Recommendation: “Citizen 13660” by Miné Okubo

The American internment of Japanese Americans during WWII is one of the many shameful things in my country‘s past that I didn’t really learn about growing up. Only when I moved near a park in Seattle that was on land taken from interned people did I begin to grasp the horror of it.

Highly recommended

Miné Okubo was interred herself and details the account in Citizen 13660. The title comes from the number assigned to her by the government as she went through the whole injustice. Citizen 13660 is autobiographical and told in a combination of words and images that are brief and poignant. It’s a book I revisit occasionally when thinking about the sociopolitical forces that have gotten is where we are.

The edition I have includes an introduction by Christine Hong which helps explain the portions of Okubo’s journey in the creation of the work. The book is inextricably connected to her release from internment.

The author is present in most of not all images – reminding you that this is autobiographical

I should also mention Okubo’s art. I find it brilliant and engrossing. There are very specific details in some images – someone’s expression or just the way some space is drawn. I can’t help but consider how emblematic certain things would become.

I’m not really qualified to relate the gravity of the experience of Japanese Americans imprisoned during the war. Miné Okubo’s Citizen 13660 is the primary source I suggest starting with.