Mitsuye Yamada: In the midst of a desert

By Amy Allsop
"...These people are living in the midst of a desert where they see nothing except tar paper covered barracks, sagebrush, and rocks…. The impact of emotional disturbance as a result of the evacuation…plus this dull, dreary existence in a desert region surely must give these people a feeling of helplessness, hopelessness, and despair which we on the outside do not and will never fully understand." Arthur Klienkopf, Superintendent of Education, Minidoka Relocation Center

 After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, there was a tension between the Americans and the Japanese residents. The latter were targeted as the “enemy” and with every day that passed after the bombing, this tension grew higher and higher until Executive Order 9066 appeared to “ease” it. This Presidential executive order was a product of hysteria and angst and was used against those with "Foreign Enemy Ancestry”, namely those who were German, Italian or Japanese. This brought distress amongst those who were going to be affected by it. More than one thousand Americans of Japanese ancestry were interned in camps. One of these unfortunate people was the poetess, essayist and story writer Mitsuye Yamada. Mitsuye Yamada was born in 1923 in Japan. In 1926 her family returned to the United States. She was raised in Seattle and attended to school. In 1942, due to the Executive Order 9066, she was sent to the Minidoka Relocation Centre in Idaho, along with all her family. She was released in 1943 after renouncing any loyalty to the Emperor of Japan Hirotito. This decision was hard to make, for it was struggle between her heritage and the country that adopted her. Later on, she wrote a poem entitled “The Question of Loyalty”, where she captured the dilemma she felt at that time. The first two stanzas of the poem clearly expose her loyalty conflicts:

She has lived in the midst of a desert and being there once more has made her found the oasis that was hidden in the centre of it. most of them written during her captivity. the beauty of the desert. These poems. To have lived in a desolated and arid place for some time. Mitsuye Yamada used literature as a tool to narrate the experience lived by her and hundreds of Japanese fellows. which speaks of the renounce of any kind of allegiance to Japan’s Emperor in order to be freed. to be environmentally friendly and also about her journey of self-discovery. She talks about the mixture of cultures. Now it is time to learn the truth and find our own oasis . She wanted to deliver us a firsthand statement of this terrible experience and not to be deceived with what the media and the mainstream tell us is “right” or “true”. Afterwards. we have the consequences and post-war reactions with the poem “Cincinnati”. starting with “Evacuation” which narrates the forced relocation of the Japanese American to a camp located in a desolated area of Idaho.“If I sign this What will I be?” As we can perceive. Then we continue with the poem “The Question of Loyalty”. with the poem “Desert Storm” we can be witness of the situation lived inside the camps. this “imprisonment” she suffered was to be engraved in her life forever and so it did in her literary works. In her essay “Living in a Transformed Desert”. Lastly. was so terrible that it made her dislike anything that had to be with the desert. she published Camp Notes and other poems. relate the internment of the Japanese American and post-war reactions of the American society toward them. We can even build a timeline of the Executive Order 9066 experience using the poems. In 1976. She also inspires us to see the beauty in what might be arid and unpleasant. she relates this and the way her point of view and her memories of the desert were affected by looking and living it with different eyes and mind.

gmu.javadc.com/mitsuye-yamada-criticism/yamada-mitsuye http://www.enotes.org/category/tag/question-loyalty .htm http://voiceseducation.org/minidoka_relocation_center.Sources: http://historymatters.edu/d/5154 http://www.

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