|Farewell to Manzanar
Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston
Theme: Justice and Rights
Grades: Grades 9-10
Farewell to Manzanar is the true story of a Japanese-American
family's confinement in California's Manzanar internment camp during
World War II. Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston was seven when Japan attacked
Pearl Harbor and created the hysteria that forced 110,000 Japanese Americans
from their homes. She remembers the stress of camp lifethe stripping
away of dignity and privacy, the withering of parental authority, and
the divisive pressure to sign loyalty oaths. She also recalls what she
took away from Manzanar after it closedan odd sense of shame and
a fierce determination to be accepted as American.
- Justice for All.
Lead a class discussion focusing on justice and rights. You might
pose questions like the following:
- Which of people's rights should be protected by law?
- Under what conditions, if any, might it be justifiable to violate
a citizen's legal rights?
- What should people do if they feel that the government is violating
their rights? What if they feel that the government is violating
the rights of others?
- Elicit examples of recent legal decisions that students might consider
unjust and of current situations in which governments are mistreating
- Tapping Prior Knowledge: World War II.
Invite students to share what they know about relations between the
United States and Japan during World War II. Ask if they know how
these relations affected the lives of Japanese Americans during the
war. Have students record their responses and amplify or revise them
as they read Farewell to Manzanar.
History on Film.
Invite interested students to compile photo essays about the internment
camps. The National Archives house Dorothea Lange's photos from
Manzanar and other camps. Using the Internet, students can view
and download some of these photos. (Alternatively, they might xerox
photos from books and periodical articles about the internment.)
They can then organize the reproduced works into photo essays, writing
an introduction, captions, and comments. Show them how to credit
- Not Forgotten.
Ask students what they would consider a fitting tribute to those who
suffered and died as a result of their experiences in the internment
camps. Challenge them to design a memorial, with sketches and notes
outlining their ideas and their reasons. The memorial may be a physical
structure; a work of art, literature, or music; or a program to be
- Civil Rights Today.
Have students complete a research report on a person or group of people
whose lives are disrupted by civil strife today. Tell students to
read the international news each day for several days and to note
current areas of civil strife. Have them make an annotated list of
places where people face discrimination or loss of rights because
of their ethnic background, religion, or political affiliations. Help
students choose one place to target and provide research time and
assistance in the library and on the Internet.
- The U.S. in 1942.
Have students research U.S. political and social conditions of 1942
to gain a deeper understanding of the issues that led to the forced
internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry. Ask them to present
their findings in a report backed up with statistics shown in a table,
chart, or other graphic format.