Review of My Lost Freedom, by George Takei

My Lost Freedom

A Japanese American World War II Story

by George Takei
illustrated by Michelle Lee

Crown Books for Young Readers, 2024. 48 pages.
Review written May 13, 2024, from a library book.
Starred Review

George Takei, who ended up acting in the original Star Trek series, was five years old when his family was imprisoned in the Japanese American incarceration camps during World War II. He’s already told his story in They Called Us Enemy, a graphic novel. Now he’s put the story in picture book biography form, so that even elementary school children can learn from it.

Now, George was five. As I noticed in the graphic novel, his five-year-old perspective looked for fun in the big adventure of a train ride and a move. For example, the first camp they went to was Camp Rohwer, and he thought the soldiers on the train were trying to roar like a lion when they called out the name. (He didn’t know that soldiers on train cars with rifles wasn’t a normal way to go on vacation.)

He highlights how much his parents did to give George and his two siblings a happy and comfortable childhood. But it also comes out how much they lost. And how completely unjust it was for the government to do this to people born in America. Even when they got sent to a higher security camp because his father wouldn’t sign up for military service, George highlights the movie theater there and the stray dog they adopted.

The main part of the book ends with a happy reunion with George’s father, who had gone ahead of them after they were released to rent a home. There’s extensive back matter which reveals how hard it was to establish a home after the war with prejudice still high and only $25 from the government. A government that had confiscated all their possessions and bank accounts before the incarceration.

But I like the way George Takei doesn’t come across as bitter. Instead, he clearly stands up for what democracy should be — something his father taught him. After some young men in the camps protested, this happened:

One night, angry soldiers came roaring into the camp in jeeps, their rifles aimed at us. They were looking for radicals, but more often than not, innocent men were thrown in jail. I remember hearing women crying and wailing.

When I asked Daddy about the radicals, he said, “In a democracy, the people have the right to assemble and protest.

I’m glad this man is telling the story of what happened to him as a child, in hopes that such a thing will never happen in America again.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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