a contemporary preschool-aged child offering a peach to the viewer of the artistic commentary). Readers, too, receive a new perspective of history, tradition and hope. (Age 9 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 1990

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