- from Snow Falling on Cedars
In February 1942, in response to the military and growing national pressure,
President Roosevelt established the War Relocation Authority (WRA). The
purpose of this new governmental body was to evacuate the Japanese-American
population living along the West Coast and detain them in isolated, prison-style
internment camps until the end of the war.
Military experts justified this security policy on the grounds that this
region of the country was highly vulnerable to Japanese invasion, and
that the local Japanese Americans were considered a largely disloyal ethnic
group capable of aiding the enemy through spying and sabotage. To the
120,000 Japanese Americans who were uprooted and forced under WRA authority,
the country had made racism legal, and the constitutional rights that
most had been given were now completely and painfully meaningless.
In this selection, you will read a depiction of harsh issues that one
Japanese-American family had to face on the day the FBI visited their
home to enforce this new wartime policy.
About the Author
David Guterson (b. 1956), U.S. educator, short story writer, and
novelist, began his career as a high school English teacher in his home
state of Washington. His writings include short stories, novels, and literary
contributions to national magazines about life in America.
This selection is based on Gutersons widely acclaimed first novel,
Snow Falling on Cedars (1994), where he writes of the dramatic,
long-term impact the countrys wartime internment policy had on the
lives of some Japanese-American residents of Washington state.
Gutersons other works include a biography of his mother, Chaia
Sonia: A Familys Odyssey, Russian Style (1980), a short story
collection called The Country Ahead of Us, The Country Behind (1989)
and Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense (1992).
- 1. contrabandprohibited goods or merchandise.
- 2. stevedorespeople who work at loading and
- unloading ships in port.
- 3. persevereto persist in spite of opposition or
- 4. egothe self (as contrasted to another self or the
- 5. cloddisha dull, stupid person; a dolt.
- 6. aliensowing political allegiance to another country
- government; foreign.
- 7. sashan ornamental band or ribbon worn around the
- waist or shoulder.
- 8. illusionan erroneous perception of reality.
- 9. sacrificeforfeiture of something highly valued.
- 10. sereneunaffected by disturbance; calm.
Use the STUDY GUIDE below as a way to work through the selection
and improve your comprehension of the essay.
Answer the Questions to Consider questions in the book as a way
to deepen your interpretation of the selection.
1. What do you think the FBI man means when he says, "Its
complicated, but that's the way it is. Theres a war on and thats
the way it is"?
2. Why did Hatsues mother gather her and her sisters to tell them
again about her own difficult odyssey from Japan to America? What was
her point in retelling her children this story?
3. What does Hatsues mother mean when she says to her, "I
hope you will carry your purity with you always and remember the truth
of who you are"?
Chaia Sonia: A Familys Odyssey, Russian Style (1980)
The Country Ahead of Us, The Country Behind(1989)
Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense (1992)
Snow Falling on Cedars (1994)
John Armor and Peter Wright, Manzanar (1988). A description of
the Manzanar internment camp, with photographs by Ansel Adams.
Roger Daniels, Prisoners Without Trial: Japanese-Americans in World
War II (1993). A highly recommended history of the Japanese-American
John Dower, War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War (1986).
A Japanese history specialists landmark study of racism against
Japanese in the United States during the war.
Deborah Gesensway, Beyond Words: Images from Americas Concentration
Camps. A collection of paintings created by Japanese-American internees
in the camps.
Audrie Girdner and Anne Loftis, The Great Betrayal (1969). An
account of evacuation and internment, mostly in the words of those who
David Guterson, Snow Falling on Cedars (1994). An award-winning
novel that views the internment experience through the eyes of a young
Peter Irons, Justice at War: The Inside Story of the Japanese-American
Internment (1983). Legal aspects of internment and interviews
with three defendants whose cases reached the Supreme Court.
John Tateishi, And Justice for All: An Oral History of the Japanese-American
Detention Camps (1984). Stories of the detention camps told by those
who lived in them.
Yoshiko Uchida, Desert Exile: The Uprooting of a Japanese-American
Family (1982). A prize-winning childrens author tells the story
of her familys removal and internment.