School board rejects book on incarceration of Japanese Am

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Dorothea Lange photo from U.S. National Archives via Wikimedia Creative Commons

A school board in Wisconsin this month rejected a historical novel about the incarceration of Japanese Americans from the classroom saying it lacked “balance,” Progressive Magazine reports.

A curriculum committee had earlier selected the 2002 novel When the Emperor was Divine for the Muskego-Norway district in Waukesha and Racine counties.

The book by Julie Otsuka won the American Library Association’s Alex Award and the Asian American Literary Award.

“I am not aware of any opposition to the use of the Otsuka book from any parents, students, teachers, or community members,” said district employee Allison Hapeman to The Bulwark. “The only opposition to the book I am aware of is from school board members.”

The book’s publisher Alfred A. Knopf says When the Emperor was Divine has been accepted in hundreds of schools across the country. From July 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022 1145 different books have been rejected by various school districts, but Otsuka’s book has not been among them, according to PEN America.

“The call for a ‘balanced’ viewpoint in the context of the incarceration of Japanese Americans is deeply problematic, and racist, and plays into the same fallacies the United States Army used to justify the incarceration,” David Inoue, executive director of the Japanese American Citizens League wrote in a letter to the Muskego-Norway School Board. “We urge you to reconsider your position on the book’s use, understanding that while not every book and story can be told, to deny the use of one such as this under the pretenses you’ve given is wrong.”

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