Incarceration history for kids

This essay made me cry:

I own a lot of those books. They’re mostly too long and serious for my kid still. He prefers books about dogs and animals and science and silliness. And that’s ok. The books will wait. So many of the books about people we get from in the library “mystery bags” are also about pain, about history, about overcoming. It’s no wonder he only wants to read things with dogs in them.

“I did not grow up with children’s books about Japanese American incarceration. There were not many.”

Brandon Shimoda

But this pull quote got me. I was… Maybe 7 the first time I remember being told about the Japanese interment in Canada? I asked my mom why dad didn’t want to come to a remembrance day ceremony at my school and she gave me some age appropriate answer about how dad didn’t really want to remember being locked up by the Canadian government.

I remember reading Obasan as an older kid on a road trip to Fundy National Park. I think maybe that was the youngest book available at the time, other than the history books. I read Sadako and the Thousand Paper cranes and folded a thousand with a friend in high school.

I’m glad that there’s a lot more stories available now, and gutted that so many of them are being “challenged” in the US because so many people don’t know about the internment camps or really a lot of the less savory parts of history. And it matters to what we do now to understand at least some of it.

Since I’ve got a PhD in computer security, I spend a lot of time talking with colleagues about privacy, and there’s a pervasive “I don’t have anything to hide so privacy isn’t a big deal” attitude in many places. People are appalled when I explain that privacy concerns sound a lot more reasonable when you consider the history the US government has of, for example, using census data to destroy minority communities or incarcerate them. This isn’t just a thought exercise for ethical technical folk to consider when setting up privacy, this is a lived experience for many people — just not always the people in the room. And not teaching that experience is having real word consequences right now.

Anyhow, I don’t really know what I’m saying except that books matter, which you all know. And I don’t know how I’m going to explain internment more deeply to my kid either. But I will have to, one day soon. And I’m glad I have more books, more stories to help us get there.