Skip to main content

They Called Us Enemy

January 15, 2021

There will never be an easy time to read this book, but it feels particularly difficult reading it now. Facing one of the darkest parts of our nation's history should never feel easy or comfortable, of course. Facing those truths is necessary. Some do it in the streets, others do it in print.

One could be forgiven for assuming George Takei's graphic memoir might be a fun diversion about his time on Star Trek or his third act turn as a social media icon. Instead, it's a heartfelt story of the four years Takei and his family spent in an internment camp, prisoners of the United States government, because of their Japanese ethnicity. 
By now the larger story is well known: after the attack on Pearl Harbor, anti-Japanese sentiment grew to a fever pitch, resulting in the imprisonment of over 120,000 Japanese Americans, most of whom were born in the United States. Like so many others, Takei's family was forced to abandon their home and belongings and board a train; their destination unknown, their safety uncertain. 
The tension between Takei's childhood memory (he was five at the time of his family's imprisonment) and his adult perspective make the already harrowing story that much more devastating, as happy memories of traveling on a train across the country are subsumed by the reasons for the journey.
This contrast, Takei says, will remain with him for the rest of his life. "Memory is a wily keeper of the past," he writes. "Usually dependable, but at times, deceptive." This may well be a principle which defines our nation. Thankfully there are those willing to stand up, tell the truth, no matter how much it hurts, so the rest of us don't get so comfortable that we forget. 

Comic book panel of man expressing horror avatar


Jeremy Estes has worked for Nashville Public Library since 2008. He loves comic books and dislikes the term “graphic novels”. He hosts Panel Discussion, a comics book club for adults, on the first Wednesday of the month at 12pm at the Main Library. 

Genre / Topics

Age Groups