They Called Us Enemy Review

By: George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, with art by Harmony Becker

I was just your average American kid. But not everyone saw it that way. . .

George Takei

So many comic book trade paperbacks are called “graphic novels” in order to make them sound more sophisticated. This is a graphic novel that really deserves being called a graphic novel. A heart-breaking story, complimented by beautiful harsh black and white art, highlight the horrors of one of the darkest chapters in American history: The internment camps of WWII.

George Takei recalls his childhood growing up in a WWII Japanese Internment camp and the discrimination his family faced even after the war. The biggest complaint I have about the novel is the non-linear structure. It feels weird to be ripped away from an internment camp to Takei giving a TED Talk. I get that they are contradicting the harshness of the situation with how Takei has risen above these abuses, but I feel it’s too jarring, and wreaks the mood.

Takei discusses the dilemmas his parents faced. I was particularly taken by the Expatriation Bill.

For anyone who doesn’t know the history: Since it is all kinds of illegal to hold American citizens indefinitely with no formal charges, the US Government was going to make it legal by offering Japanese Americans a chance to renounce their citizenship and be sent to Japan after the war. Because, wouldn’t you want to be in post WWII Japan?

Takei recalls his mother’s choice. Since Takei’s father was born in Japan, so he would be held until the end of the war no matter what. Takei’s mother was a US citizen by birth and thus had to choose between leaving her husband in an internment camp, or renouncing her rights as a US citizen to keep the family together. That part was really moving.

I strongly recommend this book to every school library. I know that sounds weird. but this is the kind of book that really is best explained as a “library graphic novel” the kind of book you share a recommend to your friends. Even if they’ve never seen Star Trek.

1 Comment

  1. Have not see the graphic novel, but from what you’re saying here, it sounds like the early part of “To the Stars: The Autobiography of George Takei”

    I found the autobiography very interesting. And yes, the recollections of those years are harrowing. If you have not read To The Stars, I recommend it – if only for those early chapters.


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