In George Takei’s graphic novel memoir, They Called Us Enemy, we see Takei’s childhood as it is turned upside down when he and his family are taken to an internment camp for Japanese Americans. Takei reflects on how this injustice came to happen, how it affected his outlook, and how its story holds significance today.
The art style of this is lovely—the characters are expressive and full of personality. The story is moving, revealing details of this aspect of World War II history that has not been talked about much until lately. It is particularly intriguing to see how a child’s mind perceived the situation, as opposed to how his parents did. The disconnect between Takei’s memories and the understanding he obtained later is fascinating. Further, I enjoyed learning about some of the political and legal machinations going on at the time, and after.
However, I wish that the narrative had progressed in a more chronological order, as sometimes, I felt the jumping around in the timeline didn’t serve much of a purpose. I think, for me, it would have worked better in order, or perhaps as a frame narrative, showing Takei speaking at Roosevelt’s house just at the beginning and end of the novel. Not to say it was a huge problem; this is just a very minor issue I had.
In the end, They Called Us Enemy is a fantastic and timely account of a dark period of American history. Takei paints a vivid picture of a childhood overturned, and an adult life shaped, unfortunately, by these early years as well as by lingering racism. However, the melancholy yet hopeful ending serves as a call to action, to keep history in mind as we move forward, to keep progression from becoming regression.
Overall rating: 9/10