Study Guide

Farewell to Manzanar Part II, Chapter 20

By Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston

Part II, Chapter 20

A Double Impulse

  • On the first day of 6th grade, Jeanne gets stared at since she's the new kid in class.
  • Her teacher's really nice, but the blonde girl in front of her is totally shocked that Jeanne can speak English, which totally trips Jeanne out because of course she speaks English.
  • It's the first time Jeanne understands what it means to be Japanese-American—to be treated like a foreigner.
  • For a long time, Jeanne wishes she could just be invisible—she doesn't want to be seen as an Oriental with slanted eyes.
  • No wonder too that the evacuation occurred the way it did: Japanese Americans weren't seen as individuals, but at the same time, they all submitted to the evacuation.
  • Jeanne tells us that it's an attitude non-whites can get easily in America.
  • At the same time, there's this other half of Jeanne that doesn't want to disappear, that wants to show everyone she can speak English and belong.
  • She finds out that there are certain ways she's allowed to excel in school: her academics, sports, newspaper, student government—typical overachiever stuff.
  • But Jeanne's not satisfied.
  • She wants friends outside of these circles, but she gets rejected a lot, and whenever she gets rejected, she thinks of it as her fault and keeps looking.
  • She does find a friend in Radine, the blonde girl who couldn't believe she spoke English.
  • Radine lives at Cabrillo Homes too, and belongs to the Girl Scouts, which Jeanne's interested in joining.
  • Even though Radine's mom is the assistant troop leader, Radine tells Jeanne the next day that Jeanne can't get in.
  • Jeanne knows why (it's all about being Japanese), but she takes the rejection in stride.
  • In fact, not only does she not hold her rejection against Radine (it was her mom's decision after all), but Radine responds by becoming more protective of and closer to Jeanne, and she sticks up for Jeanne all the time when Jeanne gets treated badly.
  • Meanwhile, Jeanne teaches her how to twirl a baton.
  • They get so good at it that they both try out as baton twirlers for the Boy Scout troop in the next housing project over.
  • Not only do they both make it; Jeanne becomes their majorette, front and center.
  • Jeanne thinks of it like this: the Girl Scouts are like a sorority run by moms, but the Boy Scouts are like a fraternity run by dads.
  • This means the boys are cool with young girls in front of them bending over backwards (literally) and high-stepping.
  • As an adult, Jeanne gets that this is kind of skeezy—young boys and dads ogling young girls, especially an Asian girl—but as a kid, Jeanne doesn't really understand anything about sex or sexuality; she just kind of intuitively knows that her femininity can help her gain access to things.
  • Her brothers tease her about her short skirts and long, skinny legs but they're supportive of her baton twirling.
  • Her dad not so much, though. He'd rather she be more like "Miss Hiroshima of 1904" (23), all demure, graceful and—more importantly—clothed.
  • But Papa can't compete with outside influences.
  • Plus, young Jeanne's lost all respect for Papa because he can't get anything off the ground.
  • His co-op idea never works because no other families are willing to invest in the project.
  • Then he comes up with the idea to fish for shrimp and abalone off of Mexico's coastline.
  • It's not a bad idea and almost succeeds, except he never finds a way to control this worm that keeps attacking drying abalone meat.
  • Woody's return from Japan makes things worse for Papa too because Woody returns as both a man and a citizen, while Papa, on the other hand, just seems to shrink and depend more on his son.
  • He also starts to drink heavily again, so much so that Jeanne never brings friends home; he never attends Jeanne's majorette events.
  • The one time he attends a scholarship dinner for Jeanne and other students, he does the unforgivable: when Jeanne receives her certificate and her parents are introduced, her father does a deep, Japanese bow.
  • It's so not American, and Jeanne feels completely embarrassed and just wants to disappear.