If you know science fiction, you know George Takei–Sulu from Star Trek. Of course, no one is more than their job. The man has lived a fascinating life both on-screen and off, and I do consider him one of my personal heroes (fanboy much? Maybe).
Well, apparently, Mr. Takei also had an interesting and extremely difficult childhood. No, not like a lot of us who struggled with less than first-rate parents. In fact, Takei describes his parents as nothing if not loving and supportive. Sadly, it was his country that made little George’s childhood such a struggle. Born in the USA to US citizens, he was classified as an “enemy alien” just after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
At five years old, along with his entire family, George was sent to live in a concentration camp right here in America.
Now, let me be clear, American concentration camps were not death camps. It was never the intention of the US government to exterminate Japanese people at home. However, when the British Army set up the world’s first concentration camps during the Boer War of 1899 to 1902, it was not their intention to exterminate the Boers either. Nevertheless, to deprive a group of people of their freedom due strictly to their ethnicity is the central idea behind any concentration camp and that definition describes the Japanese American “Internment” to a T.
Now, Mr. Tekei has just released a graphic novel about his childhood/wartime experiences titled, They Called Us Enemy. It is a gripping story and one that must be listened to. The compulsions that drove Americans to allow our own government to lock up human beings out of fear of what they may do rather than for things they had done are not unique to that period in history. Sadly, we have acted this way before and if left uneducated can and are acting this way again!
This book was written as a graphic novel to make it as accessible as possible. And I applaud Mr. Takei for that decision. I will also say that the book is well written and well illustrated. It makes for a compelling read and does not try to sensationalize the experience of internment. Little George had good days and bad behind the barbed wire and I’m glad he told the whole story. I highly recommend you add this book to your library as an important part of any book collection whether you’re a fan of science fiction or not.
By Clayton J. Callahan