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CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES
CHAPTER 12: Manzanar, U.S.A.
In the spring of 1943, the Wakatsukis shift to another block in Manzanar. Block 28 is prettier and more spacious; it is also located near picturesque pear orchards that will become Ko's life. Security is also eased, improving living conditions. Ko keeps himself busy carving, painting and making a rock garden. The Wakatsukis, as well as the other internees, have come to accept their imprisonment as a way of life and try to make Manzanar more habitable. Concerts, dances, movies, clubs, and social events create a new atmosphere of "normality" in Manzanar. While some Japanese are now being allowed to leave the camp, others remain simply because it is easier than facing a tense, often inhospitable world that still does not trust them. Woody convinces his family that Manzanar is the best place for them for the present.
At the end of the chapter, Jeanne describes a woman walking by the edge of the camp with her dog. The barbed wires are out of sight behind her. Though they still adorn the camp, they have lost some of their power, especially since some of the Japanese have now gone beyond them. The picture that Jeanne sees is symbolic: Manzanar has lost its confining power.
Through the description of Manzanar in this chapter, it is obvious that the tense and frustrated atmosphere of the camp has become a thing of the past. Life for the Japanese-Americans has become more pleasant and "normal," and Manzanar offers them a safe environment away from a society that still does not trust them. Though some Japanese-Americans have been allowed to leave the camp, the Wakatsukis choose to remain for the present, for the war is still not over.
Ko has come to terms with some of his sense of anguish. He finds some small pleasure in carving, painting and making a rock garden. Jeanne sums up his newfound peace with this description of Mount Whitney, the California mountain that reminds Ko of Japan's Mount Fujiyama. She understands that there are "powerful and inevitable forces that cannot be resisted" and that "remind a man that sometimes he must simply endure that which cannot be changed."
CHAPTER 13: Outings, Explorations
The school in Manzanar tries to create a normal learning atmosphere, both in academics and extracurricular activities. The Manzanar children are exposed to music and dancing, just like children outside the camp. They are also allowed to wear the fashions that are popular with all children. The atmosphere for the young people is artificially normal.
Jeanne takes up baton twirling, at which she is very good, and participates in overnight camping trips with her fourth grade class. She also attempts to learn an old Japanese style of dancing known as Odori, but is disappointed in the attempt. Ballet is also disappointing for her. Jeanne's interest in Catholicism continues to grow, not out of a thirst for spiritual knowledge but out of a hunger for attention; new converts are showered with attention. Jeanne asks her family for permission to convert to Catholicism, but she is stopped by her father, who angrily declares she will never find a Japanese husband who is Catholic.
This chapter makes it clear that attempts are made for the children in Manzanar to have a normal life and education in spite of the fact that they are in a detention camp. Jeanne avails herself of the many extracurricular activities that are offered including camping, ballet, Odori, and baton twirling. She also goes through her share of childish fascinations and rebellions. She is drawn toward Catholicism, for she sees that the young converts are showered with attention, which she craves. Although she wants to convert herself, Ko will not allow it. As a child, she resents her father's intervention, but as an adult she appreciates his wise advice.
With such pleasant descriptions of Manzanar, it is obvious that Jeanne Wakatsuki-Houston is fulfilling her purpose of coming to terms with life in Manzanar. She is acknowledging that Manzanar was a different kind of concentration camp; although there was pain in the camp, especially in the beginning, it became a decent place to live. The pretense of normality, however, will always be frightening and unforgettable for her.Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version