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University Libraries - News, Events & Exhibits

Seeing Japan and Japanese Americans: An Exhibition for the First -Year Reading Experience 2007

Thomas Cooper Library (Lobby)
Aug 15, 2007 - Sep 15, 2007
Julie Otsuka’s 2002 novel When the Emperor Was Divine was read this summer by all 3600 incoming First-Year students as part of the First-Year Reading Experience program. The book vividly tells the story of a Japanese American family’s movement and dislocation in California during the Second World War and its aftermath. A significant part of the book is set in one of the several Japanese internment camps set up by the United States government that held Japanese American citizens from 1942 until the end of the war. Otsuka’s subjects and their interactions with a racially-charged American populace in wartime are immediately recognizable today. In recent years, heated debates have arisen about civil liberties, loyalty and dissent, privacy and immigration in this country, reflecting the tensions of cultural and religious differences in an increasingly diverse society. Current policy debates can be seen and discussed through the lens of historical precedent such as the Japanese internment camps, and the experiences and stories told by internees. This exhibition aims to provide a brief glimpse at how Westerners have viewed Japan, and Japanese Americans, using printed documents from the 17th through 20th centuries. It draws upon items from the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, from the earliest accounts of Japan to reach the West to contemporary children’s books that retell the story of the Japanese internment camps for new audiences. Jeffrey Makala Assistant Librarian, Rare Books and Special Collections Thomas Cooper Library University of South Carolina 803.777.0296 1322 Greene Street 803.777.4661 fax Columbia SC 29208 makalaj@gwm.sc.edu