Whenever there is war, a terrible number of innocents always suffer, but few expect to be incarcerated by their own country for political brownie points. George Takei in his graphic novel memoir talks about his experiences at an internment camp as a young boy. His family members were among the 120,000 Japanese Americans who were evicted from their homes and forced to live in camps after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. The anger against the Japanese had to be directed somewhere, and politicians knew just who.
Better known to Star Trek fans as Hikaru Sulu, Takei was only a child in the 1940s, so his recollection of his time behind barbed wires are innocent. For example, little Takei thought it would be an adventure to sleep in stinky horse stalls, only his parents knew the humiliation of living in a space still soiled with the smell of manure. Spread over 200 pages, ‘They Called Us Enemy’ tells an important chapter of World War II that one won’t find in History text books. And Takei couldn’t have picked a better format to tell his and his family’s story.
While Takei has co-written his memoir with Justin Eisinger and Steven Scott, it’s the artwork by Harmony Becker which really breathes life to a painful chapter of Japanese-American history. While the art is in black-and-white, it has a grainy texture that lends a news-journal like touch to the tale. Apart from the four years he spent as a child at two different camps, Takei also takes readers through heated debateshis father as teen while trying to untangle their complicated hurtful past.
Since bulk of ‘They Called Us Enemy’ is told through the lens of a young boy, it captures the ugly nature of war in a way an adult narrator cannot. Despite never being tragic, horrifying or gut-wrenching, the book still manages to enlighten readers who’ve never lived through war just how terrifying its consequences can be. You might think you have nothing to do with two nations going against each other, until soldiers turn up at your door, asking you to abandon your home and life as you knew it. It’s a graphic novel worth adding to your shelf.
It’s a 4/5 from me.