Like their counterparts in the US, Japanese citizens in Canada were forced into internment camps during WWII. But after the war ended, things turned really ugly

(From the Daily Beast)

By Lynne Kutsukake

On the cover of Ken Adachi’s The Enemy That Never Was, the first book written about the Japanese Canadians and the wartime internment, is a close-up of a little girl’s face. She is only 5 or 6 years old, I would guess, maybe seven at the most. She is leaning forward and biting her lip, her intent gaze focused not on the camera but on something in the distance that we cannot see. I have always been captured by her expression: an ambiguous mix of anxiety and anticipation, uncertainty and curiosity. It’s a child’s face, full of innocence and sweetness, but darker shadows seem to hover around the edges of her mouth, as if the worried look of a much older person has begun to etch its traces onto her young face.

Japanese-Canadians on their way to WWII internment camps
Japanese-Canadians on their way to WWII internment camps

Although I don’t know who the girl is, I will confess I have been haunted by her image for a very long time. In the years leading up to the redress movement, I bought and read The Enemy That Never Was, and the book has been in my possession ever since. Every time I packed my belongings to move, every time I reorganized the books on my shelves, every time I touched this book, I would inevitably look at the cover and stare at the girl.

The full photograph from which the close-up is taken appears later in the book. It shows the girl surrounded by a crowd of Japanese Canadians who are waiting at a train station. Suitcases and boxes sit on the ground in front of them. The girl is leaning forward as far as she can, straining to look down the tracks, one imagines. Wanting to be the first to catch a glimpse of the train. Read more

Leave a comment