Jeanne Wakatsuki recounts being interned with her family during World War II, because of their Japanese ancestry.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
This account comes from a 16-year-old Syrian girl named Amira and details the past three years of her life in a refugee camp in the neighboring country of Lebanon.
Introduce this memoir, about a girl’s experiences in a refugee camp, before students begin reading Farewell to Manzanar. As students read the book, ask them to compare Jeanne’s experiences to Amira’s. How are the two girl’s experiences similar and different? What events forced Jeanne and Amira to leave their homes? Why isn’t Jeanne considered a refugee? What reasons might you give for why Jeanne should be considered a refugee?
The informational text, “Japanese Relocation during World War II,” discusses the relocation and internment of Japanese Americans during WWII.
Introduce this text before students begin reading Chapter 2, when Jeanne’s family relocates to Terminal Island, to provide them with historical background on Japanese internment during World War II. How does the government’s policy towards people of Japanese ancestry affect public attitudes towards the Wakatsukis? How does the Wakatsukis experience help support the view in the National Archives article that families of Japanese ancestry were interned for their own protection?
In Li-Young Lee’s poem “I Ask My Mother to Sing,” the narrator’s mother and grandmother sing of their old home in China.
Introduce this poem after students finish Chapter 11, when Jeanne’s papa sings the Japanese national anthem, to explore how people keep memories of their home country alive. Why do the speaker’s grandmother and mother cry as they sing about China? How does this compare to the sadness that Jeanne’s papa experiences while singing the national anthem? Why do students think the speakers of the two texts aren’t as moved by the songs as the older generations?
In “Fish Cheeks,” which is about a Chinese American girl who feels embarrassed by her family during dinner, Tan explores how culture can be essential to a person’s identity.
Have students read this short memoir after Chapter 13, when Jeanne’s papa doesn’t allow her to become baptized, to explore how different generations identify with their heritage. Why does Jeanne wish to become Catholic and why is this a problem for her papa? How does this compare to Tan’s aversion to having a traditional Chinese meal? How are Jeanne and Tan’s desires at odds with their parents’ views on their Chinese and Japanese heritage? Why do students think that Jeanne and Tan are attracted to more western traditions?
In Junot Díaz’s “The Terror,” Díaz explores his experiences with fear after getting beat-up as an adolescent.
Have students read this memoir after Chapter 16, when Jeanne contemplates leaving Manzanar, to analyze the themes of conflict and hostility that take place in both texts. Why are Jeanne and Díaz targets for bullying in the two texts? How does fear of being harassed or physically harmed affect Jeanne and Díaz? Do Díaz and Jeanne decide to face their fears or are they forced to? How do students think this impacts them?
In the informational text “The Bombing of Hiroshima,” Jessica McBirney describes the United States’ use of nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.
Have students read this text after they finish Chapter 17, when the United States drops an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, to provide students with information on the impact and aftermath of the bombing. How were the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki affected by the bombs? How does this compare to how the people in Manzanar were affected by the bombing? How does Jeanne expect the official end of the war to impact her future?
This short but profound poem deals with the experience of hiding one’s identity.
Introduce this poem after Chapter 20, when Jeanne wants to hide after leaving Manzanar, to explore what happens when people mask who they are. Ask students to discuss how Jeanne’s classmates perceive her and why it makes her want to hide different parts of her identity. How is Jeanne disadvantaged by wearing a “mask”? Do students think that Jeanne misses out on finding people she connects with by wearing a mask? Why or why not?
In Adrienne Su’s poem “Peaches,” a speaker describes being the child of Chinese immigrants in America.
Have students read this poem after they finish Chapter 21, to generate a discussion on how people can be at odds with their identity. Jeanne struggles after winning the title of carnival queen in Farewell To Manzanar. How does Jeanne’s experience, and Su’s poem, explore how the perception you have of yourself can be impacted by the way that others perceive you? What aspects of Jeanne’s identity are in conflict and why? Why does winning carnival queen exaggerate these feelings?
In Tupac Shakur’s “The Rose That Grew from Concrete,” the speaker describes a flower that grew in an unlikely place.
Have students read this poem after they have finished the book, in order to help generate a discussion on how Jeanne was able to succeed despite the obstacles she faced at Manzanar. Ask students to use the poem’s extended metaphor to analyze Jeanne’s experience. In what ways was Manzanar the concrete that Jeanne grew out of? Why do students think it was important for Jeanne, at the end of the book, to acknowledge the role that Manzanar had in shaping her life? What reasons would students give to argue for or against the idea that Jeanne was free of the “concrete” after she left Manzanar?
Gerald Ford's presidency began in 1974 – nearly 30 years after the end of WWII. In this speech, Ford discusses Japanese Internment, or the relocation and incarceration of Japanese Americans, during WWII. As Ford states in the speech, “We now know what we should have known then--not only was that evacuation wrong, but Japanese-Americans were and are loyal Americans.”
Introduce this speech after students have completed reading the memoir, in order to prompt them to reflect on the American history of Japanese internment and attitudes towards it today. How does President Ford’s speech use history in order to assert American values? How does the speech, confirming that Japanese internment has been terminated, also make a claim that internment was wrong? How do stories like Jeanne’s help us better understand right from wrong?