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Looking Like the Enemy: My Story of Imprisonment in Japanese American Internment Campsby Mary Matsuda Gruenewald
Synopses & Reviews
When Mary Matsuda Gruenewald was seventeen years old, she and her family were evacuated from their home on Vashon Island, Washington, and sent to an internment camp for Japanese-Americans. Along with nearly 120,000 other people of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast, the Matsudas faced an indefinite sentence behind barbed wire in crowded, primitive camps. They struggled for survival and dignity, and endured psychological scarring that has lasted a lifetime.
Matsuda Gruenewald tells her story from the heart and mind of a woman now eighty years old who experienced the challenges and wounds of her internment at a crucial point in her development as a young adult. As a 16-year-old girl, Mary Matsuda reacted with horror as the bombs of Pearl Harbor unleashed a tsunami of events, including her imprisonment, even though she was a U.S. citizen. Like The Diary of Anne Frank, this memoir captures the devastation of WWII on a teenage girl and her family.
Matsuda Gruenewald brings passion and spirit to her story, superbly recapturing the emotional and psychological essence of what it was like to grow up in the midst of this profound dislocation and injustice in the United States. Few other books on this subject come close to the emotional power, raw honesty, and moral significance of this memoir.
In the end the reader is buoyed by what Mary Matsuda Gruenewald learns from her experience and what she is able to do with her life. In 2004 she returned to Minidoka, now established as a National Monument, and describes her experiences and still vivid memories more than sixty years later.
"Looking Like the Enemy makes a valuable contribution to the literature of Japanese-American internment. In telling one family's story, Mary Matsuda Gruenewald suggests to us not only the tenor of the times but a pervasive emotional and psychological condition. This narrative of imprisonment is painfully honest. It reminds us that historical wrongs are infinitely nuanced as they reverberate through the lives of human beings." David Guterson, author of Snow Falling on Cedars
"History comes poignantly to life through the eyes of a young Japanese-American girl who is imprisoned with her family in the WWII internment camps. Vivid, heartbreaking, a true story that must never be forgotten — or happen again." Brenda Peterson, author of Animal Heart
"Because of their racial ancestry, the Matsuda family, along with nearly 120,000 other mainland Japanese Americans, faced years of hardship, anxiety, prejudice, and discrimination during World War II. Looking Like the Enemy is a poignant story of that family's darkest days. Yet, shimmering rays of hope coupled with a solid foundation of courage and fortitude gave this family an immovable ballast to weather all that they faced. This is a wonderful, powerful, and mesmerizing read." Professor Tetsuden Kashima, University of Washington American Ethnic Studies Dept.
In 1941, Mary Matsuda Gruenewald was a teenage girl who, like other Americans, reacted with horror to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Yet soon she and her family were among 110,000 innocent people imprisoned by the U.S. government because of their Japanese ancestry. In this eloquent memoir, she describes both the day-to-day and the dramatic turning points of this profound injustice: what is was like to face an indefinite sentence in crowded, primitive camps; the struggle for survival and dignity; and the strength gained from learning what she was capable of and could do to sustain her family. It is at once a coming-of-age story with interest for young readers, an engaging narrative on a topic still not widely known, and a timely warning for the present era of terrorism. Complete with period photos, the book also brings readers up to the present, including the author's celebration of the National Japanese American Memorial dedication in 2000.
About the Author
In 2005 Mary Matsuda Gruenewald celebrated her eightieth birthday as well as the publication of her first book. She began writing her story in her seventies, no longer willing to stay within what she describes as "the self-imposed barbed-wire fenced built around my experiences in the camps." With her book, Gruenewald breaks her silence as a Nisei (American-born) second generation child of Isseis.
After her release from an internment camp, Gruenewald entered nursing school and became a registered nurse. She worked as an R.N. for more than twenty-five years. She established the Consulting Nurse Service within the Group Health Cooperative in 1971, which has become a national model for numerous health care providers. In 2002 she was a medical delegate representing seniors on behalf of Medicare Plus Choice. At that meeting she was selected along with ten other delegates to speak with President George W. Bush on health care issues.
Her articles on internment during WWII have appeared in newspapers nationally, and she has presented radio commentaries for NPR. Gruenewald also consulted with the National Park Service during its establishment of Minidoka Internment Camp as a National Park. She speaks to many schools and community groups about her internment. Gruenewald received an Asian American Living Pioneer Award in 2003.
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