Your browser lacks required capabilities. Please upgrade it or switch to another to continue.
<h1>[[A PLACE WHERE SUNFLOWERS GROW]]</h1>
<div class="note">A picture book about Japanese internment camps</div>
Written by Amy Lee-Tai and illustrated by Felicia HoshinoIn <span class="credit">GHOSTS, GREMLINS, AND "THE WAR ON TERROR" IN CHILDREN'S BLITZ FICTION</span>, Kristine Miller writes that during WWII, "no longer could soldiers defend their homes and families by going off to war; soldiers and civilians alike now lived in the line of fire" (282).
The child, and by extension, the family, represents how far the war, and this internment, reaches. Normalcy-- the average [[citizen]]-- is touched by it too.<<if visited() == 1>>I mean...<<else>>Because<</if>> this is a book about World War II, <<if visited("normalcy") == 0>>[[right|normalcy]]?<<else>>[[...right?|war]]<</if>>The book produces images of Mari's home before internment, a two story house with a yard. Mari's brother plays with a basketball while Mari rides a tricycle. The Japanese translations, and its hirigana glosses for less advanced readers, further normalize Japanese children in general-- they read picture books too.
Zsuzsa Millei notes in <span class="credit">PEDAGOGY OF NATION</span> that from a very young age, children "mobilize these identifications and representations of nation and use those in their everyday life to include and exclude" (85). <span class="credit">SUNFLOWERS</span> teaches that Japanese Americans should be included in [[the nation]].<div class="note">thanks for playin</div>
by Cynthia Li for GWS 142
Made with <a href="https://twinery.org">Twine</a>
* Berlant, Lauren. "The Theory of Infantile Citizenship."
* Huskey, Melynda. "Queering the Picture Book."
* Lee-Tai, Amy, and Hoshino, Felicia. <i>A Place Where Sunflowers Grow</i>. Jade Productions, 2014.
* Millei, Zsuzua. "Pedagogy of Nation."
* Miller, Kristine. "Ghosts, Gremlins, and 'The War on Terror' in Children's Blitz Fiction."
* Rose, Jacqueline. "The Case of Peter Pan: The Impossibility of Children's Fiction." <<if visited() == 1>><span class="credit">A PLACE WHERE SUNFLOWERS GROW</span> asks the reader to empathize with a child, Mari, in a Japanese internment camp. <</if>>The author draws <<if visited() == 1>>inspiration for<</if>> the story from the <<if visited("past:") == 0>>[[past:]]<<else>>past...
to reveal her hope for the [[future]].<</if>><blockquote>"this unlearning, which is never complete, as it involves leaving behind the political faith of childhood, cleaves her permanently from and to the nation"</blockquote><div class="credit">-- THE THEORY OF INFANTILE CITIZENSHIP</div>
Berlant notes that Audre Lorde's childhood leaves her when she is barred from the nation by racism-- she unlearns the nation by, paradoxically, learning about injustice. Mari isn't allowed from this knowledge-- her parents don't tell her why she is here, because that would mean explaining, and therefore, removing her from childhood, despite the trauma of being [[removed]] from her home.The reader of this book has no such luxury. The introduction explains that the internment camps were for Japanese Americans during WWII and what life in the camps "was like."
But the introduction isn't for children. Like the picture books about same sex couples that Huskey discusses, its denser text suggests that it is meant for an adult reader to explain to a child, and leaves the responsibility of children's understanding the text to a more knowledgable, older explainer.
It is this new knowledge that allows a young reader to [[take something|A PLACE WHERE SUNFLOWERS GROW]] from the text.<<if visited() == 1>><blockquote>"...the idea of... a primitive or lost state to which the child has special access. The child... gives them back to us with a facility or directness which ensures our own relationship to them is, finally, safe."</blockquote><div class="credit">-- THE CASE OF PETER PAN: THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF CHILDREN'S FICTION, Jacqueline Rose</div>
<span class="credit">SUNFLOWERS</span> is based on a true story of Lee-Tai's grandparents and parents, who were interned and planted sunflowers at their camp. It<<else>><span class="credit">SUNFLOWERS</span><</if>> remembers a trauma and brings it forward through <<if visited("time--") == 0>>[[time--]]<<else>>time, allowing Lee-Tai to access her family's history in the present by writing the picture book.
