Desert Exile Critical Essays

Yoshiko Uchida


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

One must approach this book knowing that the story is presented from one particular point of view. It is meant to be not a documentary of the period but a personal journey into the past by Uchida. The author shares the emotions and opinions that she had as a teenager who was suddenly deprived of the carefree life-style that she enjoyed as part of the Japanese-American campus community at Berkeley, including college classes, football games, and dates. Her world revolved almost exclusively around Nisei interactions, which she states was a “separate and segregated world.” Suddenly perceived by many as the “enemy” although she admits to being ignorant of world tensions, she found herself being thrust into the broad scope of a world at war and ejected from the security of her personal world.

Uchida condemns the United States government for its rash actions and for its lack of feeling for the Japanese-American people. Uchida recalls her first day at Tanforan, when she felt “degraded, humiliated, and overwhelmed with a longing for home.” She especially criticizes the government’s use of euphemisms to hide the true nature of the incarceration. She argues that the word “evacuation” was used because of the implication that it was for the Japanese Americans’ own good. In her opinion, the Japanese Americans were forcibly removed to concentration camps, not “relocation centers” or “assembly centers.” It is also interesting that she uses the...

(The entire section is 575 words.)