Monday, April 28, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: Born in the USA

Anthropology Review Database

Chin, Frank
2002 Born in the USA: A Story of Japanese America, 1889-1947. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.

Notes: xviii, 501 p., [4] p. of plates : ill., map ; 24 cm. ISBN: 0742518523
Reviewed 19 Jan 2005 by: Brad Codr
University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho, USA
Medium: Written Literature
Subject Keywords: Japanese Americans - History - Miscellanea

ABSTRACT: This book follows the lives of Japanese Americans who were directly or indirectly involved in the struggle over citizenship and loyalty during World War II. Although the main subject presented is wartime internment the interviews and documents provide insight into issues confronted by both first (Issei) and second (Nisei) generation Japanese Americans.

Frank Chin utilizes a vast array of primary documents, interviews and archives, to piece together an internal confrontation within the Japanese American community; between the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) and those who resisted the World War II draft. The JACL believed that the Japanese community should comply with the internment process and fight for the United States. Draft resisters believed that they had been stripped of their rights and that their loyalty was unlawfully challenged; thus, the U.S. government had no right to force them into serving their country after treating them as disloyal aliens. The different opinions led to a complex web of interactions and activities, as each group maintained their position.

Section one, The Issei, outlines the struggle for stability in America and the obstacles faced by Japanese immigrants. Through poems and teachings, one can identify the value of traditional Japanese culture in the lives of first generation immigrants (Issei). While these traditions are an intricate part of the Issei experience, the
second generation (Nisei) are navigating through a different social experience. Section one lays a foundation for the reader providing a sense of rapport with the families of the Nisei who are central to the internment struggles.

Section two, The Nisei Dream, follows the careers of the Nisei as they access resources which were unavailable to their parents such as citizenship, full rights and an American education. Leadership roles in the Japanese American community take shape and the JACL becomes the publicly acknowledged voice of Japanese Americans. While the JACL gains national recognition, James Omura, publisher of the Nisei magazine Current Life, which provides a range of viewpoints from Japanese Americans that do not follow the views of the JACL. The Nisei begin careers and increase economic stability only to find them portrayed as disloyal Americans.

Section three, December 7, 1941 รป The Closing Papers, and section four, Us and Them, recreate the internment of Japanese Americans on the west coast, while presenting the defining differences between the perspectives of the JACL and draft resisters. The research and time taken by the author for these sections prove valuable as the reader is able to fully understand the argument presented, shedding light on an issue that has received little attention from academia. The impact of the JACL on the decision making process of Japanese American internment is a valuable source of information. More importantly the view and activities of the draft resisters redefine internment and should be taught as an intricate part of the Japanese American experience during WWII.

To cite this review, the American Anthropological Association recommends the following style:

Codr, Brad
2005 Review of Born in the USA: A Story of Japanese America, 1889-1947. Anthropology Review Database. January 19. Electronic document,,
accessed April 21, 2008.

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