HomeCommunity IssuesFarewell to Manzanar Selected for Santa Monica Community Reading Program

Farewell to Manzanar Selected for Santa Monica Community Reading Program

Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston pictured on the right. Photo by Monterey Public Library (via Flickr Creative Commons)

By Calla Carter
AsAmNews Intern

The Santa Monica Public Library has announced that it will feature Farewell to Manzanar as the subject for its annual community reading program, Santa Monica Reads, according to the Santa Monica Mirror.

Santa Monica Reads is now entering its sixteenth year;  every spring, locals and visitors are all invited to read the same book and then come together for discussions and special events.

Farewell to Manzanar is Japanese American author Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston’s 1973 memoir about her family’s incarceration during World War II.

“In the wake of World War II,” the library summarizes, “President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, incarcerating tens of thousands of Japanese American citizens and Japanese natives. As a seven-year-old girl, Jeanne’s world is turned upside down when the Wakatsuki family is forced to leave their home in Ocean Park and their fishing business in Long Beach and live in the high desert internment camp of Manzanar. The narrative is told from Jeanne’s perspective, as she recounts the struggles and resilience of her family and the camp community.”

The book “raises issues of racial prejudice, the search for identity and what it means to be American — themes that continue to resonate 45 years after the book’s publication,” according to the Santa Monica Library’s official announcement.

Photo from California Humanities (via YouTube)

Since its publication, the book has sold more than one million copies and become “a staple of school reading lists across the country,” reports the Santa Monica Lookout. Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston has earned numerous awards and honors, including a U.S.-Japan cultural exchange fellowship, a Rockefeller Foundation residence at Bellagio, Italy, and a 1984 Wonder Woman Award given to women who have accomplished outstanding achievements in pursuit of “truth and positive social change.”  She will open this year’s Santa Monica Reads on May 12 by hosting a discussion and book signing.

The book will be the subject of “guided conversation, discussion groups and other special programs held throughout the city,” said head librarian Patty Wong.

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