Rose argues that children's fiction comes from an adult desire for the child and childhood. Here, the child Lee-Tai is looking to portray is a fictionalized version of her mother when she was young. By bringing her story into a time after World War II, another child can engage with it from a place of [[safety]].<</if>><<if visited() == 1>>The introduction asks readers to "work toward a world that will never repeat--to any group of people--what happened to Japanese Americans during World War II." The child is a symbol of the brighter futures they hold, and the onus of changing the world lies on the young reader-- not current adults.
<</if>><blockquote>To Mari, seeing the little seedlings was like seeing old friends again. In that moment, her old life, and whatever ner new life would be like after the war, didn't feel so far away.</blockquote><div class="credit">-- SUNFLOWERS</div>
The sprouting of the sunflower seeds, anchoring Mari to both the past and future, brings new hope to the page. The seedlings reach for the future in the face of trauma, and like Mari, we never see them [[grow up|end]].In <span class="credit">THE THEORY OF INFANTILE CITIZENSHIP</span>, Lauren Berlant writes that "a traumatic story is always interminable-- that is what makes it traumatic" (32). The kids in the internment camp's art school draw pets they left behind, family at different camps, and places in the camp. They are [[haunted|past:]] by their past lives and the disruption of their presents.The characters are infantile citizens as described by Berlant, ultimately operating from a place of faith in the nation.
Although internment sucks, Mari's dad reassures her that "spring comes after winter... peace comes after war" (Lee-Tai), although in reality many families lost their homes after being interned and were in financially dire situations, as well as continuing to face racism.
Lee-Tai depicts Mari finding happiness through friendship, depicting her recovery from depression swiftly and without hiccups. The simplification of life at the camps suggests to the reader that no, the US government wasn't <em>that</em> [[terrible]].<blockquote>They passed beneath watchtowers where <strong>military police</strong> pointed <strong>guns</strong> at anyone they feared might escape.</blockquote><blockquote>"Sure, that sounds like fun," replied Mari. "Besides, those guardsmen scare me."
"Me, too," agreed Aiko. "Do they have to carry <strong>guns</strong>?"</blockquote><div class="credit">-- SUNFLOWERS (emphases mine)</div>
The mentions of guardsmen and guns is the closest the book gets to broaching the subject of war. The terrible living conditions of the camp are glossed over or simplified, from the inadequate schooling to the lack of proper [[sanitation]].Lee-Tai does, however, spend a moment describing the women's bathrooms, which offer no privacy to the internees. A pregnant woman holds her belly in line, and women hold their babies and young children as they wash; care work is delegated to women, who are defined mostly by their relation to children. Women's and children's bodies are [[public]]; men's bodies aren't mentioned in this way.Nudity, however, is not mentioned, only implied.
<blockquote>This may be peculiarly true in the realm of children’s literature, where the condition by which homosexuality may be named is that its normality, which is to say above all its nonsexuality.</blockquote><div class="credit">-- QUEERING THE PICTURE BOOK, Melynda Huskey</div>
Children's literature is limited by what it can show in its pages, especially picture books. Violence and nudity, which <em>of course</em> implies sexuality, cannot be depicted. They are too [[distant from the norm.]]Like most young readers,
<div class="note">(not taking into account kids who have been exposed to violence, racism, or sexual assault)</div>
Mari doesn't have much of this knowledge. When Mari asks her dad why they are interned, and why the people here are mostly Japanese American, he "turned to Japanese philosophy" instead of [[telling her]] why the war is happening, even though he is concerned that she "barely talk[s] or laugh[s] anymore" (Lee-Tai).<blockquote>"...our government decided that Japanese Americans could not be trusted--simply because their ancestors had come from Japan."</blockquote><div class="credit">-- introduction of SUNFLOWERS</div>
<div class="note">(Of course, this quote erases first generation Japanese immigrants who were not US citizens when imprisoned.)</div>
The book asks us to think of internment, and racism, as a problem of citizenship. Because we are all citizens, we should be [[treated equally]].Still, the depiction of internment camps within the US is a disruption of the interiority of space that Millei describes. Nationalism teaches us that America is a place of [[safety]], yet the internment camps are clearly not that, throwing a wrench into the presented image of the nation.