Study Guide

Farewell to Manzanar Foreignness and "The Other"

By Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston

Foreignness and "The Other"

Farewell to Manzanar is all about how inescapable being a foreign "Other" is for the Japanese-American people, and the main members of the Wakatsuki clan all deal with the burden of feeling like they don't belong in America because of their Japanese identity. So as much as the book is about the experience of internment during World War II, it's also an account of the different ways each character tries to deal with the burden of "Otherness"—an experience that is confining in its own right.

Questions About Foreignness and "The Other"

  1. How does each member of the Wakatsuki clan deal with his or her Japaneseness? Are there any generational differences? How about gender differences?
  2. Does the writer make Japanese culture seem more foreign or less foreign? How does she handle the task of representing Japaneseness?
  3. Is it okay for Jeanne to profit or benefit from exoticizing her Japanese heritage? Does she have any control over her own exoticization?
  4. Is feeling foreign specific to the kind of racism Japanese-Americans have to deal with or is it similar to the experiences of other minority groups in America?

Chew on This

Part of why Japanese-Americans feel foreign in this book is because they don't try to assimilate into dominant mainstream culture.

Feeling foreign or "Other" is a direct result of national policies that discriminate against Japanese-Americans.