They Called Us Enemy (2019)


George Takei has captured hearts and minds worldwide with his captivating stage presence and outspoken commitment to equal rights. But long before he braved new frontiers in Star Trek, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father’s — and their entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future.

In 1942, at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, every person of Japanese descent on the west coast was rounded up and shipped to one of ten “relocation centers,” hundreds or thousands of miles from home, where they would be held for years under armed guard.

They Called Us Enemy is Takei’s firsthand account of those years behind barbed wire, the joys and terrors of growing up under legalized racism, his mother’s hard choices, his father’s faith in democracy, and the way those experiences planted the seeds for his astonishing future.

From: Top Shelf Productions

Notes on This Title

This title contains frequent depictions of anti-Japanese racism. There are also mild depictions of violence.




Starred Review: “Takei, best known for his role on Star Trek, relates the story of his family’s internment during WWII in this moving and layered graphic memoir. Japanese-Americans were classified as “Alien Enemy” after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and were forced to relocate to camps when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. Takei, who was five years old, along with his father, mother, and young siblings, was held from 1942 through January 1946, first at Camp Rohwer, Arkansas, and then later at Tule Lake, Calif.. The manga-influenced art by Harmony Becker juxtaposes Takei’s childlike wonder over the “adventure” of the train trip with the stress and worry carried by his parents. As much as possible, Takei’s parents took pains to ensure their children were shielded from the reality of their situation, though Takei still relates traumas and humiliations (and a few funny stories). It was only years later, during talks with his father, that Takei was given insight into his past. As a teenager, Takei lashes out in anger over the treatment of Japanese-Americans, and his father calmly states that “despite all that we’ve experienced, our Democracy is still the best in the world.” Takei takes that lesson to heart in a stirring speech he delivers at the FDR Library on the 75th anniversary of the Day of Remembrance. Using parallel scenes from Trump’s travel ban, in the closing pages, Takei challenges Americans to look to how past humanitarian injustices speak to current political debates. Giving a personal view into difficult history, Takei’s work is a testament to hope and tenacity in the face of adversity.” (Source: Publishers Weekly)


Starred Review: “Gr 7 Up–In the wake of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, 120,000 Japanese Americans were rounded up, incarcerated in camps, and stripped of freedoms in the name of national security. Among them was future television star and political activist Takei, who as a child was imprisoned along with his family by the U.S. government. Takei, joined by writers Eisinger and Scott, tells a powerful, somewhat nonlinear story spanning 80 years of U.S. history, starting right after Executive Order 9066 was enacted in 1942. The Takeis quickly lost everything they couldn’t carry with them and were treated as criminals, but they persevered and eventually made it out of the camps. As the narrative draws to a close, the writing team strategically refers to the imprisonment of children at the U.S. southern border, the Supreme Court ruling Trump v. Hawaii (which upheld the “Muslim travel ban”), and President Barack Obama’s inaugural address, calling upon readers to ensure that history does not repeat itself. Becker’s grayscale art makes heavy use of patterned hatching to add focused textural intrigue but also casts the individuals in a shadow that reflects what became of their lives. Japanese, used minimally throughout the text, is presented in italics, with translations denoted by an asterisk, though there is at least one occurrence of untranslated Japanese. There is infrequent cursing and violence.” (Source: School Library Journal)


Book Riot: “Talking Activism and They Called Us Enemy with George Takei”

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