Study Guide

Farewell to Manzanar Part I, Chapter 1

By Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston

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Part I, Chapter 1

"What is Pearl Harbor?"

  • Get ready for one super-long flashback because that's basically what this whole book is—one major memory.
  • Our trusty narrator Jeanne is recalling the first weekend in December 1941 (you know, the weekend of the whole Pearl Harbor incident) in Long Beach, California.
  • Papa's out on his boat giving orders to the narrator's brothers, Bill and Woody; his boat—The Nereid—is his pride and joy, big and worth about $25,000.
  • Papa has another boat called The Waka, but it's smaller and docked in Santa Monica where the family lives.
  • The men are slipping out of the wharf, and no one knows how long they'll be gone because that's just how fishing for a living goes. All these Japanese fishermen get together and share materials while competing for all the fish.
  • Jeanne, her mom, Billy's wife, and Woody's wife Chizu wave at the boats and wait for them to disappear.
  • But this time the boats don't disappear. Nope—every single one of them turns back.
  • Weird.
  • What happened? The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
  • But Jeanne doesn't even know what that means or what Pearl Harbor even is.
  • That night, her dad burns the Japanese flag he brought with him from Hiroshima years ago. Documents too.
  • But there's no point because her dad isn't just an alien (as in, undocumented immigrant), he's a commercial fisherman too, and that's not good because the FBI are picking up men just like him since they're worried that the fishermen might be contacting the Japanese through their boats.
  • In fact, the FBI considers every Japanese American radio owner a "saboteur" (16).
  • Anyway, two weeks later, Papa's taken in; he doesn't even try to avoid the arrest.
  • He now has no country since Japan is at war with America, the country he's live in for so long but isn't allowed to become a citizen of.
  • At first, no one's too worried because a lot of men are just being interrogated and then released… but Papa doesn't come back because the FBI have charged him with delivering oil to the Japanese.
  • Cue: crying. Lots of crying.

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