George Takei’s “They Called Us Enemy” scoops Asian/Pacific American Award for Young Adult Literature

The They Called Us Enemy team with the Asian/Pacific American Award for Young Adult Literature. Photo: Leigh Walton

The They Called Us Enemy team with the Asian/Pacific American Award for Young Adult Literature. Photo: Leigh Walton

They Called Us Enemy, the New York Times-bestselling graphic memoir of actor and campaigner George Takei, published by Top Shelf Productions, was announced today as the winner of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Young Adult Literature by the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA), an affiliate of the American Library Association.

APALA’s literary awards were announced at ALA’s Midwinter Meeting, marking a milestone new achievement for the acclaimed bestseller by Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker.

In They Called Us Enemy, the iconic actor, author and activist revisits his haunting childhood in American concentration camps, as one of 120,000 Japanese Americans imprisoned by the US government during World War Two, while reflecting on how that experience shaped America and his own astonishing life.

The They Called Us Enemy - Cover

The They Called Us Enemy - Sample Art

The They Called Us Enemy - Sample Art

The They Called Us Enemy - Sample Art

The They Called Us Enemy - Sample Art

Published in July 2019 by Top Shelf Productions, an imprint of IDW Publishing, They Called Us Enemy immediately debuted at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list and stayed on the list for more than ten weeks. It has been declared one of the year’s best books by such institutions as Amazon, NPR, New York Public Library, School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, IGN, and Forbes.

A German edition for Kindoe, Eine Kindheit im Internierungslager will be released in May 2020, and a Spanish translation, entitled Nos llamaron Enemigo, will be published in June.

Readers can also take a deeper dive into They Called Us Enemy when a deluxe hardcover edition, packed with unseen bonus material, hits stores in July.

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 centres,” 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 legalised 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 does it mean to be American? Who gets to decide? When the world is against you, what can one person do? To answer these questions, George Takei joined co-writers Justin Eisinger and Steven Scott and artist Harmony Becker for the journey of a lifetime…

They Called Us Enemy
by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker
Regular Paperback Edition (Amazon Affiliate Link)
Deluxe Edition – out in July 2020 (Amazon Affiliate Link)
Published by Top Shelf Productions, an imprint of IDW Publishing
Distributed by Diamond Comic Distributors and Penguin Random House

They Called Us Enemy: Nos llamaron Enemigo (Spanish edition)

They Called Us Enemy: Eine Kindheit im Internierungslager (German Edition for Kindle)

Categories: British Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, US Comics

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2 replies

  1. John – There appears to be an increase in “art” replacing real life; Hollywood has been at it for over a century. Perhaps it began in this country with Shakespeare’s so-called ‘historical plays’ which today are taken by many as truthful representations of what happened up to 2,000 years ago. Ask the average person what Julius Caesar said as he was dying, and “Et tu, Brute?” is likely to be the reply. While George Takei’s imagined scenes of Japanese people in America being taken by coach to a World War II internment camp were fair representations of what happened, the words put into their mouths may have been typical, but they are no more than that.

    Since everything I put in my response to “They called us enemy” was simply the truth, I wonder why you did not publish it.

    Where is the UK equivalent of, “They called us enemy”? How about comic strips of Germans – drawn by a German (hey, I’m one eighth German!) – being interned on the Isle of Man; likewise, on the better safe than sorry principle.

    Incidentally, there was a circus performer, boxer and self-defence instructor who was a German national living in the UK from 1912. During the First World War, he was interned with other German nationals on the Isle of Man. While there he developed his own exercise regime for keeping fit. You may have heard of him: Joseph Pilates.

    I had a German great-grandfather who had come to England in the 1880s, had been naturalised British, and had died in 1911. His son – my maternal grandfather – was exempt from (British) military service on health grounds during World War I. From his demeanour while I knew him, I never pictured my granddad ever having done anything untoward during either World Wars. During WWII he was an ARP warden; I still have his ARP whistle. But – you never know; the best spy or saboteur is the one least suspected – AND NEVER CAUGHT.

    P.S. Stig and Tilde took me back to not only The Famous Five, but also Swallows & Amazons. Light-hearted fiction, for a welcome change.

    • Thanks for these comments, Eric. I would again, as with your response to “Royal Archie”, suggest that making assumptions about a strip on the basis of samples presented is not the most informed manner of making a judgment about their content. To be absolutely frank, while I can understand the reaction of authorities to potential “enemy aliens” within a country’s borders, which your initial comments focused on, those comments were couched in such a manner as to be offensive to the creators of the graphic novel in question and those impacted by their internment, which, as George Takei faithfully documented, in the case of Japanese Americans during World War Two, far from ideal.

      As to a strip inspired by the internment of German nationals on the Isle of Man, I’m not aware of one, but many created artwork based on their experience, which, like art created by those interned in concentration camps, Prisoner of War camps and Guantanamo, have often held a stark mirror to man’s treatment of their fellow kind.

      Thank you, as ever for your commentary. I trust this response will explain my reasons for non publication of your initial reaction to this article.

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