Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston's Arrival at Manzanar: a Journey into Injustice

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About this sample


Words: 650 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Jun 13, 2024

Words: 650|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Jun 13, 2024


Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston's arrival at the Manzanar internment camp during World War II marks a poignant chapter in American history. Her memoir, Farewell to Manzanar, co-authored with her husband James D. Houston, provides a deeply personal account of the Japanese American internment experience. This essay explores the circumstances surrounding her arrival, the initial impacts on her family, and the broader implications of internment on the Japanese American community.

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Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston was only seven years old when she and her family were forcibly relocated to the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California. The Wakatsuki family, like thousands of other Japanese Americans, were uprooted from their homes following President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066, which mandated the internment of individuals of Japanese descent living on the West Coast. The order was a reaction to the attack on Pearl Harbor and driven by wartime hysteria, racial prejudice, and unfounded fears of espionage. Jeanne’s father, Ko Wakatsuki, was arrested by the FBI on the suspicion of aiding Japanese submarines, leaving the family without its patriarch and primary breadwinner.

The journey to Manzanar was fraught with confusion, fear, and uncertainty. Jeanne describes the chaotic scenes at the assembly points where families were tagged with numbered identification and herded onto buses. The loss of personal freedom and the infringement on civil liberties were starkly evident. The Wakatsuki family, like many others, had to leave behind their homes, businesses, and most of their possessions. In doing so, they also left behind a part of their identity and sense of belonging.

Upon arrival at Manzanar, the Wakatsukis were confronted with the harsh realities of camp life. The internment camp, hastily constructed in the desolate Owens Valley, was notorious for its harsh living conditions. Barracks were poorly insulated, meals were rationed and lacked nutritional value, and communal bathrooms offered little privacy. Jeanne's initial impressions of Manzanar were shaped by the dust storms that swept through the camp, the barbed wire fences, and the ever-present armed guards, which served as constant reminders of their imprisonment.

The psychological impact of internment on Jeanne and her family was profound. Ko Wakatsuki’s arrest and subsequent isolation from his family led to a deep sense of shame and emasculation, which he struggled with throughout their time at Manzanar. Jeanne's mother, Riku, endeavored to maintain a semblance of normalcy and stability for her children, despite the dehumanizing conditions. The internees' efforts to create a community within the camp, through the establishment of schools, churches, and social organizations, displayed remarkable resilience and adaptability.

Jeanne's narrative also sheds light on the broader implications of internment for the Japanese American community. The forced relocation and subsequent internment disrupted lives, destroyed businesses, and fractured families. The psychological scars left by the experience endured long after the camps were closed. The internment of Japanese Americans during World War II stands as a stark reminder of the fragility of civil liberties in times of national crisis and the ease with which prejudice can be codified into law.

The arrival at Manzanar was a pivotal moment in Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston's life, shaping her identity and her understanding of justice and resilience. Her memoir serves as both a personal testament and a historical document, reminding future generations of the injustices endured by Japanese Americans during this dark chapter in American history.


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Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston's arrival at Manzanar encapsulates the profound injustices faced by Japanese Americans during World War II. Her detailed and poignant account in Farewell to Manzanar provides invaluable insights into the personal and collective experiences of internment. The Wakatsuki family's journey, marked by loss, resilience, and adaptation, underscores the broader implications of racism and wartime hysteria on civil liberties. As we reflect on this period, it is crucial to remember and learn from these historical injustices to ensure that such violations of human rights never recur. Jeanne's story is a powerful reminder of the importance of vigilance in the protection of civil liberties for all.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston’s Arrival at Manzanar: A Journey into Injustice. (2024, Jun 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 23, 2024, from
“Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston’s Arrival at Manzanar: A Journey into Injustice.” GradesFixer, 12 Jun. 2024,
Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston’s Arrival at Manzanar: A Journey into Injustice. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 23 Jul. 2024].
Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston’s Arrival at Manzanar: A Journey into Injustice [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 12 [cited 2024 Jul 23]. Available from:
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