They Called Us Enemy Book Summary - They Called Us Enemy Book explained in key points

They Called Us Enemy summary

George Takei

Brief summary

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei is a memoir that shares his experience as a child living in Japanese American internment camps during World War II. It sheds light on the injustices faced and serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of standing up against discrimination.

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    They Called Us Enemy
    Summary of key ideas

    Introduction to a Hostile Era

    In They Called Us Enemy, George Takei narrates the unfathomable experiences of his childhood spent in Japanese-American internment camps during World War II. The narrative begins with Takei being uprooted from his home in Los Angeles, at the age of five, along with his family, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The government's fear and prejudice against Japanese-Americans is palpable in the enforced Executive Order 9066, leading to their mass incarceration.

    Takei vividly recalls the prejudice, loss, and indignity faced by his family, along with tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans, stripped of their basic rights and property. The story flows into the harsh train journey to their assigned camp, Rohwer War Relocation Center in Arkansas, a desolate place surrounded by barbed wire, guard towers, and armed soldiers. He provides a chilling portrayal of the lowly living conditions, the lack of privacy, and the hardship endured by the internees. Matters worsen during the loyalty questionnaire episode leading to family separations and social divisions.

    Turmoil Beyond the Barricades

    The life beyond the internment camps is no less challenging. The relocated internees face stark prejudice and discrimination in society. The stinging encounters make Takei's parents decide to return to the barbed fences as the lesser of two evils. The families face a grueling existence in the camps where resources are sparse, communal tensions are on the rise, and young men are being coerced to enlist in the US Army.

    Takei painfully recalls the burgeoning defiance in his father, despite the oppressive circumstances, persevering to retain a semblance of dignity and normalcy for the family. There are moving episodes where his father diverts young Takei's attention from the harshness of their predicament, by enchanting him with the wonders of human body anatomy, or by producing a makeshift bathtub to give him a luxurious soak.

    Resilience amid Adversity

    They Called Us Enemy gracefully transitions into Takei's post-camp years, the recovery, and the rebirth of his life and career, becoming the much-adored Sulu of the Star Trek series. He relays the silent endurance and determination of the internees, their quest to reclaim their lives, integrate with society, and their relentless pursuit of justice, including legal battles to win reparations for the wronged Japanese-Americans.

    Takei intersperses the narrative with anecdotes from his later life as a successful actor and civil rights activist. He reflects on the enduring influence of his parents, particularly his father, who instilled in him the virtue of democracy and the value of resilience amid adversity. His testament of braving hostility to emerge as a beacon of hope and advocacy for others resonates throughout the book.

    From Victimhood to Advocacy

    The narration capability of Takei reaches its crescendo as he articulates his transformation from a victim of racial prejudice to an advocate for equality and justice. He uses his influential position to bring the unheard and forgotten story of the internment camps to the wider audience, admonishing such grave historic infringements of the civil liberties of American citizens.

    In conclusion, They Called Us Enemy is not merely a memoir of a dark chapter in American history but a powerful testament of resilience, hope, and the enduring spirit of democracy. The book prompts us to ponder on the lessons of the past, to defend the values of justice and freedom, and to challenge prejudice and discrimination in all forms.

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    What is They Called Us Enemy about?

    They Called Us Enemy by George Takei is a memoir that recounts the experience of the author and his family being imprisoned in American internment camps during World War II. Through his personal story, Takei sheds light on the injustice and discrimination faced by Japanese Americans during this dark period in history.

    About the Author

    George Takei is a Japanese-American actor, author, and social justice activist. He is best known for his role as Hikaru Sulu in the original Star Trek television series. Takei has been an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and has written several books, including To the Stars and They Called Us Enemy. He uses his platform to speak out against discrimination and to promote equality and understanding.

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