I Call to Remembrance: Toyo Suyemoto's Years of Internment

I Call to Remembrance: Toyo Suyemoto's Years of Internment

I Call to Remembrance: Toyo Suyemoto's Years of Internment

I Call to Remembrance: Toyo Suyemoto's Years of Internment


Japanese American poet Toyo Suyemoto experienced internment during the Second World War. This memoir recalls the struggles of adjustment during that time and afterwards, and the impact it had on the notions of selfhood and citizenship shared by Suyemoto and his fellow Japanese Americans.


Preparing the manuscript of Toyo Suyemoto’s camp memoir for publication has been a labor not just of love but of joy and dismay as well: joy that Toyo’s unique poetic and prosaic responses to her World War II internment will now be accessible to readers; dismay at the facts of the incarceration. I discovered that with each new account I read of the unprecedented removal and incarceration of thousands of people and the more times I encountered the same detailed litany of their humiliation and suffering, my dismay intensified; familiarity did not provide numbing.

My editing task consisted primarily of merging and organizing the several versions Toyo had left of her memoir. One major editorial decision that I considered was the addition of a chapter on the Topaz Public Library, which was important to Toyo both in camp and afterward. Toyo had elsewhere written an account of the formation and use of the camp library, but it did not appear with the other memoir chapters in the loose-leaf notebook of work she had entrusted to me. Only later did I discover among her papers in the Special Collection at Ohio State a prospectus of chapters indicating she herself had planned a library chapter after all.

I made a few changes in the order of the chapters although I was careful to maintain the chronological flow of the narrative. I also eliminated the numerous repetitions that had crept into chapters written over a number of years, tightened some sentences and paragraphs, reined in the generous use of hyphens and commas, and occasionally substituted one word for another, choosing words that Toyo herself used. For example, in certain places I changed the word “center” to “camp” to make clear that the reference was to Topaz, not to an entity within the camp. Otherwise and in all, the memoir is Toyo’s.

The terms Nisei and Issei, used throughout the memoir, quickly become recognizable, and they are italicized only on the first use. Other Japanese terms, used infrequently though repeated in some cases, are italicized . . .

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