Book Club Discussion Questions

  1. Imagine you could only pack a seed bag of belongings and you weren’t sure how long you would be gone for, nor where you were even going. What would you choose to pack and why? Would you choose more practical things you could use or mostly memorabilia to remember your life/heritage? What kinds of things could you pack to remind you of your heritage?
  2. Allu read many of the newspapers regarding the war and saw the political cartoons depicting her race in a horrible way. How does the media contribute to opinion and emotions such as fear? Do you feel that’s changed from 1940s to now? How so? How does Fear affect national security or perception of national security?
  3. If you were Lucille, how would you handle the pressure of your parents and adult peers if they were prohibiting you to be friends with someone simply because of their ethnicity? Is it justified that Lucille cast Allu out from her friends?
  4. When President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, it sent thousands of Japanese-Americans living on the west coast, into internment camps based on their heritage. Imagine how you would feel to learn you were losing your home and all of your belongings and being sent to a camp of an unknown location? Or you were threatened to be sent back to the country of your ancestor’s origin, even though you were born here and had never been there. What emotions/thoughts would be running through your head?

• Economic factors played into where the camps were located. Most of the internees on the mainland were farmers or small business owners who were viewed by many as competition for jobs; however, in Hawaii, farmers were irreplaceable and there was only one camp with not as many internees.

  1. If you wanted to enlist in the Army and you were rejected based on your heritage, would it be difficult for you to remain patriotic to the country who rejected you or would you want to prove your loyalty?
  2. Do you believe the questions the FBI asked Allu’s father were justified questions or leading him into the answers they wanted to hear? How so?
  3. After Pearl Harbor was bombed, Hawaii fell under Martial Law. Martial Law means the military control of civilian areas. How would this change things? How does this affect your rights?
  4. How did the camps take away basic rights of the internees? How would it affect your morale? What character traits would you need to rely on to maintain your pride and get through it?
  5. Imagine you are in the Hawaiian Territorial Guard and you are told to board a ship, which landed in California, and then secretly get on trains to an unknown destination. What would you be feeling? Imagine waking up in Wisconsin!
  6. The 100th Battalion went on to become the most decorated unit in World War II against the Nazis, earning the name, “The Purple Heart Battalion.” What factors do you feel contributed to their success on the battlefield?
  7. How did the loyalty questionnaire in the camps add “fuel to the fire?” How did it catch the internees in a predicament?
  8. The 100th & 44nd soldiers were caught b/w cultures; they were proving their loyalty to a country & government who had imprisoned their families on the basis of their ancestry;

• The Japanese-American soldiers witnessed racism in the South as well and were caught in the middle: soldiers were allowed to ride up front in buses, but non-Caucasians were expected to ride in back. For many of the 100th Battalion who had not been off the island, it was their first account of mainland racism as opposed to the blending & acceptance of cultures in Hawaii.

  1. What are some of the differences in culture between the soldiers of the 100th Battalion who grew up in Hawaii & the soldiers of the 442nd who grew up on the Mainland?
  2. How do you see generational differences between Issei (1st generation Japanese immigrants) and Nisei (2nd generation Japanese Americans) in their beliefs?
  3. Do you feel empathy toward Richmond after hearing how he grew up? How has his character changed throughout the story? How about Robbie’s and Allu’s?
  4. What are some ways the camp internees made camp more tolerable? How did they build community?
  5. After the war ended, many interned families lost everything and were uprooted, not having a home to go to. How would you begin to start a new life? What challenges do you think they faced after the war?
  6. How is this story still prevalent today?
  7. Describe the irony of Camp Manzanar once being a Native American land. Describe the irony of the Japanese-American battalions fighting the Nazis and freeing concentration camps.
  8. What are the underlying themes of the book? Do you see hope? Love? Forgiveness? Maintaining pride in one’s heritage?
  9. The birds in the story represent hope. How do you see birds as hope in the storyline?
  10. The interned families were awarded a $20,000 apology from President Reagan in the 1980s, approximately 40 years later. How do you feel about this?
  11. What are some ways we can honor veterans today and never forget our past?