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The Journal of Ben Uchida

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by

Taylor Olson

on 12 March 2013

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Transcript of The Journal of Ben Uchida

"I got lost again today.
I feel like a mouse in
a maze. Maybe that's what this is - some kind of bizarre secret experiment run by the government." The Journal of Ben Uchida Traits American
observant
comedic Appearance
yellow skin
black hair
narrow eyes BLOCK B, BARRACK 14, APT E Ben
Uchida 12 years old
gives up bath
hair cut passionate
thoughtful
protective Friends Problems Robbie Bradley
Kenny
Mr. Tashima
Naomi Encounters racism
Not sure where he "belongs"
Papa taken away
Sent to Mirror Lake
Has to wait in line for EVERYTHING
Charles Hamada is a nuisance I am American
I wonder where Japan is
I hear them yell, “Go back where you belong!”
I see black hair, yellow skin, and narrow eyes when I look
in the mirror now
I want to play baseball and forget about "Pearl Harbor"
I am the enemy?

I pretend things aren’t so bad
I feel lost for words
I touch pencil to paper to keep myself from going crazy
I worry they’ll never let Papa come back
I cry only on the inside so I don’t upset Mama
I am starting to forget what it was ever like outside these
barbed wire fences

I understand this is a prison
I say little to stay out of trouble, at least out loud
I dream nothing but take each day as it comes Taylor Olson, TEAC 307, Spring 2013 by Barry Denenberg 5.15.42 4.23.42 2.9.43 7.18.42 7.24.42 8.19.42 9.12.42 1.11.43 2.3.43 1 4.14.42 12.10.42 11.3.42 8.18.42 10.22.42 7.13.42 8.9.42 10.17.42 12.7.41 12.8.41 6.3.42 The Uchida family hears a radio report about “a surprise attack at Pearl Harbor." Mr. Uchida is taken away from his family by two government officials. Ben sees an evacuation notice for the first time on his way home from school. Ben, Naomi, and Mrs. Uchida travel by train and arrive at Mirror Lake, CA (Internment Camp) Fellow resident of Block B, Barrack 14, Apartment E, Mr. Tashima, gets the coal stove to work. Ben accepts an invitation to play center fielder for the Block B baseball team. Ben starts attending school (taught by Miss Kroll, a white woman) at camp. Ben receives his favorite Brooklyn Dodgers baseball cap in the mail from Robbie. The Uchida family receives their first letter from Papa. Half of it is crossed out, but they are happy he is alive. Ben sees Mike speaking with infamous camp gambler and no good, Mr. Shibutani. Mike accidentally throws a knife in Kenny’s ankle and does not apologize. Naomi finishes her drawings for the first edition of the camp’s first newspaper, the Mirror Lake Free Press. Mrs. Watanabe gives birth to a healthy baby. Block B loses the camp baseball championship. Ben realizes Mike was paid off by Mr. Sibutani to throw the game. Mike is beat up and labeled an outcast. Mr. Watanabe arrives back to camp late after picking up some lumber for the new school building. He is shot and killed by an MP. The camp board announces the results of their review of the shooting. Rumors of a riot at another internment camp surface, but there is no mention of the news in Free Press. Papa comes “home” to camp. Mr. Tashima receives a letter from his wife in Japan. “Application for Leave Clearance” questionnaires are distributed, and the camp director announces the U.S. military is accepting volunteers for an all Japanese-American combat squad. Brooklyn Dodgers
Pete Reiser, Outfielder, 1940-1942, 1946-1948. Left major leagues during WWII to play baseball for Army teams.
Pee Wee Reese, Shortstop, 1940-1958
Mickey Owen, Catcher, 1941-1945
Dolph Camilli, First Baseman, 1938-1943 Other Teams
Joe DiMaggio,Center Fielder for, New York Yankees, 1936-1942, 1946-1951 (Dodgers lost to Yankees in 1941 World Series). Left major leagues during WWII to serve in U.S. Army Air Forces.
Enos Slaughter, Outfielder for St. Louis Cardinals, 1938-1942, 1946-1953. Left major leagues during WWII to serve in U.S. military.
Mort Cooper, Pitcher for St. Louis Cardinals, 1938 – 1945. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, 1933-1945. Issued Executive Order 9066. Historical Figures Though the internee portrayals in Barry Denenberg’s The Journal of Ben Uchida are realistic and align with many factual stories shared by Japanese American’s who were placed in the Japanese Internment Camps during WWII, the only historical figures referenced in the book are the baseball players mentioned by Robbie in his letters to his best friend, Ben, and the President at the time. In his fifth letter to Ben, Robbie writes of the rotten luck their favorite baseball team, the Brooklyn Dodgers, has encountered. Truth be told, all of his report checks out; while the two letters Robbie sent Ben containing information about the Dodgers’ performance so far that season did not actually exist, all of the information presented within them is mostly true.

