In When Can We Go Back to America?, Susan Kamei relates the whole range of Japanese American experiences during World War II—from the camps to the courtrooms, from the soldiers of the segregated 442nd Regimental Combat Team to the draft resisters—restoring a much-needed sense of agency to people who triumphed over prejudice during a period of nationwide fear. At a time when Asian Americans face new threats in their own homeland, When Can We Go Back to America? is a bracing reminder of the challenges facing minorities—and their hard-earned successes.
– Robert Asahina, author of Just Americans: How Japanese Americans Won a War at Home and Abroad
When Can We Go Back to America? is spell-binding tour de force that illuminates the heart-wrenching reality of lives forever changed by a national atrocity of inhumane proportions. In drawing upon first-hand accounts of those incarcerated, Kamei has created a moving record that shows the consequences of unchecked political power. For those examining the case for reparations for Black American descendants of slavery in the United States, some events are frighteningly familiar—denying a disfavored group the right to own property or vote, rounding up innocent unsuspecting people at gunpoint and rendering them homeless, and confiscating and appropriating their property. The hitherto untold stories of confusion, disbelief, frustration, anger, protest, and resolve provide a legacy of inspiration for current and future generations. They also serve as a warning of what can happen when racism and hysteria drive our nation’s thinking instead of justice.
– A. Kirsten Mullen and William A. Darity Jr., authors of From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-first Century
The incarceration of 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry is often characterized as a tragic “mistake” arising from wartime hysteria. Susan Kamei’s absorbing page-turner reveals that what happened was no mistake—the reasons asserted to justify forcing these Americans at gunpoint into concentration camps were entirely made up—and the government knew it at the time. She deftly synthesizes crisp historical narrative with powerful first-person accounts to illustrate the perils to democracy when “alternative facts” hold sway over the real ones. Despite being unjustly targeted, the voices of incarcerated Japanese Americans show their unwavering faith in America, and their stories provide important lessons for our country’s present and its future.
– Donald K. Tamaki, 2020 American Bar Association Spirit of Excellence Award winner
A tour de force account of the Japanese American incarceration experience during WWII from the perspective of those who lived through forced removal, indefinite confinement, unjust deportation, and in some cases, family separation. With scholarly precision and a compelling narrative, When Can We Go Back to America? is a must read for anyone interested in America’s legacy of racial exclusion and the nation's struggle to perfect the union.
– Duncan Ryuken Williams, author of American Sutra: A Story of Faith and Freedom in the Second World War
When Can We Go Back to America? provides readers with an immersive look at the experience of Japanese incarceration during World War II. Teeming with first-hand accounts of both the experience in the camps and the fight over what incarceration did and should mean to the American nation as a whole, Susan Kamei's book is an invaluable resource for any related history course. In addition, thanks to the richness of the material captured in a single volume, the text is brimming with opportunities to teach critical thinking skills suitable for any History or English course.
– Jason LaBau, Waterford School, Sandy, Utah
The voices of the incarcerated Japanese Americans in When Can We Go Back to America? pack a gut-wrenching punch. Their raw emotions force the reader to step back and consider what it is like to be imprisoned by the US government for an indeterminate amount of time without regard to one’s innocence. The power of their stories compel us to face up to our country’s past, a necessary step towards having a more just society today and in the future.
– Ronald K. Ikejiri, attorney and former Washington, DC representative of the Japanese American Citizens League
"Riveting and indispensable...This landmark historical account shines a light on a part of American history that must be remembered."
– KIRKUS REVIEWS, STARRED REVIEW
"A truly remarkable, comprehensive resource with an emphasis on allyship, indispensable for researchers and any resistor of injustice."
– PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, STARRED REVIEW
"Filled with over a 100 alphabetically organized, detailed biographies of those who shared their experiences, Kamei’s narrative nonfiction work dives deeply into what it means to be American, then and always.”
– School Library Journal, starred review
“Kamei has created a resonating—and essential—read.”
– Booklist, starred review