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Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston was a young child when her Japanese-American family, along with many other such families, was forcibly relocated from its home and interned in a detention camp. This detention of Japanese-American families immediately followed the surprise attack on U.S. military installations in the Hawaiian Islands, particularly the large naval base at Pearl Harbor. Fears among the American public, especially in towns and cities lining the nation's Pacific coastline, of a possible Japanese invasion of the continental United States, along with a massive outpouring of prejudicial sentiments against Americans of Japanese ancestry, created the climate in which seven-year-old Jeanne and the rest of her family and community were the targets of retaliatory measures by the U.S. Government, including their incarceration in detention camps and the seizure of their homes and farms. For a young child like Jeanne, such events could not but have a major long-term effect on her emotional development, and they did. Her decision to relate this episode in her life decades later was a product of her need to both unburden herself and to educate a public largely ignorant of this shameful part of history. As Jeanne wrote in the memoir of that time she authored with her husband James, "[i]t had taken me twenty-five years to reach the point where I could talk openly about Manzanar . . ," the name of the particular camp in which she and her family were held. In that sense, putting this period of her life on paper was intended as part of a cathartic process by which she could better "come to terms with the impact these years have had on my entire life." Her purpose in writing Farewell to Manzanar, then, was to enable herself to heal emotionally. Her intended audience was her own family and friends, as well, as noted, the public at large, which had remained thoroughly ignorant of the Japanese-American experience during the war years.
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