Indiana Daily Student

Locals learn about Japanese internment in preparation for event next week

<p>This is the entrance to Manzanar Relocation Center in California in 1943, where 110,000 Japanese Americans were detained. The Monroe County Public Library screened four short films about Japanese internment during World War II on Saturday to preface its upcoming "Power of Words" event.</p>

This is the entrance to Manzanar Relocation Center in California in 1943, where 110,000 Japanese Americans were detained. The Monroe County Public Library screened four short films about Japanese internment during World War II on Saturday to preface its upcoming "Power of Words" event.

The Monroe County Public Library screened four short films about Japanese internment during World War II on Saturday to preface its upcoming "Power of Words" event.

Jamie Ford, author of "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet," a novel focused on internment, will speak at the event.

Ford’s talk will be on Nov. 17.

“I know when I went to school it was mentioned in history classes, but never fully explained or discussed,” Elizabeth Gray, MCPL adult audience strategist, said of Japanese incarceration.

The films shown focused on the humanity of those taken to the camps. 

Many of them opened on dark screens and white text explaining former President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, which demanded all Japanese-Americans evacuate the West Coast about two months after the Pearl Harbor bombing.

One of the films, “The Orange Story,” focused first on the hateful propaganda spread by Americans, who were influenced by rumors that Japanese-Americans were going to destroy the war effort from the inside.

The film then proceeds to follow an elderly Japanese man forced to sell his store as he is moved into a camp. A little girl who used to come to his store with her mother ends up standing outside of it selling oranges. The price for the oranges was 25 cents for Americans and 50 cents for Japanese. 

“I am an American,” the man tells her.

Though each of the films took a different angle on internment — despair, wartime hysteria and hatred— they all shared an undertone of fear.

Some audience members talked about the way fear can change the American perception of different groups of people.

“I felt that we were pretty close to doing this again in 2001 after 9/11 — we were afraid," audience member J.R. Johnson said. "Just like they were in 1941."

The library is currently focused on exploring themes of the immigrant experience and otherness through their programming, Gray said.

There’s a gallery of photos taken by Mike Waddell of Anita Photography currently hanging in MCPL. The series, titled “Amber Waves: the Many Faces of Monroe County,” consists of portraits of Bloomington immigrants and their stories. 

The exhibit will run through Nov. 30.

Some attended the screening to try and gain a deeper understanding of “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” before the Power of Words event, and others were there for more personal reasons.

“I had a friend who recently died who was in the camps,” audience member Antonia Matthew said. “She didn’t really speak about it, so I kind of wanted to know the part of her.”

The crowd exited the auditorium silently when the final film ended.

“I think it’s important currently to be aware of how immigrants are treated,” Gray said. “The Japanese internment is a good reminder that America may not always be the land of opportunity for immigrants.”

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