The Experiences Of Citizen 13660

Citizen 13660 combines picture and text to create a powerful autobiographical account. Mine Okubo express the experiences of the Japanese people who lived in the internment- the state of being confined as a prisoner, for political or military reasons (oxforddictionaries), during World War II. The United States responded to the Pearl Harbor attack on december 7th, 1941 by declaring war against Japan. Many Japanese Americans became targets of suspicion and distrust. Okubo’s family was relocated to an internment when her University of California classmate received the evacuation orders. Many people, of Japanese descent and regardless of citizenship had to leave home for a period unknown. Okubo and all Japanese were reduced to a number. 13660. The story told by Citizen 13660 revealed the humanizing aspect of internment.

Tanforan’s internment camp was once a racetrack, so it is still being built. They were required to undergo a physical examination, regardless of their privacy. They are forced to live in harsh conditions, such as a barrack that has been converted, with poor food or extreme weather. Okubo was living with other prisoners, who were dehumanized without their consent and subjected to investigations. Okubo describes the barracks as “. . Semi-darkness; the window at either end of the entrance was dirty and barely let any light through. (Okubo 35)”. The Japanese-Americans in the camp were forced into cramped sleeping quarters with overcrowded showers. They spent their time wandering aimlessly, sleeping or daydreaming of freedom. Okubo told us that some people came in to enjoy the sun, while others played dice in the privacy and wind protection of the grandstand booths (Okubo101). Okubo said, “People came to bask in the sun, protected by the wind, in the grandstand booths; others came for a private dice game (Okubo 101)”. The people of the internment make do with what they have and form a huge family in order to help one another in times when they are in need. Okubo shows both the positive and negative sides of internment in an honest and straightforward tone.

The book is a realistic first-person account of the internment experience that has touched many people’s hearts. The Japanese American are moved to Topaz to another camp with better living conditions. Okubo wrote about the everyday life of the Japanese-Americans and their realistic viewpoint. Okubo writes only about the facts, not the emotions or feelings of those Japanese-Americans. She explains the experience with “the smell of manure resurfaced as the temperature rose and horseflies returned (Okubo, 106)”. Okubo was perhaps afraid to call out the government’s decision to place them in this horrible living situation for fear that other Americans would hate and reject her when she returned to normal life. Okubo did not want to criticize government, but rather share his experience with others to show the truth about internment. Okubo has a more relaxed life in Topaz. Okubo stated, “That day of freedom was wonderful.” I felt like a little child. I wanted everything. (Okubo 110)”.

The book does not criticize or blame anyone for their dehumanizing experiences, but instead presents the truth in detail. Okubo did not only use sketches to depict part of an event but also used fades and shades to suggest that other people suffered the same pain. Okubo describes the life of the camp in a subtle, realistic way that affected readers deeply. Text and images give a subtle and small hint at the emotions Japanese Americans experienced during internment. Okubo depicts the experience using a neutral tone and without emotion, whereas sketches reveal underlying feelings. The graphic depicted the bitterness of a cruel life that is no better than an animal. Okubo’s text was devoid emotions, and she only gave a short description. However, Okubo included a positive perspective in order to make the story more palatable. The shrubs and trees are a metaphor for the sudden confinement of the Japanese Americans in the camps. They never expected this situation. They thought that they were law-abiding citizens who would never leave their homes. Okubo remarked, “That day of freedom was wonderful.” I felt like a little child. I wanted everything. (Okubo 110)”. The book was not filled with blood or deaths, but instead a sad tone that demonstrated Okubo’s great value for freedom. The drawing shows a different side to the story while the caption lacks emotion. Okubo wished to describe what took place in the camp. She didn’t wish to accuse the government of being nazi because that would have been detrimental to both sides.

The text showed the injustice in an honest way, whereas sketches showed the emotion in subtle ways. Images express emotion, whereas text interprets it in a context that is carefully chosen without making direct accusations. Combining the images and text helped readers understand the Japanese American experience. Okubo’s calm and collected style makes the reader contemplate the injustices committed against the Japanese American citizenry. She highlights emotions such bitterness in the book, as well as hopefulness and honesty. Okubo was allowed to depart with others, but it made her question whether she could abandon all the people left behind. She was both happy and sad at the same time, as the camp had been her “home” for so many years. Children were even born in that camp. Okubo concludes with the change of the past and what the future holds. Citizen 13660 was a story that showed inhumane treatment and the realism/underlying emotion of Japanese Americans. Okubo is more interested in the reality of what people experienced than the injustice perpetrated by the government.

The book was written to share the story of the internment and not to criticize the government. The pictures were used to show the subtle emotions of people while the text portrayed a realistic view. This combination allowed the reader to understand the emotions that Japanese Americans experienced. Okubo’s calm tone makes the reader consider the Japanese American internment in depth. She touched the hearts of people with her different emotions. Okubo was unsure if she could leave the people in this situation. She was troubled by the sight of young children as well as elderly people, who were wondering how they could survive outside. She ends with a hint of uncertainty and hope for the future.


  • jessicawilson

    Jessica Wilson is a 33-year-old essay writer and blogger from the UK. She has been writing since she was a teenager and has always been interested in writing about personal experiences and thoughts. Jessica has written for a number of online magazines and websites and has also published a number of essays and short stories. Jessica currently works as a freelance writer.