She is too young to understand a lot of what goes on in the camp, but it makes an impression on her anyway. She spends three years of her life there, and changes from a young child into a young woman. As the camp became more livable, her life settled into a pattern, and she even attends school again. Life becomes more bearable as the camp becomes more bearable. She remains cut off and distant from her father, something that will continue until he dies. The camp put a wedge between Jeanne and her father, and while it tore the family apart, it killed the relationship that could have developed between father and daughter.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Jeanne's camp experience is her (and the other residents) attempt to be totally and utterly American in everything they do. They form bands that play American music, watch American films, and fill their days with American activities such as crafts, singing, Boy Scouts, and even baton twirling. In many ways, her life in the camp is like any typical American youngster. She takes dancing and baton-twirling lessons, she goes on hikes with friends, and she grows more independent of her family. Families sent off their sons to war, and worried they would not return. In many ways, their lives were just the same as any other American family, and this seems surprising considering their circumstances. It makes sense when the atmosphere outside the camp becomes apparent.
Many of the camp residents are afraid to return to their "normal" lives, because they fear the reaction of the whites. Jeanne writes, "After three years in our desert ghetto, at least we knew where we stood with our neighbors, could live more or less at ease with them" (Wakatsuki Houston, pg. 128). The family has to start over from scratch, everything they had disappeared while they were in the camp, even their $25,000 fishing boat. And yet, Jeanne is desperate to fit into American life when she returns from Manzanar. She turns her back on everything Japanese, and years to fit in school and in society. She writes, "From that day forward I lived with this double impulse: the urge to disappear and the desperate desire to be acceptable" (Wakatsuki Houston, pg. 159). She learns what prejudice is like, and she is desperate to avoid it and fit in. If anything, her experience in the camp made her more of an American, but her experience when she comes home shows her the distance between her and the whites.
In conclusion, the Wakatsuki's experience in Manzanar changed the family forever. A once close-knit group of fishermen turned into a loosely knit broken family. It broke Jeanne's father, and gave her memories that it would take her a lifetime to remember and acknowledge. Her father was never the same man after the war ended and the family returned to Los Angeles. It was as if a different family returned home after the war. Jeanne becomes even more distanced from her family as she searches for herself as a teenager. She never respects or understands her father again, and the family never again gains the close relationship they had before the war. The camp tore them apart, put distance between all of them, and changed all of their lives forever.
Sources Used in Document:
Houston, Jeanne Wakatsuki and Houston, James D. Farewell to Manzanar. New York: Bantam Books, 1995.