(2/20) They Called Us Enemy – “20 YA Novels for Adolescents”

They Called Us Enemy is a non-fiction autobiography written by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and illustrated by Harmony Becker. It was published on July 16, 2019 and consists of 204 pages. The graphic novel won:

  • The Will Eisner Award for Best Reality-Based Work!
  • The Asian/Pacific American Award for Young Adult Literature!
  • The American Book Award!
  • The National Cartoonists Society Award for Excellence in Graphic Novels!
  • The Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics!
  • The Mike Wieringo Award for Best Non-Fiction Comic Work!
  • The BookPal “Outstanding Work of Literature” Award for Biography & Memoir!

They Called Us Enemy is about the actor George Takei’s early childhood experiences when he was a prisoner in the American concentration camps during World War II. In the story, Takei not only tells his experiences and struggles, but how it helped in shaping his future.

I chose to read this graphic novel because I wanted to learn about the American concentration camps during World War II from the perspective of someone who survived it. Although I learned and know about it in school, I don’t recall ever getting to learn about it from a survivor’s perspective.

I would recommend this graphic novel to third graders and up. I would read this graphic novel to my students as a group to teach them about a historical event in the United States and it might be fun for them since it’s a graphic novel.

If I wanted to do a read aloud from this graphic novel to my students, the read aloud I might go with are:

  • Pgs. 5- 8, “Removed from their Homes”.

  • Pgs. 14 – 30, “Treatment of Japanese People”.

I had a feeling that this graphic novel would be relatable to me, as when Donald Trump was president, he went through with his Muslim ban. As a Muslim, whether it would have affected me or not, the words “Muslim ban” were all I and my family needed to hear to be nervous about it. I appreciated the fact that George Takei decided to talk about it in the graphic novel, especially when I wasn’t expecting it at all. In this graphic novel, Takei does such an amazing job talking about his experience in the American concentration camps as a child while at the same time, still covering more past and future issues that exist in the United States and making connections between them all to get a message across.

I would love to explore more novels/graphic novels about historical events being told from a first person perspective. There are so many historical events all over the world, so I would love to read more stories that will allow me to learn about them through someone else’s personal experience, rather than learn about them from a third person point of view.

One thought on “(2/20) They Called Us Enemy – “20 YA Novels for Adolescents”

  1. Something I’ve noticed across the board with graphic novels is they’ve opened up a unique way for more people to tell stories that haven’t been told before from their perspective. As you mentioned, I have also never encountered anything from a first-person perspective about the American concentration camps during World War II. I remember my humanities teacher mentioning that they existed, but never went into any detail. Definitely not something we should get into the habit of, as things like this affected many people, our own neighbors, to an immense degree due to mostly irrational fears. This story, too, comes from someone the students may have heard of or seen in a movie, and so it’s not even really out of left field, showing them how these events aren’t long in the past and had a direct impact on people we know. I considered this one for my list but didn’t end up putting it on there, but it looks like I’ll need to check it out!

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