Name of Book: Journey Home
Author: Yoshiko Uchida
Type of book: 1940s, WWII, Internment camp, getting on with life, survivors, for young adults
Year it was published: 1978
World War II is raging. Yuki and her Japanese-American family are forced from their home in California and imprisoned in a US concentration camp called Topaz.
After months of unbearable life in Topaz, Yuki and her family are finally released. They are free, but are left with nothing.
With nowhere to go, and no money to get there, the road to rebuilding their lives seems endless. But in the end, it is their unyielding faith and courage that guide them home, reunited and hopeful.
Journey Home is an extraordinary story of one’s family struggle to survive one of the most tragic episodes in US history.
The story is told through Yuki’s eyes. (Something interesting: Yuki means snow in Japanese.) The characters that do surround Yuki do go through some changes, in particular Mr. Oka and her brother, although I felt that her brother’s story was a little too fast for my liking. Yuki was simply an observer in my opinion. I felt that she had little affect on the change in the grand scheme of things. The characters will be likable and the message is very profound.
Don’t expect for the world to stay the same.
The story seemed realistic and well crafted; the family didn’t become wealthy right away, but learned to work with others to try to succeed after their experiences in the internment camp. It’s written in third person narrative primarily from Yuki’s point of view, although once it did switch over to Ken’s and Mr. Oka’s point of view. Although the author tried to make this a semi light-hearted children’s book, I never saw it that way, and the pain and anguish she experienced still last through words and pages.
October 24, 1921 in Alameda, Cal., The United States
June 21, 1992
Literature & Fiction, Short Stories, Children’s Books
About this author
Yoshiko, born on November 24, 1921, was the second daughter of Japanese immigrant parents Takashi and Iku. Her father worked as a businessman for Mitsui and Company in San Francisco, and Iku wrote poetry, passing along her love of literature to her girls. Though the Great Depression raged, the Uchida family enjoyed comforts because of Takashi’s well-paying job and their own frugality. Yoshiko loved to write, and her stories played out on pieces of brown wrapping paper. She also kept a journal to record her thoughts and events.
Enveloped in love and tradition at home, Yoshiko weathered the prejudice she sometimes faced. Many white students at University High School in Oakland didn’t invite her to their parties and wouldn’t socialize with her, deeming her a foreigner. Even while attending the University of California at Berkley, Yoshiko often faced the same dilemma of being ostracized. She found friendships with other Japanese American students and was preparing to graduate when Pearl Harbor was bombed, changing her life.
The United States government rounded up 120,000 people of Japanese descent and put them into camps. The Uchida family first resided in a horse stall at a racetrack in California, surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards. Though difficult to endure, the next move was worse. Almost 8,000 Japanese were sent to a relocation concentration camp called Topaz in the Utah desert. The detainees suffered from violent dust storms, scorpions, snakes, and exceedingly poor living conditions. Yoshiko taught second grade children there until she received a fellowship from Smith College to earn a master’s degree in education.
Yoshiko and her sister both left the camp in May of 1943, with their parents gaining release later that year. Teaching for several years in a Quaker school outside of Philadelphia, Yoshiko decided to quit teaching and find work that allowed more time for writing. She moved to New York City and began as a secretary, penning stories in the evenings. Asked to contribute to a book about Japanese folk tales, Yoshiko discovered that though the book didn’t come to be, with time she could create a full collection of folk tales. Writing a few pieces for adults, Yoshiko realized she was better suited for children’s books.
A Ford Foundation fellowship sent her to Japan to research the culture and their stories. Spending two years, Yoshiko found her time to be healing as she learned about her own ancestry. The pain of the concentration camps lessened, and she began writing about the experiences in fictional books such as Journey to Topaz and Journey Home. Her career as an author soared as people regarded her as a pioneer in Japanese American children’s literature. The author of almost forty works, including Japanese folk tales and stories of Japanese American children making their way in the world, Yoshiko traveled extensively, lectured, and wrote. After suffering from a stroke, Yoshiko passed away on June 25, 1992, in Berkeley, California.
It’s only now that I learned this is a sequel to a book called Journey to Topaz, which I hadn’t read. I’ll be honest in saying that I’ve gotten this book awhile ago but I never really read it for one reason or another. Even though it seems like a children’s book, it’s not. The lessons there are designed more for adults or young adults rather than children. I’m way past the the child stage, but I found it a difficult read. It’s well written and is very mature with the characters trying to come to grips with the world they live in, or trying to heal their pain and hurt in one way or another. The ending will be satisfying. What is ironic is that soon I’ll be reading Bridge of Scarlet Leaves which will be dealing with the same topic that Journey Home dealt with, so I can’t help but wonder if there will be any similarities between the two.