Farewell to Manzanar: Novel Summary:chp 19-22
The Wakasukis decide to leave Camp Manzanar of their own volition. Ko comes home one day with a blue Nash sedan. In order to relocate the entire family of nine, including their possessions and clothes, it takes three trips and a total of four days.
Ko drinks and even returns drunk on one occasion. Housing is hard to come by, especially for the 60,000 Japanese-Americans who are returning to their former communities on the West Coast.
The American Friends Services helps the family to move into Cabrillo Homes, a housing project in Long Beach. The family has three bedrooms, an inside kitchen and a working stove. The family discovers that the warehouse where they stored their appliances, furniture and other materials has been robbed.
For Papa he is back to the starting point when he first immigrated in 1904. He begins exploring the idea of creating a housing cooperative. He even has blue prints that he takes to civic offices. In the meanwhile, Mama goes to work in a fish canary. She goes to work early, is neatly dressed and made-up. She does her job with pride.
Jeanne begins school for the first time in postwar America. She is greeted on the first day by a classmate who is surprised that Jeanne can actually speak English. Jeanne is stunned and questions why someone would ask such a question.
Jeanne begins to understand that some people perceive her as an outsider, a foreigner, and as a burden on them. Outside of school, she is further alienated from her peers and not allowed to attend or spend the night over her friend’s homes. Jeanne wants to belong and even hopes that she can join the Girl Scouts, but she is told no.
She meets a young lady in Cabrillo Homes named Radine whose family has relocated from Texas. Radine aggressively comes to Jeanne’s defense one day while some other girls are making fun of Jeanne. Jeanne is grateful for her friendship and she teaches Radine how to twirl the baton. A Boy Scout drum and bugle corps located in the project needs some majorettes to perform in the local parade and at competitions with them. Radine and Jeanne both try out. Jeanne is made the lead majorette and beside her stands Radine and another girl named Gloria.
They perform and Jeanne feels that this is a way for her to overcome other societal barriers, especially racial ones. Jeanne also becomes accustomed to the attention that she is receiving from Caucasian men. She uses her femininity to overcome racial barriers.
Papa is not accepting of this new development in Jeanne’s life. He prefers that she focuses more on her Japanese heritage. Riku is still working outside of the home while Ko is not which causes Jeanne to lose some respect for her father. Papa’s desire to create a co-op fails.
Woody returns and brings with him a sword that has been in the family for over 300 years. This filled Papa with pride. Woody has returned more mature and accepting of his Japanese heritage. Conversely, Papa is only a fragment of his old self. He becomes more dependent upon his son and he begins drinking heavily.
Jeanne receives an award from the PTA. Mama and Papa decides to attend. It is the first time that they have socialized with whites since being released from Manzanar. Both dress very elegantly and attempt to fit in with the other parents. By the end of the ceremony, Papa is received as a foreigner to the others. Jeanne even believes that he has become a foreigner to everyone except her mother.
Jeanne and her family discover that the lives that they enjoyed pre-war no longer exist. Even the possessions that they stored for safe keeping are no longer available to them. In essence, they have to start over, especially since first generation Japanese-American men can no longer obtain fishing licenses. Without the means to support his family, Papa does not work and Momma finds a job in a tannery where she works long hours to support the family.
Jeanne’s mother defies the traditional roles that are often attached to Japanese women both within and outside of Japanese culture. The image of the geisha is introduced early in the text and Mama draws a clear line between the Japanese women from the past and contemporary Japanese women. Although Papa has played a central role in the family, Mama becomes the financial backbone of the family. Often perceived as a male dominated culture, the Japanese women in this text are the cornerstones of their families. They maintain positivity and impart upon their children the importance of perseverance even in the midst of unfairness and inequality.
Young Jeanne is introduced to postwar discrimination first hand as she discovers that some of her peers question her American identity, even though the war is over. Her initial experience occurs during the first day of school in the 6th grade. In addition to the angst that often surrounds the pre-teen years, Jeanne must now contend with understanding her own racial identity in light of people’s assumptions about her and her culture. She is not allowed to join organizations or spend time outside of school with her peers, mainly because of the prejudicial attitudes of adults. They treat Jeanne as if she is inferior to her Caucasian female peers.
She eventually finds some solace in baton twirling, a hobby that she picked up during the internment. She is also befriended by a young lady named Radine. Jeanne questions why someone else has to protect her and why a Caucasian girl has to defend her in order for Jeanne to be accepted by others. Although the concept of a racial hierarchy is still relatively foreign to Jeanne, she is beginning to see and question the prejudice of others.
