Discover Nikkei

Not a "camp story" but a human story

Oh you don’t say “the camp story” because it’s (Farewell to Manzanar) not the camp story. This is a human story. I mean do people say, “Oh the Civil War story’s been done”? Or “The Holocaust has been done”? You know, I mean because there are so many different aspects of that. And of course the internment is the landmark experience, I guess, for the…what is it? The watershed experience for Japanese Americans. But you know there are so many shades of it, of how it has affected people. And the stories themselves.

California concentration camps Farewell to Manzanar (film) (book) imprisonment incarceration Manzanar concentration camp United States World War II World War II camps

Date: December 27, 2005

Location: California, US

Interviewer: John Esaki

Contributed by: Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum

Interviewee Bio

Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, co-author of the acclaimed Farewell to Manzanar, was born in 1934 in Inglewood, California. The youngest of ten children, she spent her early childhood in Southern California until 1942 when she and her family were incarcerated at the World War II concentration camp at Manzanar, California.

In 1945, the family returned to Southern California where they lived until 1952 when they moved to San Jose, California. Houston was the first in her family to earn a college degree. She met James D. Houston while attending San Jose State University. They married in 1957 and have three children.

In 1971, a nephew who had been born at Manzanar asked Houston to tell him about what the camp had been like because his parents refused to talk about it. She broke down as she began to tell him, so she decided instead to write about the experience for him and their family. Together with her husband, Houston wrote Farewell to Manzanar. Published in 1972, the book is based on what her family went through before, during, and after the war. It has become a part of many school curricula to teach students about the Japanese American experience during WWII. It was made into a made-for-television movie in 1976 that won a Humanitas Prize and was nominated for an Emmy in the category of Outstanding Writing in a Drama.

Since Farewell to Manzanar, Houston has continued to write both with her husband and on her own. In 2003, her first novel, The Legend of Fire Horse Woman was published. She also provides lectures in both university and community settings. In 2006, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston received the Award of Excellence for her contributions to society from the Japanese American National Museum. (November 25, 2006)


Prom during the war

(b.1926) Democratic politician and three-term Governor of Hawai'i

Ariyoshi,Jean Hayashi

Day Pearl Harbor was bombed

Former First Lady of Hawai'i


Japan vs. the United States (Japanese)

(1900-2005) Issei businessman


Skateboarding at Manzanar

Giant Robot co-founder and publisher


Life in camp as teenager

(1926 - 2012) Scholar and professor of anthropology. Leader in the establishment of ethnic studies as an academic discipline


Being ordered to keep a diary that was later confiscated, ostensibly by the FBI

Hawaiian Nisei who served in World War II with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.


Bombing of Pearl Harbor

An expert researcher and scholar on Japanese immigrant clothing.


Helping soldiers

An expert researcher and scholar on Japanese immigrant clothing.


Fun at concentration camp

Senshin Buddhist Temple minister and co-founder of Kinnara Taiko.


Father as prisoner of war in hospital

(1922–2014) Political and civil rights activist.


Patriotism versus loyalty

(1922–2014) Political and civil rights activist.


Postcards to Nisei soldiers

(1922–2014) Political and civil rights activist.


Hiding what happened in camp

(1922–2014) Political and civil rights activist.


Issei are hard-working

(1922–2014) Political and civil rights activist.


Camp as a positive thing

(1922–2014) Political and civil rights activist.