Desert Exile Essay - Critical Context

Yoshiko Uchida

Critical Context

The Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s prompted ethnic consciousness in the United States and allowed Japanese Americans to seek redress for the government’s actions during the war. In 1976, President Gerald Ford signed a proclamation stating that the evacuation was wrong, and other attempts to provide monetary compensation have occurred. Uchida notes, however, that it is too late for many Issei. Nev-ertheless, the healing process continues. It is interesting to note that Uchida wrote two fictional versions of her experience, Journey to Topaz (1971) and Journey Home (1978), before she was able to write this autobiography. It took thirty years for her to compose her own story.

Uchida’s book is an important contribution to the social studies curriculum, as Japanese-American internment during World War II is not a topic extensively discussed in schools. Textbooks about World War II often mention the evacuation of the Japanese Americans from the West Coast for military security reasons, but they seldom discuss the ramifications on the lives of those dispossessed. To have a complete picture of history, students must examine diverse points of view. While Desert Exile is not an objective recounting and the story cannot be construed as representative of the experiences of all Japanese Americans during World War II, Uchida makes a significant contribution to understanding a time that must not be forgotten.