At home, things have not changed much with Papa. He is becoming increasingly more dependent upon Mama. Woody’s return from the war illuminates this even further as he relies upon his son even more. Because he is not working, Jeanne starts to see her father in a different light. As he continues to drift away from the family, he does find a connection with Woody that they did not have before Woody was drafted and left for the war. Father and son have changed roles. Woody is much stronger, confident and secure whereas Papa struggles with figuring out who he is and if/where be belongs in the context of their new lives.
Jeanne starts attending high school at Long Beach Polytechnic High School. She and Radine enter as friends, but things begin to change. Radine becomes very popular with the boys. The same boys who would flirt with Jeanne in private, ask Radine out in public.
Jeanne becomes the school’s first Asian-American majorette after much contemplation on the part of the band teacher. Jeanne is determined to try twice as hard to prove herself to her teacher, herself and her peers.
Jeanne also enters into a period of comparing herself to Radine. Jeanne is afraid of not being approached by boys or being rejected by them so she makes herself so busy that they won’t ask her out. Jeanne doesn’t want to change her face or who she is; she just wants the type of acceptance that Radine receives from their male peers.
Around this time she begins to have a dream about a young white girl moving through a room full of her peers and being admired by men and women, including Jeanne. Jeanne, in the dream, watches through the window; she is not envious or hateful, she simply feels empty and wants to cry out. It is something that she can never fulfill or experience.
As she watches Radine’s escalating success and popularity, she begins to loose interest in school. Papa decides to try his hand at farming and moves the family out of Cabrillo Homes. This prevents her from dropping out of school. Shortly thereafter Papa becomes so sick from drinking that he is forced to sober up. He begins leasing land from a strawberry grower.
As a senior in high school, Jeanne’s homeroom chooses her as a candidate for carnival queen. She is one of fifteen girls selected. While standing outside of class one day, a classmate, Leonard, tells her about a conversation that he overhears in the teacher’s lounge where some teachers say that they will stuff the boxes against Jeanne in fear of what some parents might say about having an Asian-American carnival queen. They want Louis Carson to win.
Jeanne tells him to just let her win and Leonard convinces her that she can’t do that. He tells her that he can stop them. He goes into the office and complains about the unfair treatment. He threatens to tell the entire student body.
Her classmates, upon hearing the news of her victory, are overjoyed. Jeanne pretends to be equally as excited. Jeanne announces the news to her parents. Her father is upset and suggests that she must have worn something inappropriate, which is why the Caucasian boys like her. Riku convinces Ko that this is important to Jeanne and that he should support her. They discuss it and Papa says that Jeanne should take odori lessons instead. Jeanne reminds him that she only lasted ten sessions.
Papa never mentions the queenship again and Momma is proud of Jeanne’s accomplishment. At the coronation, Jeanne is presented with her four attendants, including Louis Carson, a trustee’s daughter. Jeanne wears a very conservative dress that the other girls admire.
As the other girls are introduced, Jeanne begins to question herself about whether or not her father is right. She continues with the processional and is anxious for the carnival to end so that she can be by herself.
Radine and Jeanne’s friendship seems solid until they enter Long Beach Polytechnic High School. Radine begins to serve as a foil to Jeanne: she is considered attractive, popular and well liked. In other words, she is an all-American girl by society’s standards.
Jeanne finds herself secretly competing with Radine who is always winning the favorable attention of their peers. Years later, Jeanne still literally dreams about a girl who, much like Radine, is the center of attention. The image of this girl and the acceptance that she represents is deeply etched into Jeanne’s psyche.
Jeanne begins to use her femininity as a way to gain attention and popularity amongst her peers. To her father’s chagrin, she dresses in short skirts to highlight her legs; he associates this with her assimilating in order to please Caucasian males. Papa does not believe that this is appropriate behavior for a young Japanese girl, especially not for his daughter. Jeanne sees her femininity as a way to equal the playing field and to provide her with opportunities that her racial identity has taken away from her.
Jeanne starts to experience other personal triumphs. She continues twirling the baton and becomes her high school’s lead majorette in spite of concerns raised by some adults about her Asian ancestry.
