Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston

Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston

Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, co-author of the acclaimed Farewell to Manzanar, was born in 1934 in Inglewood, California. The youngest of ten children, she spent her early childhood in Southern California until 1942 when she and her family were incarcerated at the World War II concentration camp at Manzanar, California.

In 1945, the family returned to Southern California where they lived until 1952 when they moved to San Jose, California. Houston was the first in her family to earn a college degree. She met James D. Houston while attending San Jose State University. They married in 1957 and have three children.

In 1971, a nephew who had been born at Manzanar asked Houston to tell him about what the camp had been like because his parents refused to talk about it. She broke down as she began to tell him, so she decided instead to write about the experience for him and their family. Together with her husband, Houston wrote Farewell to Manzanar. Published in 1972, the book is based on what her family went through before, during, and after the war. It has become a part of many school curricula to teach students about the Japanese American experience during WWII. It was made into a made-for-television movie in 1976 that won a Humanitas Prize and was nominated for an Emmy in the category of Outstanding Writing in a Drama.

Since Farewell to Manzanar, Houston has continued to write both with her husband and on her own. In 2003, her first novel, The Legend of Fire Horse Woman was published. She also provides lectures in both university and community settings. In 2006, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston received the Award of Excellence for her contributions to society from the Japanese American National Museum. (November 25, 2006)

Video clips

Description
The only Japanese family in Ocean Park
Impact of Pearl Harbor on her family
Initial impact on life at camp
Mixed blood people at camp from a child's point of view
Embarrassed to talk about camp
The birth of a novel through a conversation with her nephew
Documenting family history for future generations
Getting the book published
Her father as a typical Issei
East First Street the hub of Japanese American community
California housing shortage after the war
Farewell to Manzanar not a bestseller, but is steady
Being involved in every aspect of the film
Controversy over the film
Trick in developing the film
Unexpected positive reviews and an Emmy nomination
Not a "camp story" but a human story
Racism doesn't end

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