Thursday, December 10, 2015

Infamy by Richard Reeves

Posted by Rebecca Brendel

Reviewed by: Jim Patrick

What I Read: Infamy: The Shocking Story of the Japanese American Internment in World War II by Richard Reeves

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: Richard Reeves recounts the post-Pearl Harbor reaction of the U.S. government toward the thousands of Japanese Americans living on the west coast as the U.S. entered World War II.  President Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 of February 19, 1942 led to the “relocation” of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans, first into Assembly Centers—most of which were originally livestock stables at fairgrounds sites—and later into ten  Relocation Camps, including two in Arizona.  At under 300 pages, Reeves’ book is more an anecdotal account of the Japanese relocation story than an in-depth analysis, and the book’s title leaves no doubt about the author’s personal feelings about this controversial World War II program.  In providing the overall details of the internment program, Reeves is most critical of President Roosevelt, California attorney general Earl Warren, and program administrator General John DeWitt.  He describes the anti-Japanese fear and hysteria that gripped the west coast, and how these men and others exploited that climate, while others courageously spoke out against internment and the prevailing racism toward the overwhelmingly loyal Japanese Americans.  Reeves uses personal and family stories to show the heavy emotional, social, and economic burdens borne by the internees.  He also includes accounts of military heroism by enlisted Japanese American soldiers—many of whom were recruited from the camps beginning in 1944.

What I Thought: Richard Reeves states in his introduction that he was prompted to write his latest book by the current anti-immigration sentiments aimed at Hispanics and Muslims.  He obviously sees a parallel—and a cautionary tale—in the case of Japanese Americans seventy years ago.  Whatever one’s political views, Reeves' book is likely to cause the reader to take a longer view of the consequences of taking government actions which target specific ethnic or religious groups.  I was somewhat familiar with the Japanese American internment saga, but the personal examples in Infamy made this painful chapter of our history seem much more real and tragic.

Readalikes: Inside an American Concentration Camp: Japanese American Resistance at Poston, Arizona by Richard Nishimoto

Or look this book up on NoveList!