Although first published in Canada in 1971 and in the United States in 1974, A Child in Prison Camp assumes contemporary significance because of recent landmark court decisions, especially in the United States, favoring reparations for the injustices suffered by the people of Japanese origin who were sent to relocation camps during World War II. Generally, both the Canadian and United States governments have decided that the internments were discriminatory and unjust, ideas Takashima suggests in her novel.
In addition, A Child in Prison Camp is another rendering of a child's experiences during World War II, and its autobiographical basis suggests other such accounts: Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl (1952), Bette Greene's Summer of My German Soldier (1973), and Elie Wiesel's Night (1960). In a universal sense, A Child in Prison Camp emphasizes how children can adapt to extreme situations and from these experiences establish meaning and purpose for their lives. Shizuye must, for example, adapt to her new surroundings but also must come to terms with school, petty jealousies, sad partings, and disagreements with her father. Finally, Shizuye's narrative provides insights into a historical event with which the modern reader may be unfamiliar: the Japanese internments. Her story also sheds light on Japanese customs and traditions, such as Kabuki plays, religious rites, bathing customs, and Christmas celebrations.
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