Compounding her high school experience is an event that helps Jeanne to understand the ongoing role that adults play in her disenfranchisement. When one of her classmates overhears teachers stating that they are going to stuff the ballot box to ensure that one of her other classmates wins, Jeanne has to decide if she is going to fight for what is rightfully hers.
Whereas she is indifferent and unwilling to draw out this unfairness, her classmate insists that it is a battle worth fighting and agrees to handle it for her. Threatening to reveal the conversation to his peers, he uses this as leverage against the teachers to ensure that the voting is fair. For Leonard, the issue is more about doing what is ethical and right than it is exclusively about Jeanne being carnival queen.
After Jeanne is voted the carnival queen, rather than being elated, she has mixed feelings about this monumental feat. She is, paradoxically, understanding of the larger significance of her win, but uncertain about any real value that it carriers for her. Ironically being carnival queen reflects that which Jeanne has been searching for the entire book, acceptance.
In this concluding chapter, Jeanne shifts from memories of Manzanar to visiting Manzanar as an adult. Since the time that has elapsed between high school and adulthood, she is the first of her siblings to graduate from college. She marries a Caucasian man, named John.
Jeanne and her siblings never really talk about Manzanar, except in a joking fashion. She wants to believe that it did not exist anymore. In April of 1972, she and her husband take their three kids to Manzanar.
She recalls that in 1942, Manzanar was the biggest city between Reno and Los Angeles. Now, it is just ground. The towers, mess hall, and all of the other buildings no longer exist. The only things that do remain standing are two gatehouses. There are a dozen graves enclosed by a barbed-wire fence and a sign in Japanese script, with the words “A Memorial to the Dead” (171).
Removed from the roads and the noise of the city, Jeanne believes that amongst the quiet and the ruins, they are in the presence of the deceased who died while still in Manzanar. She allows her children to run free as she continues to walk and comes across a rock garden that has survived.
Thick vegetation emerges as they move towards the center of the area which quickly turns into tumbleweed. She begins to imagine the buildings still standing and comes across an inscription that reads “Built By Wada And Crew, June 10, 1942 A.D.” Seeing this makes Jeanne pause as she thinks about the men who built it. She then closes her eyes and imagines that she is ten years old again listening to the Glee Club songs, seeing her father and the older men playing games and socializing.
She then searches for what is left of Block 28. Her children continue to play and her husband eventually walks them back to the car while Jeanne stays and ponders what is left of her former home. She watches her young daughter, eleven years old, and thinks about her life at her age. She thinks about Papa and how his life ended in the camp even though he lived for twelve more years.
Now amidst the sight of so many of her childhood memories, she does not want to let it go or forget the years spent there. Instead, she resigns herself to accept it and ultimately to say goodbye, or “Farewell” (176). Described as a pilgrimage, she looks around once more for some reminder of her youth and she finds a small steppingstone. It reminds her of a morning shortly before they left the camp.
It is the image of a rare occasion when her father is excited and lively as he goes off to buy a car. He purchases the car and then gives all of the women a ride. He takes the women on a wild ride with his driving erratically and laughing along the way.
Jeanne recalls that her father is alive and full of energy. It is this final image that serves as the conclusion of Farewell to Manzoni.
The final chapter of the book is spoken by Jeanne, the adult. Since her eldest daughter is close in age to the age that Jeanne was when they were in the camp, the trip is particularly poignant and symbolic. Returning to Manzanar serves as an opportunity for Jeanne to reflect, remember and heal. She recognizes that so much of who she is and how she sees the world was formed during the three years that she lived in Manzanar. Watching her daughter run free is a strong contrast to the sense of isolation she felt while there.
While making peace with the past, this chapter also celebrates the pride and community that arose in spite of such conditions. As she recollects her experiences there, she discovers the tremendous impact that the internment has had on all of her family, but most specifically, her father. Jeanne finally understands the untold stories and unexpressed feelings of her father.
As she draws closure to her narrative, the long term effects of the internment start to unfold. Repressed or intentionally ignored, she finally embraces the positive memories that she attaches to Manzanar. The memories of love, strength and family begin to shroud over the ones of hate, weaknesses and separation.
A final happy and positive story about her father symbolizes this. She remembers him as gleeful, playful, empowered and optimistic. It is a strong contrast to the alcoholic, cantankerous and argumentative father that she associates with Manzanar.
Embracing this vision of her father empowers Jeanne. A loving and vivacious image of her father is one that she sees as a part of her “inheritance” from Manzanar (183).