Some of the loudest voices in the current political "dialogue"
are calling for excluding from our nation large groups of people in
peril on the basis of nationality and religion. I wonder if we are so
immune to learning from the past that we will repeat its injustices in
the present and future. An example we should take to heart from our
nation's recent history is what we did to Japanese Americans during
World War II. When the West Coast was declared a military zone in
1942 over 100,000 law abiding citizens, half of whom were children,
non of whom were ever charged with espionage, were basically
imprisoned in relocation camps. Their homes and the businesses they
had created through hard work were taken from them.
Lois Sepahban's Paper Wishes is the story of a child's
experience of this confusing and frightening journey. Manami lives
with her parents, grandfather, and dog on a peaceful Washington State
island. An older sister and brother are away at college. When we
first meet her she and her grandfather are walking on their beloved
beach with their dog, Yujiin.
Times have become scary. Soldiers who fear that America will be
betrayed by people with Japanese faces and names have arrived. One
day Manami and several classmates are told not to return to school.
Soon she and her family, with only the possessions they can carry in
four suitcases, are taken to a bare basics relocation camp in the
desert called Manzinar.
Manami has lost more than her home, school, friends, community,
and the part of the world that feels like home to her. The family had
planned to leave Yujiin with a pastor. Manami tries to smuggle him to
their new home. Unfortunately he is discovered. The last she sees of
their beloved family pet is him pushing his nose through a gap in a
This poignant and powerful coming of age novel serves up complex
issues within a manageable for young readers context. It can help
students gain understanding of not only history, but, unfortunately,
In her author's note Sepahban tells us how, nearly fifty years
after its detainees left, Manzaner was reincarnated as a National
Historic Site. "...Today, visitors can walk the grounds, look at
photos, and read first person accounts of those who lived there. Many
of the relocation camps were torn down, but according to the National
Park Service, the mission of the site is, 'to serve as a reminder to
this and future of the fragilities of American civil liberties.'"
Like I said, we are not good at learning from the past. Right
now, when those who wish to lead us are outdoing each other in
eagerness to shred those already endangered civil liberties, Paper
Wishes and other books like it should be required reading for all
Americans age 8 to 108.
On a personal note, recently I had the wonderful opportunity to
represent Veazie Community School (as School Committee chair) at a day
long conference held at UMaine on advocating for LGBTQ youth in schools.
I learned so much! It was a delight to be with so many other people
who recognize the importance of protecting and gaining civil rights
for this increasingly precarious segment of our society.
A great big shout out goes out to the presenters and my fellow
attendees at this conference!
Sent from my iPod