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According to her own description in citizen 13660, Mine Okubo is a graduate student taking art at UC Berkeley University. She has just travelled to Europe on a tour scholarship when England and France announce war. As a result, she is trapped in Switzerland for a period of three months but eventually makes it to her home in San Francisco. Sooner after her arrival, her mother dies and she is left with her brother. Meanwhile, Japan has been attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor and the whole the two countries are at war. Consequently, Mine's life as a student comes to an end unexpectedly as she can not access college due to war. The government announces an evacuation of all Japanese-Americans living in the military zones into camps and assembly centers. Within a short period, Mine and her brother along other thousands of people of her race are relocated from the West Coast to Tanforan Assembly Center, little known to her that she would spend most of her life time there. It is in this camp that Mine's experience of the World War II gets to it peak.
Her experience of the World War II actually begun immediately the war was declared. Pearl Harbor had been attacked on December, 1941 and killed numerous residents. This posed a danger to the populace's security and President Franklin Roosevelt issued an order that all residents with Japanese origin be relocated to other areas inland, away from the military zones. As a result, adults and children were assembled and taken to camps. Life in these centers was however not bearable as Mine explains. There is no privacy and they have to survive on public toilets, washrooms and laundry tubs. The evacuees are also forced to tolerate frequent searches, quasi-medical assessments as well as surveillances among other uncomfortable measures. So as to suppress her painful experiences, Mine ventures into the art of drawing and keeps a record of all the happenings while in the camp in hand drawn pictures.
Mine gave her book the title "Citizen 13660" because she was a citizen yet she was not recognized by her name; her identity was a number. This is meant to have been her identity in the camp; people were only recognized by numbers and not names. Thus she gave the book this title in memory of her identity and the other people in the camp.
Citizen 13660 is therefore meant to represent all the Japanese-Americans that lived during that time, especially those who lived in the camps. They were neither Japanese nor Americans thus these two represented governments did not fully own them. As a result, they became citizens of an unknown government as created in the author's mind. They lived in an imagery world which was different from the actual world.
Mine's experience in the camp was quite different from the other people in that unlike the other people; she had something to keep her days busy. She always put down her experiences in drawings which she later published to a book. She became materialistic during and after the war in campaign against incarceration. Her experience was a typical wartime one since she had the bitter part of it. She lived in the worst camps and she was always worried about her life. She had lost all her parents and had nothing left by her side.
From her description, it is clear that Mine spent most of her time in the camps. At first she was taken to California where she was admitted at the Tanforan Assembly Center and later she was relocated to Utah and was readmitted at the Topaz War Relocation Center. While in these centers, live was very miserable since she had to cope with hardships and get acquitted to people she did not know. She practiced art and eventually her talent was spotted by the Fortune Magazine, which employed her as an illustrator. It was therefore under the sponsorship of the magazine that she was able to leave the camp and relocated to New York City and pursued her cause in art.
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Mine was taken to war camps because it was an order from the government that all Japanese-Americans be evacuated from the military zones particularly on the West Coast where most of the Japanese- Americans lived. This decision was made due to security fears approximately two months after the Pearl Harbor was attacked. Thus the president declared relocation of all people of Japanese heritage inland for the mere purpose of protection from the presumed harmful Americans. Having a Japanese heritage, Mini was therefore legible to be taken to these centers; she was taken to the camp so that she could be protected from attacks from the American.
Mini has successful portrayed her experience in the camps both in words and in picture. Her words are replicated in the picture and the reader can actually get the meaning of the experience from the picture without having to read the texts. All attitudes in the picture come out clearly in the narration. For example, on the picture on p. 162 shows a pregnant woman with very many children. From the look, one can deduce that there are many children in this place. Since children come through birth, then one can conclude that the birth rate is high. Only one sentence is written at the bottom "The birth rate in the center was high". Also on p. 62, there is a drawing of women using public toilets that have no doors. Before she tells us that the women are trying to seek privacy, we are already aware since they are pictured using curtains while others are hiding their faces. This is therefore a clear indication that her words are mirrored in her drawings.
Imagining how one could respond to such a situation would be very difficult especially for someone who has never been placed in such a situation. However, if I were in Mine's shoe, I would have organized for facility improvement program where I would gather the youth together and start cleaning the facilities; fixing what is lacking such as toilets doors while improvising the available resources. This would improve our stay in the camp and lessen our sorrow because it is the last resort for our security and we must embrace it as a really home if we need a comfortable stay. I would also have encouraged my fellow evacuees and helped them physically and emotionally; informing them that is not the end of everything.
Mine's story on her experience in the war camps reveals much on the experiences of the Japanese-Americans during the World War II. While confined in the camps in the name of security, these people suffered more than anyone else, they were considered illegible to freedom and their privacy rights were violated as well. They had to live with the little resources available; sharing everything including beds. This is because, the camps were overcrowded yet the facilities were too little to accommodate them all. Also most of them had the worst memories of loosing their beloved ones who had been incarcerated during the war. Thus Mine's experience tells me that the Japanese-American's experienced hardships during the World War II.
Freedom in the American history was only a word that appeared in papers but was rarely experienced. While every individual arose to fight for this presumed freedom, very few enjoyed it fully. Most of them were those who suffered from lack of it. It was only limited to a few individuals and it is lack of it that resulted to the establishment of the many movements that fought for the right of the citizens.
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