Takai, George, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott. They Called Us Enemy. Harmony Becker, Illus. Graphic. Top Shelf, 07/2019. 204[+4]pp. PB $19.99. 978-1-60309-450-4. OUTSTANDING. GRADES 7-ADULT.
Actor George Takai, best known as Star Trek’s Sulu, leads the creative team that offers this dramatic graphic novel that focuses on Takai’s youth as a boy in a Japanese American internment camp during WW II. Over half of the book takes place during the family’s experience as internees, incarcerated at Rohwer and then Tule Lake camps, with a brief beginning in Los Angeles before the war, and back in L.A. afterward where Takai went to college and volunteered for Adlai Stevenson. The text is inviting, made up of captions and dialogue balloons; it will be clear to those without much knowledge of this history, but it isn’t simplified. It also draws parallels to current events regarding efforts to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. and treatment of refugees entering from Mexico. The b&w ink artwork is equally expressive as the text, depicting the camps and people using a style with manga influences. Helpful to his story is the fact his father was willing to discuss internment—this was unusual as many elders were too ashamed to talk about it with their children. For a wide age range and especially relevant to Californians. This book contains California-specific content. Penny Peck, San Jose State University, iSchool