Concentration Camps on the Home Front
Japanese Americans in the House of Jim Crow
While the basic facts of Japanese-American incarceration are well known, John Howard’s extensive research gives voice to those whose stories have been forgotten or ignored. He highlights the roles of women, first-generation immigrants, and those who forcefully resisted their incarceration by speaking out against dangerous working conditions and white racism. In addition to this overlooked history of dissent, Howard also exposes the government’s aggressive campaign to Americanize the inmates and even convert them to Christianity. After the war ended, this movement culminated in the dispersal of the prisoners across the nation in a calculated effort to break up ethnic enclaves.
Howard’s re-creation of life in the camps is powerful, provocative, and disturbing. Concentration Camps on the Home Front rewrites a notorious chapter in American history—a shameful story that nonetheless speaks to the strength of human resilience in the face of even the most grievous injustices.
“This splendid study is a meticulous, piercing account of the two detention camps set up in Arkansas for Japanese Americans during World War II. John Howard has an unusual array of gifts. He’s a brilliant researcher, a stylist of clarity and wit and a writer with rare narrative skill. He is also astonishingly well informed on a wide array of subjects, and superbly contextualizes his given subject. Combining an activist’s conscience with a scholar’s precision, Howard has produced a moving, even searing work about American racism and imperialism.”
“The great strength of John Howard’s book is that he not only asks new questions about the familiar story of the camps, but also that he has done a great deal of original research in material that has been largely unexploited. This is not a standard kind of camp history but something else—more imaginative but deeply rooted in the sources created by administrators and inmates. This is an important book, often gripping, and sure to be controversial.”
“John Howard brings fresh perspectives to the literature of Japanese-American incarceration during World War II, introducing readers to the two camps in the segregated South and lending us his sharp eye for issues of race, sexuality, and empire. His insightful meditations on those themes, his focus on individual people, and his lively writing make this book as enlightening and exhilarating as its subject is painful and frightening. Scholars of the topic and those like me, who teach about it, will discover brand new angles; more general readers will encounter profound challenges to conventional ideas about America.”
“John Howard offers a powerful and even daring reinterpretation of the incarceration of people of Japanese ancestry during World War II. Howard, one of the best historians of gender and sexuality writing today, has done significant and imaginative research that transforms the familiar tale of patriotic Americans fallen victim to wartime excess into something much more complex.”