"INSIDE AN AMERICAN CONCENTRATION CAMP: Japanese American Resistance at Poston, Arizona" by Richard S. Nishimoto

"INSIDE AN AMERICAN CONCENTRATION CAMP: Japanese American Resistance at Poston, Arizona"

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Though often lively, this look at a Japanese-American relocation camp during WW II suffers from editor Hirabayashi's innumerable footnotes and academic blather about auto-ethnography and the ""ethnographic enterprise."" Nishimoto, a Stanford-educated internee, sent detailed field reports from the center at Poston, Ariz., to the University of California's government-sponsored Japanese Evacuation and Resettlement Study. In these reports, he gave account of the daily lives, activities, and mood of his fellow internees. Hirabayashi (Anthropology/Univ. of Colorado, Boulder) has selected three documents, as well as Nishimoto's ""somewhat facetious"" introductory autobiographical letter. The first report describes the work of a ""firebreak gang,"" 30 men ""engaged in cleaning and subjugation work of land [sic]."" As foreman of the crew, Nishimoto was able to observe all aspects of the tasks, organization, and interaction of the men. The ongoing resistance to working and living conditions resulted in strikes and protests. The second report, ""Gambling at Poston,"" offers an unusual look at the Japanese avidity for games such as poker, mah-jongg, and pinball; he traces its development into ""a decidedly destructive activity"" in the camp. The third selection is Nishimoto's report on the All Center Conference, convened in 1945 by the leadership of all the camps when plans were announced to close nine of the ten camps; the conference dealt with issues of transition back into society and government reimbursement for lost homes and businesses. Nishimoto's clear if occasionally fractured English (""There was a relaxed lull for a little while""; ""I, who was born with silver spoons in my mouth"") is a relief juxtaposed with Hirabayashi's academese, not to mention his convoluted explanation of Nishimoto's suspicious role as a ""clandestine researcher."" Interesting, but with a lighter touch and fresher approach, it might have been enthralling.

Pub Date: Sept. 19th, 1995
Page count: 245pp
Publisher: Univ. of Arizona