Farewell To Manzanar

by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, James D. Houston

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What does the title "Farewell to Manzanar" by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston mean?

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Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston was able to bid farewell to the Manzanar internment camp after World War II, when the United States government released the Japanese and Japanese American families that had been detained and relocation. The title is ironic, however, because the experience of being treated as an enemy alien and living in detention left a strong imprint on the girl that has stayed with her into adulthood. For other Japanese Americans as well, the memories of that terrible period of their lives and the adjustments they made to try to render it palatable created lasting impressions. And of course, some people did not survive the camp and bid farewell only through death. The author also is guardedly optimistic that the United States will never repeat this process again for any national or ethnic heritage group, so that the farewell is to the unfair policy that destroyed or warped so many lives.

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I tend to see the title of Houston's work as a statement about her own consciousness in the world.  The fact that she is writing the book, bringing out her own experiences through the intense pain of internment at Manzanar might be a fitting way to say "farewell" to such a horrific experience.  Her "farewell" is not a rejection or a pretending that these instances are over, but rather a way for her to fully understand how the implications of her experience play a role in her identity and to place it in its proper context.  "Farewell" might be a statement of more psychological condition than anything else.  At the same time, perhaps there is a socially redemptive message to the title.  Through bringing out her own experiences at Manzanar and life after it in America as a young Asian woman and a woman of color, perhaps Houston is wishing that through her narrative, others might not have to endure or inflict others to endure the same experiences that she did.  In this way, she is bidding "farewell" to her experience of Manzanar through others' narratives.

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