Form and Content
In Desert Exile: The Uprooting of a Japanese American Family, Yoshiko Uchida blends an autobiography, a review of American war policy during World War II from the Japanese-American point of view, and a sociological study of human beings incarcerated under primitive conditions. While her main emphasis is on her years in relocation camps (19421945), Uchida provides information on her family background in order to set the stage for these events. The first two chapters discuss her parents’ roots in Japan and their move to California. While Issei (first-generation Japanese immigrants) were not readily accepted in Oakland, the family endured racist slurs and helped other Japanese Americans to assimilate through the Japanese Independent Congregational Church.
Uchida was sixteen years old and attending the University of California at Berkeley with other Nisei (second-generation Japanese Americans) when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Chapters 3 and 4 present the confusion of the Japanese Americans; the removal of the Japanese-American leaders, including Yoshiko’s father, by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); and the subsequent government decision to evacuate all Japanese Americans from the West Coast. The last four chapters of the book chronicle the family’s forced stay at Tanforan, a race track in San Bruno, California, hastily turned into a relocation assembly center, for four and one-half months and their move to Topaz, a relocation center in...
(The entire section is 553 words.)