Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Moved-Outers, by Florence Crannel Means

Published right around the end of the Second World War, The Moved-Outers follows a family of Japanese-Americans as they are forced to transition from their ordinary life in California to that of prisoners in two different internment camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

The Oharas are an regular family in their small California town.  Their father successful operates a nursery and florist shop, the mother stays at home, and Sue (Sumiko) and Kim (Kimio), born a year apart, compete for top academic honors in the same grade at their high school.  They are active in their community, attending church and on good terms with their neighbors.  But after the attack on Pearl Harbor, their stable life is quickly shaken.  Men from the FBI come into their home, search through their belongings, and eventually return to intern Mr. Ohara (his first letter to arrive is postmarked in North Dakota).  And the inevitable order comes that all citizens of Japanese ancestry are being relocated and must leave their homes and businesses behind.

The remainder of the book follows the Oharas, as well as their neighbors, the Itos, as they try to create lives for themselves in the uncertainty of internment camps.  They have to create liveable homes, not knowing what sort of permanence they'll have in any one location.  Sue and Kim need to remain motivated to complete high school, and then find occupations within the camps.  The book definitely brings home the despondent restlessness of being kept away from one's own life indefinitely- not knowing what to hope for or look forward to.

Although Florence Crannel Means wrote numerous books for young people, I am unfamiliar with them.  She is apparently one of the first American authors to write about minority populations, and she received a great deal of press for this.  I do wonder what sort of research went into these books, and how accurately they portray these peoples.

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