[Welcome to the EL Book Introductions series. These posts are all short (<180 words) introductions/reviews of books in the EL library. They focus on telling you what we think will be interesting for you, a college student and English learner, so use them to help you find the right book for you. You can also use the tags to find books about topics you might be interested in.]
There is a famous saying that “history is shaped by the winners.” That’s not exactly true: I think that “history is shaped by the strong.” And so, when powerful people or institutions don’t want a story told, it can be silenced. They Called Us Enemy tells an important story that I never learned about in the US school system.
In this book, Takei narrates his experiences as a Japanese American, born in the US, during World War II. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese and Japanese Americans living in the US were considered enemies. At least 120,000 were captured and forced to live in “internment camps” for up to four years until the end of the war. Similar to Spiegelman’s book about the holocaust, Takei writes about good memories and bad, with both smiles and tears. But, as you read this book, it should be clear that this was a massive historical crime against an innocent population.
My two cents: Takei intentionally connects his experiences in the 1940s to events as recent as 2019. The past lives with us, and it is our responsibility to learn from it.