Learning About Japanese Internment Camps at Mansueto High School

Photo shows Mansueto High School students posing with the graphic novel "They Called Us Enemy" or "Nos Llamaron Enemigo" by George Takei

As we head into Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, some students at Mansueto High School are learning for the first time about the Japanese internment camps in the U.S. during World War II.

In Ms. Galvez’s Bilingual Language Arts class, English language learner students are studying the graphic novel, They Called Us Enemy.

Photo shows Mansueto High School student reading George Takei's "They Called Us Enemy" in Spanish, book title reads "Nos Llamaron Enemigo"

Mansueto High School Student Reads They Called Us Enemy

The graphic novel was written and released in 2019 by George Takei, an actor who gained international fame for his role as Sulu in the widely popular television and movie series Star Trek.

They Called Us Enemy is the graphic novel adaptation of his life in the United States during World War II. George Takei was born on April 20, 1937, in Los Angeles, California to Japanese-American parents. The novel shows vivid imagery and emotional depictions of his family’s experiences in the U.S-run Japanese internment camps.

“I didn’t know this had happened. I knew that the United States had dropped two bombs in Japan, but I didn’t know that they had built these camps. It was a sad experience,” said Dario Mota, a freshman at Mansueto.

Photo shows Mansueto student reading "They Called Us Enemy", it shows the back of the book with a depiction of George Takei and his family on an American flag design

Ms. Galvez began her latest unit by covering the historical events that led to World War II, along with the effects the war had on the Asian population in the United States. Students grappled with important topics such as xenophobia, racism in America, and civic engagement.

Ms. Galvez was very proud of the way her class handled the difficult subject matter.

“The students were extremely engaged with They Called Us Enemy. They have made various connections to how xenophobia still exists. They connected George Takei’s story to the fact that many immigrants are still being detained and separated from their families today,”  Ms. Galvez said, “A couple of our students and their families have lived similar stories.”

To wrap up the unit, the class is writing a formal letter to George Takei about what they learned from his novel and how his story connects to their own experiences.

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