Review: Fred Korematsu Speaks Up

Yes­ter­day, Jan­u­ary 30th, was Fred Kore­mat­su Day of Civ­il Lib­er­ties and the Con­sti­tu­tion. I did­n’t know much about Fred Kore­mat­su’s sto­ry before read­ing this brand new book, Fred Kore­mat­su Speaks Up, writ­ten by Lau­ra Atkins and Stan Yogi, and illus­trat­ed by Yuta­ka Houlette. I’m so thank­ful, now, that I do.
Fred Korematsu Speaks Up cover

Hey­day Books
, 112 pages
SBN: 978–159714-368–4
Price: $18.00

The book shares the sto­ry of Fred, and sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Japan­ese Amer­i­can liv­ing on the West Coast dur­ing World War II, when the Unit­ed States forced immi­grants and cit­i­zens alike into intern­ment camps. Fred resist­ed the order, and was jailed. The ACLU took up his case, which he even­tu­al­ly lost. He lost more than just the case. Many Japan­ese Amer­i­cans turned on him, and he was offi­cial­ly con­sid­ered a con­vict­ed felon. More than 40 years lat­er, the ACLU decid­ed to try his case again after find­ing new doc­u­ments show­ing that the gov­ern­ment had lied in his orig­i­nal case… and this time they won, set­ting an impor­tant prece­dent going for­ward. Fred knew what was hap­pen­ing was wrong and stood up against it. He was a changemaker.
Here’s an excerpt from the main text:

Fred chal­lenged something
he thought was unfair.
He spoke up–
for himself
and for all Japan­ese Americans,
even when no one stood with him.
It was not easy.
But Fred fought
to make the Unit­ed States–
his country–
a fair­er place.
And he won.
We all won.

I love the lyri­cal, spare text of the book. I love the engag­ing lay­out and design fea­tur­ing illus­tra­tions, full-col­or pho­tos, def­i­n­i­tions of terms, and his­tor­i­cal time­lines. There are also side­bars and pull­out box­es that explain con­cepts in greater detail and add con­text. And I espe­cial­ly love the call­out bub­bles that ask read­ers direct ques­tions, such as, “Have you ever been pun­ished for some­thing you did­n’t do?” These make Fred’s sto­ry all the more relat­able and help read­ers make per­son­al con­nec­tions from Fred’s sto­ry to the injus­tices they see all around them every day.
In addi­tion to non­fic­tion text fea­tures such source notes, bib­li­og­ra­phy, pho­to and text cred­its, and an index, the book also includes a fan­tas­tic sec­tion about how read­ers can stand up for social jus­tice them­selves. I’m sure it will encour­age read­ers to pur­sue activism and change­mak­ing for themselves.
The tim­ing for a book like this could­n’t, unfor­tu­nate­ly, be more time­ly and impor­tant, as it comes just days after the exec­u­tive order ban­ning immi­gra­tion from cer­tain countries.
As Fred’s daugh­ter Karen writes in the afterword:

Fred Kore­mat­su’s sto­ry is the reminder of the con­stant dan­ger that the gov­ern­ment will over­reach unless the pub­lic and the courts are vigilant.

I urge you to check this one out for the chil­dren in your life, for your­self, and for our coun­try and ALL of its citizens.

1 thought on “Review: Fred Korematsu Speaks Up”

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.