Monday, November 07, 2005

Eyes of the Emperor

A new word for you to add to your vocabulary “xenophobia.” According to Merriam-Webster this word means fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign. To hear it pronounced go to the Merriam-Webster site.

During World War II this xenophobia was prevalent, especially toward Japanese. It was probably more noticeable than the hatred of Germans and Italians because it is so much easier to distinguish a person of Japanese heritage. This book by Graham Salisbury shows readers a part of the history of this time.

The author introduces us to Eddy Okubo who lies about his age and joins the U.S. Army in 1941 in Honolulu before the attack on Pearl Harbor. He is proud to be in the Army and never dreams that he will be seen as an enemy of the United States. Eddy and his friends had been born in the United States and felt as “American” as anyone else.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Eddy and all the other soldiers of Japanese heritage were confined to areas away from other soldiers. They were given dangerous and demeaning jobs that other soldiers were not expected to do. Before Eddy was sent on a “mission” he came home to visit – while there his younger brother, Herbie, gave him a beautiful blue lapis stone for good luck. The group of soldiers was sent first to Wisconsin to Camp McCoy. Then they were sent to Mississippi to an island swamp where they are used to train dogs to hate and kill.

This novel will give you an insight into the kinds of behavior that can be considered acceptable when fear and hatred govern what a nation or a group of people do.

Graham Salisbury also wrote Under the Blood-Red Sun, a book about this same time period.

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