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Picture Bride

Yoshiko Uchida

Theme: Personal Freedom and Civil Rights
Grades: Grades 9-10

Yoshiko Uchida tells the story of Hana Omiya, a Japanese woman who comes to the United States as a "picture bride"—a woman whose marriage is arranged by family members through an exchange of photographs. The novel follows Hana's experiences, beginning with her arrival in San Francisco in 1917 and continuing through her family's relocation to a Japanese internment camp in Utah in 1943. Her expectations of life in the United States change constantly, causing her to adapt to America on her own terms.

  1. Linking to Today: Racism in America.
    Begin by asking students to define the term racism. You might have them create a word web to help them keep track of the words that come to mind as they brainstorm. Ask students to share their views and opinions on the state of racism in America today. Stimulate discussion by asking if there are specific groups who seem to be the target of racism more then others; also urge students to consider what the true causes of racism might be. Students can then offer ideas for ways in which people might combat racism in their daily lives. Have students create a poster advocating the action that they can take right now to help wipe out racism, and post it in the classroom.
  1. Law and Justice.
    Hold a classroom discussion that centers on rights and justice. Use the following questions to stimulate discussion: (1) What rights of people should be protected by law? (2) When might it be justified to violate a person's civil rights, if ever? (3) What should people do if they believe the government has violated their rights? Ask students to give contemporary examples of court cases in which they think justice was not served or of contemporary situations in which governments have mistreated people.
  1. Comic Strip Candor.
    Ask students to create a political cartoon about the incarceration of Japanese Americans. Encourage students to create more than one version of the cartoon, each from a different perspective. For example, they might create cartoons from the perspective of an Issei internee, his or her Nisei son or daughter, a television journalist, or a government official.

  1. Lest We Forget.
    Suggest that students design a monument to be placed at the site of the Topaz Detention Center in remembrance of the Japanese Americans held there. Encourage students to creatively represent the plight of the internees and the injustices they suffered.
  1. Biographical Sketch.
    Have students research a key historical figure from the time of the Japanese American internment, such as President Roosevelt, General DeWitt, or Randolph Hearst. Write a biographical sketch describing the role that person played in interning Japanese Americans or in the events that led up to the internment.
  1. Internees vs. The United States.
    In Picture Bride, students read about Japanese Americans who complied with the authorities; however, there were some Japanese Americans who resisted. Have students research the legal cases that some individuals brought against the U.S. during the wartime internment. What were their reasons? How did the cases fare? Have students write a report detailing the major cases and their outcome.