Minidoka, an American Concentration Camp
By Teresa Tamura
Caxton Press, 2013
$25.16 / hardcover
Synopsis: In Minidoka: An American Concentration Camp, Teresa Tamura documents one of ten such camps, the Minidoka War Relocation Center in Jerome County, Idaho. Her documentation includes artifacts made in the camp as well as the story of its survivors, uprooted from their homes in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and California. The essays are supplemented by 180 black-and-white photographs and interviews that fuse present and past. Ultimately, her book reminds us of what happens when fear, hysteria, and racial prejudice subvert human rights and shatter human lives.
Synopsis: The 1942 wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans … forced 120,000 Americans to abandon their property and homes. Most were American citizens. One of the relocation compounds was Idaho’s Camp Minidoka in Jerome County, near Twin Falls. “’Surviving Minidoka’ is a history book about the present as much as the past,” said series editor Melissa Lavitt, dean of the College of Social Sciences and Public Affairs. “This is not a book about camp life,” said Shallat. “It is an art book and a tribute. It is a book about how about how an event shaped race relations more than a story about the event itself.”
My Take: I chose to highlight both of these books because they document a part of Idaho history that many would like to ignore or forget but from two unique viewpoints. While both books tell stories of the people who lived in them, in Minidoka, an American Concentration Camp you get a historical perspective of the people incarcerated there. Their narratives, accompanied by photos, both old and current, relay their personal viewpoint, then continues with a recount of the path their life took after they left. These recitations, culled from newspaper accounts and personal interviews and are brief and compelling.
In Surviving Minidoka the creators grasped what Aristotle meant by “the aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance,” and concentrated on the individual effect of Minidoka as shown through personal photos, art, and poetry. The stories are more in depth, giving a perspective of the fire Minidoka set that fueled their later accomplishments. Despite the beautiful photography, this book, with its wealth of data and documentation, read more like a report, and was saved only by the personal stories that put heart in the book.
My Take: Both are beautiful books, well worth owning, if for no other reason than to remind ourselves that what happened once could happen again if we don’t learn from the past.