I am going to write WOW 200 times and OMG for the other 50 words. I am also going to say this the second draft of my review. I found myself just going on about all the little, amazing details to the story. I was near 500 words and could have written another 500.
They Called Us Enemy is George Takei’s story in a graphic novel format. Along with Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott and Harmony Becker the reader sees the years from early/mid-1940s to today. Takei was a child in the Japanese-American internment camps, or as he calls them, incarceration camps. While adult Takei is the narrator, the years of his childhood are shown through the eyes of a child with adult understanding. When he reaches his teens and 20’s, you still see the world from the eyes of someone not completely grasping the situation, but the narrator walking us through. Neither of those George’s grasped the choices his parents, his father, had to make to keep them safe. The adult George has a better understanding.
Perhaps the best part of the story is the fact that while Takei does not hold back from the horrors they faced, it is not graphic. Therefore (strong) ages 10 to adult could handle it. Though the younger ages (from 10 to 13-14) might need to read with an adult or have an adult handy to discuss questions and feelings. Yet older teen to adult is the main audience.
The illustrations move the story along quickly, but you should take your time as there is much detail. (And YES! They show some of the Star Trek years! Geek-squeak!). The theme of how people adapt is throughout the book and how shows how strong people can be. This is shown with the illustrations and text. There are humorous moments as well as more serious events (poor bathroom situations, cold, hunger, unrest). One of these funnier moments is when a couple of older boys get George to use “magic Japanese words” on the soldiers so he can get candy. George later learns that this sounds like an English word that he should not use (son of a ….). Of course, this too is marred with seriousness: the soldiers throw things at George thinking he understands what he said.
An amazing part of this story were the pieces of history I was unfamiliar with. I have a basic knowledge but had no idea how complex it was. Not only do you get to see the history of the time, but the feelings of Takei and his parents. There is an amazing scene where Eleanor Roosevelt was visiting a campaign of a politician the Takei’s were working on, but Takei senior could not bring himself to shake the hand of the woman whose husband had incarcerated him.
The only possible issue with the book is that he jumps between then and now with no chapter breaks to show this is happening. Many times, you suddenly see adult George vs. young George. Yet, I cannot say enough amazing things about this work. And, of course, Takei brings current events into play as well. Not only with the detention centers, but what he does to promote knowledge about his personal journey as a child of the camps and as a gay, Japanese-American man.