WEBER READS: JAPANESE-AMERICAN INTERNMENT
2016–2017 BOOK SELECTION
Literature of the Japanese-American Internment is compelling for several reasons.
First, it is intertwined with Utah history. In 1941, the Topaz Internment Camp was established west of Delta in the Utah desert. Now a museum, Topaz features a replica of one of the original barracks, artifacts of the time, and artwork and photographs by internees. If you visit the site itself, you will see lingering reminders of the people who lived there: buttons, pins, shards of pottery, bottle caps, pebbled pathways, and foundations of buildings.
Second, this is a story that has been neglected in our teaching and reading of history. Many people, including descendants of internees and people living in states where the camps were located, do not know what happened to American citizens from 1941 to 1945. History textbooks may mention the camps, but only briefly. The many books that have been written about the camps, most of them for young readers, have helped tell the story, but have not reached wide audiences.
Finally, current events and discussions have once again raised the issue of the denial of human rights to people based on race, religion, or country of origin. Some politicians call for such actions regularly, citing acts of terrorism as justification for such denial. Other commentators point to the internment of Japanese-American citizens and legal aliens as a stark example of what can happen when such steps are taken. The stories of the 120,000 people who lost their homes and livelihoods, places of worship, century-old farms, schools, and neighborhoods, as well as their sense of heritage and belonging, should remind us of the costs of exclusion, stereotyping, and prejudice.
The Civil Liberties Act of 1988, along with providing financial restitution to internees and apologizing to the internees on behalf of the citizens of the United States for the internment, provided for a public education fund to finance efforts to inform the public about the internment of such individuals so as to prevent the recurrence of any similar event and discourage the occurrence of similar injustices and violations of civil liberties in the future.
In the spirit of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, we hope the Weber Reads theme for 2016/17 will introduce the stories of these Americans and their experiences.