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Nisei Daughter

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What would you do if your world came to a screeching halt, or if life as you knew it was turned upside down? How would you act or respond? Overwhelmingly the response of people in times of desperation is to survive at all costs and make the best of the situation. If we look not too far back in our nation's history we will see desperate times such as those who were hit hardest by the era of the depression and also those who were displaced from their homes into Internment camps following World War II and the bombing of Pearl Harbor. In comparing and contrasting two books, Monica Sone's "Nisei Daughter" and Studs Terkel's "Hard Times" we are also able to see the many different ways in which people handle themselves, not only through the events mentioned, but also through themes that both books share such as adversity, prejudice, and perseverance.

The books themselves are both predominantly autobiographical accounts of the respective events of American history. In "Hard Times" Studs Terkel puts together recollections of the era of the Depression from a wide range of people who lived it, from Okies to prison inmates, to the better off. "It is simply an attempt to get the story of the holocaust known as the Great Depression from an improvised battalion of survivors" (Terkel, 3). Aside from the many accounts of the Depression, Studs Terkel talks of his own remembrance and describes the time as a "blur of images" (Terkel, 4) and later goes on to say that his memories and reflections are flawed in a sense compared to most of the book which tells the stories of others.

In contrast, Sone's "Nisei Daughter" appears to be solely a personal account of her life experiences as a second generation Japanese-American growing up in a European-American dominated nation before and through the Internment camps during World War II. While the books differ in whose story is primarily being told, the intentions of both authors is one in the same in that the autobiographical approach is the best way to enable the reader to feel or at least get an idea of how times like those were like. Both books relive moments that were a struggle for Americans and are not books just about American history, but books about truth from the ones who lived it, which adds to the historical value of each.

The first theme that stood out between the two books will be the focus of the rest of the paper. Both historical events were devastating for everyone involved. The first theme is an obvious one which is adversity. Adversity is peppered all through both of these books. Starting with "Hard Times," the Depression Era and the adversity that it caused people was not exclusive to one race as it mainly was in "Nisei Daughter." The adversity forced upon people in Terkel's book affected all races, ages, and gender. This can probably be expected with the Depression affecting all corners of the nation. "Black and White, it didn't make any difference who you were, 'cause everybody was poor" (Terkel, 41). Adversity is probably putting it mildly for most living in America in the 1930's. From people losing children from traveling from place to place such as the young baby that died of soot and smoke inhalation riding through the train tunnels (Terkel, 15) to wealthy Anglo men not being able to handle the pressures of such a time by killing themselves. "They weren't able to live up to the standards they were accustomed to, and they got ashamed in front of their women" (Terkel, 83) The shame these men felt led to their suicide.

In comparison, Monica Sone's account of the adversity her family and other Japanese -Americans felt during WWII and even before that was mainly based on Racism and Bigotry; However I think their toughest test of adversity was felt in February of 1942. "Executive Order No. 9066 came out, authorizing the War Department to remove the Japanese from such military areas as it saw fit, aliens and citizens alike. Even if a person had a fraction of Japanese blood in him, he must leave on demand" (Sone, 158).

Prejudice is the next theme the books have in common with each other, Even before the prejudices shown by throwing all Japanese blooded people in these relocation camps, prejudices did not start there for Japanese Americans. Sone states a couple occasions where her inferiority is brought about by ignorant people. The social dimension of Japanese-Americans is one that is painted clearly in the readings of "Nesei Daughter." This account of a young family coming up in the Seattle Area during the 1930's paints a clear picture of social issues such as race relations and xenophobia. Once Japanese American families had been established and had built flourishing communities in the slums of cities, most very much embraced the American way of life. In fact, the American way of life became so embraced that that some second and third generational children had to be told that they were racially different from the majority of the kids in America. "The first five years of my life I lived in amoebic bliss, not knowing whether I was a plant or animal, at the old Carrollton Hotel on the waterfront of Seattle. One Day when I was a happy six year old, I made the shocking discovery that I had Japanese blood. I was a Japanese" (Nesei, 1). For many kids like Sone (the

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