(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

MANZANAR is Ansel Adams’ only documentary effort. He was asked in 1943 by the second director of Manzanar, Ralph Merritt, a friend of Adams, to take photographs of life at the camp. Adams published some of the photographs in 1944 under the title BORN FREE AND EQUAL, but the book was not well received; in fact, many copies of the book were burned. Adams’ black-and-white portraits and landscapes have simple titles, such as “Welcome to Manzanar” and “Choir Group,” allowing the timeless photography to speak for itself. “Baseball Game” is an excellent example of Adams’ ability to capture a scene with extraordinary clarity, in this case, a quintessentially American sports moment, with the background desert mountains and tar-paper barracks subtly bringing attention to the less-than-American surroundings. The beginning of each chapter is introduced by Japanese calligraphic writing, with a translation included at the end of the book.

John Hersey’s essay, “A Mistake of Terrifically Horrible Proportions,” describes the hysterical atmosphere on the West coast that led in part to the internment. Racist sentiment was fueled by economic reasons for evacuating the Japanese: In 1940, for example, the average value per acre of all farms in the three West coast states was about thirty-eight dollars, while an acre on Nisei (first-generation Japanese-American) farm was worth, on average, about two hundred eighty dollars. To find a rationale for...

(The entire section is 408 words.)