Book Review from Free Teen Book Swap
Title: Days of Infamy: How a Century of Bigotry Led to Japanese American Internment
Author: Lawrence Goldstone
Book review written by: Richard C.
School: Galileo High School
Grade: 12th Grade
In his nonfiction book, Days of Infamy, Goldstone, with an expertise in the American Constitution, shines light on the countless abuses and bigotry Asian Americans and Asian immigrants faced throughout American history. The lost stories of the Asian descent are excellently displayed through old documents and visuals. Goldstone presents the reader with the history of Asian immigrants integrating with American society while simultaneously dealing with oppression by White supremacists. As an Asian American myself, Goldstone opened my eyes to the racist American history that was vaguely covered in history class. Through historical events, he analyzes the flaws in the American justice system and the language the laws were written to discriminate against Asians.
Throughout the book, he emphasizes how the false narrative of the Japanese trying to invade the United States fueled the hate and fear toward Asians. With the growth of Asian immigrants migrating to the United States, White supremacists campaigned for restrictions on immigration, citizenship, and land ownership. Starting with the cases which defined the prerequisite of naturalization and becoming a citizen, he thoroughly explains the ambiguous interpretation of the term "white", a foundation to dispel Asian immigrants away. He lays out the events such as the Gold Rush and the immigration to the U.S. in chronological order to illustrate the fuel that ultimately led to the internment of the Japanese Americans. Goldstone dives deep into the prominent Asians such as Min Yasui and Ah Yup who challenged the exclusion of citizenship and land ownership, a step towards progression in the country. Such significant figures were epitome of persistence by bringing the cases all the way to the Supreme Court. Although the anti-Asian sentiment was blatantly present within the country and Supreme Court, Asians did not accept defeat. Asians subjected to discrimination and racism hired legal scholars to contest the laws that heavily opposed the assimilation of Japanese and Chinese Americans.
Not only did Goldstone cover the White supremacists' hate towards those of Asian descent, but also the culture and influence Asians brought to the United States. Japanese art and design were flourishing in the country, with Americans being fascinated with the artifacts from Japan's past. Popularity of Japanese fashions, arts, and philosophy began to bloom and created an economic relation between the two countries. Despite all the bigotry and hate, Goldstone alludes to the positive impact Japanese Americans had on the United Sates's economy, ranging from agriculture labor to boosting the market. With the success of Japanese immigrants, Goldstone explores the fake news of Asians trying to "overpower the Whites" and to "take over" the United States. As a result, politicians like James D. Phelan pushed for discriminatory laws and exclusion of Asian immigrants. He explains how the language of the laws were softened to not only offend the Japanese, but also to indirectly affect their immigration status. The tension is at an all-time high, and Goldstone weaves together the existing hate towards the Asian descent with the mass relocation of the Japanese into concentration camps after the attack at Pearl Harbor. Even though the two events had no correlation, the United States government was quick to persecute the innocents solely based on their birthplace.
The writing is a bit heavy for those in middle school but succinctly written with an in-depth analysis on the racism against Asian Americans. A reader might feel disconnected with the content of the book if history is not one of their favorite subjects. Days of Infamy traces back to the mid-1800s, and Goldstone repaints the historical events that led to the Japanese internment. It was fascinating to revisit the past of the United States, and everyone can benefit from this reading. Learning about these historical events is a way to avoid repeating the past and to question the current state of the society.
Photo: Japanese Americans at Manzanar and Tule LakeSummary: People of all ages wait in a line in front of a building at midday. Title transcribed from Ansel Adams' caption on verso of print.
Original neg. no.: LC-A35-6-M-22.
Gift: Ansel Adams; 1965-1968.
Forms part of: Manzanar War Relocation Center photographs.