Prejudice, hysteria, and evacuation, yes; but in other respects the story that unreels from these 350 pages of...


YEARS OF SORROW, YEARS OF SHAME: The Story of the Japanese Canadians in World War II

Prejudice, hysteria, and evacuation, yes; but in other respects the story that unreels from these 350 pages of tape-transcripts differs significantly from that of the Japanese Americans expelled from the West Coast during World War II. On December 7, 1941, the vast majority of Japanese tn Canada lived in maritime, mountainous, Japan-like British Columbia, and in clusters--along Vancouver's Powell Street, among the islands and inlets of the coast, and (""because they were such successful fishermen"" that, increasingly, their licenses were canceled), on berry and vegetable farms in the Fraser Valley, where ""the whole family worked on that little ten-acre patch."" Whether, shunned and self-segregated, they would in due course have assimilated, as some (only) contend, whether they might even have dispersed voluntarily, is undeterminable; on the basis that they were potential spies and saboteurs, they were ejected from the 100-mile strip along the coast--respected elders and rebellious young sent to a former German P.O.W. camp, other males dispatched to road camps and families to ghost towns in the interior of British Columbia. Only by agreeing to resettle out of B.C. across the Rockies--on labor-short sugar beet farms in southern Alberta or Manitoba, in flat, foreign Toronto--could they resume an independent life, ""poor but together."" There, less a threat than a curiosity, they proved themselves, put down roots, and to a large extent remained--except for those who, perhaps most inexcusably of all, were pressured into choosing ""repatriation"" to Japan at war's end. At this point objections arose across Canada; previously, the accounts of both Japanese and whites make plain, the problem of institutionalized discrimination was contained within B.C. Broadfoot's brief voice-overs are only minimally informative and his failure to identify his witnesses weakens the book's worth as documentary history; but it packs a punch, not only because of the wrongs done the Japanese but also because of their varied perceptions of their predicament.

Pub Date: March 10, 1978


Page Count: -

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1978