George Takei’s recounts of his time at a Japanese-American internment camp have been put to page and brought to the stage. Now, he’s signed a book detail with IDW Publishing to create a graphic novel about what it was like for those imprisoned because of their heritage.
According to a press release, the graphic novel will dive into President Roosevelt’s unconscionable Executive Order 9066, which authorised the internment of over 100,000 people, most of them American citizens, after the bombing of Pearl Harbour. Takei was 5 years old when he was taken to a camp, and the graphic novel will dive into his story and show how his experiences helped him become who he is today.
Takei has been extremely vocal about violations of civil liberties in the United States, especially in the wake of President Donald Trump’s violent rhetoric and thinly veiled threats against, among many others, Mexican Americans and Muslim Americans. Takei made headlines in 2015 when he left a seat open for Trump during the Broadway run of Allegiance, the musical also based on his life story. Trump never took him up on his offer.
While writing this article, I was surprised to discovered that Takei and his family originally came from Salinas, Calif., where I lived for a number of years. It reminded me of a story I’ve never forgotten. I remember once asking a friend’s mother why there was an empty lot in the city’s most expensive neighbourhood. She told me it belonged to a Japanese-American family who, one day, were told to pack up their bags for an internment camp. They were given two hours. While they were gone, a mob came and burned their house down. The city offered them money for the land (a pittance of what it was worth), but the family refused to sell it or build on it again. They wanted it to serve as a charred, blackened reminder of what the city and country had done to them and thousands of others. As far as I know, it’s still empty.
We often look at history as, just that, history — forgetting past mistakes when they become uncomfortable or inconvenient. Takei’s work, and that of many others, reminds us that the only way to succeed is to remember when (and why) we failed. It’s great to see Takei’s story being turned into a graphic novel, much like Rep. John Lewis’ March, which detailed his participation in the Civil Rights Movement. IDW plans to release the book sometime in 2018. In the meantime, you can check out Takei’s autobiography, To the Stars. I also highly recommend reading io9’s Katharine Trendacosta’s recounts of her grandfather’s experiences as a survivor of a Japanese-American internment camp.