Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction Farewell To Manzanar Analysis
In the foreword, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston says that Farewell to Manzanar is “a web of stories—my own, my father’s, my family’s.” From her vantage point of a child growing up in unusual circumstances, Houston and her coauthor husband deliver a powerful testimony to the injustice done to a significant group of the American population. The Houstons, however, do not fall into recriminations; rather, they provide a compelling documentation of contrasts. Throughout Farewell to Manzanar, the young adult reader is faced with the contrast between a young girl’s wistful perceptions and the harsh realities of her family and society. As she grows up, Houston’s perceptions become clearer and clearer; yet she still battles with the issue of contrast, as she will always be different from her white counterparts.
The book also provides a moving account of an American family’s deterioration. Wakatsuki Ko, Jeanne’s father, is a study in contrast as he fiercely struggles to main-tain his Japanese values and customs along with his loyalty to the United States. Yet underlying the contrasts in the father’s life—or perhaps caused by his inability to confront them—is the fragmentation of his family. Ko’s harsh treatment of his wife and his stubborn inability to recognize the needs of his children exacerbate the fragmentation process that is inherent to families in the relocation camps.
At the heart of Farewell to Manzanar is an exploration of the contrast between the disruption of war and the security of family. This theme is illustrated poignantly in the book’s portrayal of the father: For all his shortcomings, he is a sympathetic figure. Understandably, he is powerless, but he seems to believe that he has failed his family. His violent outbursts of frustration when he first arrives at Manzanar are countered by his later gentle nurturing of a small rock and moss garden. During his stay at the camp, he eventually came to live the Japanese motto Shikata ga nai (it cannot be helped).
His son Woody, too, illustrates the tug-of-war between cultures and between generations of Japanese Americans. Early in the book, the authors...
(The entire section is 537 words.)