I got this as a birthday present and at first I really had no clue what it was (I mean, it was obviously a book, but I wasn’t familiar with it). Turns out this is the graphic novel memoir of George Takei, who is a famous actor known notably for starring in the original Star Trek series. I have been a fan of the Star Trek universe for most of my life, though I haven’t actually seen the original, but I was still excited to see his unique perspective and learn about this actor’s life. Here’s what I thought!
Title: They Called Us Enemy
Author: George Takei
Rating: 3/5 Stars
Genre: Graphic novel, memoir
Synopsis: “George Takei has captured hearts and minds worldwide with his captivating stage presence and outspoken commitment to equal rights. But long before he braved new frontiers in Star Trek, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father’s — and their entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future.
In 1942, at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, every person of Japanese descent on the west coast was rounded up and shipped to one of ten “relocation centers,” hundreds or thousands of miles from home, where they would be held for years under armed guard.
They Called Us Enemy is Takei’s firsthand account of those years behind barbed wire, the joys and terrors of growing up under legalized racism, his mother’s hard choices, his father’s faith in democracy, and the way those experiences planted the seeds for his astonishing future.
What is American? Who gets to decide? When the world is against you, what can one person do?”
So let me get one thing straight before I talk about this story. I don’t usually read graphic novels (this might be like my third ever, actually). It’s not because I don’t like them, but I just tend to prefer the imaginative and language-heavy way of writing that non-graphic books use (I could’ve just said prose, but oh well). Since I am a fast reader, graphic novels also tend to go really fast with me and I like for a book to at least last more than two days. I think that way I can really get connected to the characters and become invested in the plot. That being said, I don’t mind trying a graphic novel out once in a while like I did with this book. 🙂 Alright let’s get to reviewing already.
All the graphic novels I have ever read (you know, those two I read in middle school) have been in color. So, I found it really interesting to read one in black and white. I think it really helped with the story telling (it made it very black and white… heh…heh). Okay, but seriously, the absence of color made me focus more on the small details and the dialogue, which made the story flow really well and I didn’t feel distracted.
The one thing that made me give this book a lower rating is that it had a lot of time jumps. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I found them slightly disjointed and hard to follow. The whole story was basically told from present day George’s perspective, but most of it took place when he was very young. Occaisonally, the book would cut to him now doing an interview or something similar and talking about his life back then. I think this style may have been close to a storyboard type of thing you would see for a film, but it didn’t really work for me in formatting a novel.
Other than that, though, I thought it was a really interesting look into a side of history I didn’t know that much about. I really appreciated that the ending had closure and the fact that the last scene took place in the present day left me feeling satisfied with the story. After reading this, I feel really inspired to watch the original Star Trek series! Are any of you trekkies?