“Stepchild” is a dramatic monologue in free verse divided into seven sections. Section 1 was first published in The Nation under the title “Evacuation.” The complete poem under the current title was published in Garrett Kaoru Hongo’s poetry collection Yellow Light. The title thematically suggests how Japanese Americans feel they are treated in the United States. It also calls the reader’s attention to the narrator’s relationship with his parents, which, according to the narrator, is built on “lies” and “fairy tales.”
In part 1 of the poem, the narrator urges the reader to revisit the experiences of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. Under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, they were evacuated from the West Coast and put in relocation camps. The narrator then places the Japanese American internment in a larger picture. He lists the discriminatory laws against Asian Americans in the history of the United States: the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, a bill passed by the United States Congress that made it illegal for Chinese laborers to come to or stay in the United States; California’s Alien Land Law of 1913, which prevented the Issei (first-generation Japanese immigrants) from purchasing land and obtaining leases for more than three years on the basis that they were aliens ineligible for citizenship; and the 1922 United States Supreme Court ruling that stipulated that Japanese...
(The entire section is 513 words.)