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Jeanne Wakatsuki (the book's narrator) is a Nisei (child of a Japanese immigrant).At age seven, Wakatsuki—a native-born American citizen—and her family were living on Terminal Island (near San Pedro, California).Her father, a fisherman who owned two boats, was arrested by the FBI following the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941.
He becomes the man of the family, leading them early in their internment.
On the morning of December 7, 1941, Jeanne Wakatsuki says farewell to her father's sardine fleet at San Pedro Harbor.
At the camp, the Japanese Americans find cramped living conditions, badly prepared food, unfinished barracks and dust blowing in through every crack and knothole.
There is not enough warm clothing to go around; many fall ill from immunizations and poorly preserved food, and they face the indignity of non-partitioned camp toilets (which particularly upsets Jeanne's mother).
That night, Ko Wakatsuki burns his heirloom Japanese flag and the documents he had brought to the United States when he moved from Japan thirty-five years ago. The family moves several times in subsequent weeks.
In April, 1942, they are ordered to report to a Buddhist temple as a pickup point for what they have been told is resettlement.
The book describes the Wakatsukis' experiences during their imprisonment and events concerning the family before and after the war.
Ko Wakatsuki (Jeanne's father) emigrated from Japan to Honolulu, Hawaii and then to Idaho, running away with his wife and abandoning his family.
Jeanne's mother moves the family to the Japanese ghetto on Terminal Island, and then to Boyle Heights in Los Angeles.
On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066 giving the military authority to relocate those posing a potential threat to national security.