One Japanese American family’s memories of living behind barbed wire during World War II are captured in this bilingual multimedia website. The acclaimed artist Roger Shimomura, who was held at Minidoka, Idaho, as a three year old, found inspiration in his grandmother’s journals for the series An American Diary. A virtual exhibition, In the Shadow of My Country displays these sharply ironic paintings tempered by the grandmother’s patient, hopeful words. Complementing the central images is the poignant series Memories of Childhood (depicting Shimomura’s earliest memories of Minidoka), photos of daily life in the detention camps, an interview with the artist, and quotations of Japanese Americans incarcerated as children. This array of images and voices recalls the harsh conditions, improvised diversions, and years lost in America’s prison camps for innocent civilians.
Teacher Resource Guide
To accompany In the Shadow of My Country: A Japanese American Artist Remembers, Densho offers a curriculum suitable for upper elementary and secondary school students (grades 5-12).
The guide contains separate historical summaries for teachers and students, a timeline, a chapter from Nisei Daughter by Monica Sone, notes on terminology, additional resources, and six sample lessons. The multidisciplinary lessons ask students to analyze the artist’s themes and means of communication, think critically about their sources of information, and weigh claims of national security against the civil liberties of diverse groups. A Japanese language version of the teacher resource guide is also available.
Connections to State and National Standards
Many states require that the Japanese American mass removal and incarceration be taught at the secondary level. For example, the History-Social Science Framework for California Public Schools includes the following at the 11th grade level:
The relocation and internment of 110,000 Japanese Americans during the war on grounds of national security was a governmental decision that should be analyzed as a violation of their human rights. (History—Social Science Framework for California Public Schools, Grades Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve. Sacramento: California Department of Education, 1997, page 97.)
The National Standards for United States History also recommends that students understand the effects of World War II in the U.S. Specifically, students should be able to:
Evaluate the internment of Japanese Americans during the war and assess the implication for civil liberties. (National Center for History in the Schools. National Standards for U.S. History. Los Angeles: National Center for History in the Schools, UCLA, 1996, page 120.)
This curriculum will satisfy many Washington State standards for history, civics, and, arts. The Japanese American incarceration can be taught in grade 8 as part of Washington State history and U.S. history, when students examine the effect of immigration on American culture and history. See the Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs) at the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction website.
Examples of EALRs that would be met by the lessons are:
Social Studies: Civics
4.1 Understand individual rights and their accompanying responsibilities
Social Studies: History
2.2.2 Distinguish fact from judgment and opinion; recognize stereotype; compare and contrast historical information
4.4 Understands that the arts shape and reflect culture and history; identifies specific attributes of artworks that reflect culture.