The letter Ben received on Friday, July 31st indicated Ben’s “idol” Pete Reiser suffered a concussion after “crashing headfirst into a center-field wall” (66). According to an account given at baseballlibrary.com, this was a result of Enos Slaughter hitting a fly ball in the 11th inning of the game. Reiser had caught the ball but dropped it on impact, meaning a 7-6 win for the Cardinals (same score reported at baseball-almanac.com). While well on his way to MVP status at the time of Robbie’s report (“He might end up with 30-plus HRs and 120 RBIs again”), Dodgers’ player Dolph Camilli finished out the 1942 season with only 26 HRs and 109 RBIs. He did, however, “hit .343” the year prior (ESPN.com, “Career Batting Statistics for Dolph Camilli). Robbie’s comment “He’s worth every penny of the $45,000” refers to a trade that happened in 1938. In its March 7th edition from that year, The Toledo News-Bee reported Camilli was traded to the Dodgers by “Silly Philly” or the Philadelphia Phillies for $45,000 (“Camilli Sold to Dodgers”).

In their book Baseball Dynasties, baseball author Rob Neyer and baseball analyst Eddie Epstein write, “Mort changed jerseys with almost every start so the number he was wearing would match the number of the win he was trying for. He wore teammate Harry Gumbert’s No. 19.” This confirms part of Robbie’s second baseball-themed letter to Ben. Neyer and Epstein continue while the Cardinal’s went on to achieve a total of 22 games in the 1942 season, game accounts do not report is Cooper carried out jersey stunt after game 19. This means Barry Denenberg may have taken some artistic liberty in Robbie’s second baseball letter. However, according to the online almanac site baseball-almanac.com, the statistics for the Dodgers as well as the “Cards” presented are completely factual. ` for Historical Accuracy “I never thought I looked different from the other kids But now I realized my face was different. My hair was black My skin was yellow. My eyes were narrow. It never seemed to matter before, but it sure did matter now.” Themes “Danny McManus, who’s a jerk anyway, knocked me down with an elbow on the first play of the game. He did it on purpose. I know, because as I was getting up, he said, “That’s what a Jap deserves.” “‘Don’t you see,’ she said, practically screaming at me. ‘These little girls are growing up thinking that standing in line with a tray in a mess hall is the way it’s supposed to be. They don’t even know about setting your own table or sitting down to eat in your own kitchen with just your family.’” “Ben – By now you’ve probably hear the bad news about Pete crashing headfirst into the center-field wall, thanks to Enos Slaughter… This is going to be the Dodgers’ big year no matter what.” “I told him I didn’t think the FBI was powerful enough to tell Santa Claus where he could or couldn’t land but… since we moved out here so suddenly, maybe Santa will have trouble finding us. ‘We’ll just have to wait and see,’ I said. I hate when grown-ups say ‘we’ll just have to wait and see.’ Now here I was talking just like them. But it looked like Jimmy believed me.” “It was a town – not a regular town, but about a thousand neat rows fo identical army barracks that seemed to go on forever. They were enclosed by a really high fence that had barbed wire on top.” Baseball Identity Racism Japanese
Internment Camps Injustice Coming of Age 4.21.42 Ben begins writing his journal. I Am I want to know what is in the second letter he sent us. Mama’s worried; it might help us both feel a little better if we can comfort each other. Should I ask Mama about Papa? I want to know what she thinks is happening to him. Mama never talks about her feelings; she never even cries! It might upset Mama more if I bring up Papa outloud. Mama didn’t share that letter with me or Naomi for a reason. BEN'S DECISION
Ben never decides to talk to his mother about his father. I think this makes sense given how reserved his mother is; had he decided to ask her, she very well may not have even answered. By being stoic, Mama was trying to protect Naomi and Ben, and by respecting her silence, Ben is allowing her at least some degree of comfort (the comfort afforded by thinking she is shielding her children). I think Ben made the most reasonable and responsible choice. It is likely, given his mother’s determination to put on a strong front, his inquiries would have remained unanswered, and his mother would have become upset. Instead, he often tried to sooth her worries by making light of other situations. Naomi said I shouldn’t. Talking about him wouldn’t bring him back or change anything. The format of The Journal of Ben Uchida interested me the most. Since I was a third grader, I have journaled. I journaled a lot when I was dealing with my parents’ divorce, when I was picked on during Middle School, when I had boyfriends… mostly when some kind of big change was happening in my life. Now I journal especially when I’m feeling overwhelmed; it’s another outlet for me to express myself and find focus. Many of my journals have been lost or pages torn to pieces, but looking through the ones that remain is always an interesting experience. It reminds me of who I used to be, and sometimes it reminds me of events that occurred that I had completely forgotten. Similarly, while reading The Journal of Ben Uchida, I felt immersed in Ben’s life. He not just describes what happens to him but what he thinks and how he feels. Reflective Narrative Though the account is fictional and conveys only one perspective, it gave me a very different understanding of the effects of World War II in America and about the values America was supposedly fighting to protect. In the books epilogue, it is “reported” Ben and Robbie remain best friends for their entire lives and open up a sporting goods store together. I cannot help but wonder: would Ben have shared his journal with Robbie? How would Ben feel rereading his entries? What about my journals? Though I was never placed in an internment camp, would anyone ever want to read them? Would I let them if they did? "After I write this stuff I don’t feel much like writing it all again. Most of it’s pretty boring and the rest is worse than boring." "It was an inspiring speech. I was inspired to think of different ways I could kill myself so I didn’t have to listen to it." "I wasn’t at all prepared for what she did say: 'You’re a real disappointment, Ben.' … I thought that was really unnecessary, if you want to know the truth." Evacuation Notice Arriving
at camp At Arrival Added Amenities Camp Baseball Teams Sunday School Letter from CA Letter from Camp Camp Barbershop
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