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Unforgotten Voices from Heart Mountain

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Unforgotten Voices from Heart Mountain is different from the usual memoir or biography of an individual family and it’s different from a historian’s narrative about the Incarceration and how it happened. These are unforgettable voices of Japanese Americans, many of them young people who were imprisoned during WWII, as well as those who imprisoned them, and townspeople in the harsh high desert of Wyoming. Told in their own words, from interviews, diaries, and letters these are heartfelt stories of students, their teachers, young adults whose lives were on hold, those who served in the army, the WACS, and resisters who refused to serve unless their rights as citizens were restored and their families released. From Dec 7th to the post war years, Unforgotten tells the story of a little-known chapter in our country’s history. Illustrated with photos from family collections, archives, and newspapers. Although the mass incarceration happened more than 80 years ago, we sense eerily familiar echoes of today with racism and xenophobia are on the rise. These voices live on to warn as well as witness what happens when the foundational principles of our democracy are forgotten, and we fail to protect the civil liberties of others as well as our own.


I began collecting these interviews over the past two decades with those who had lived through the incarceration and the difficult years that followed. Unforgotten also includes stories from co-author, Nancy Matsumoto whose own families were imprisoned in Heart Mountain, Manzanar, and Tule Lake. LIke many Sansei, third generation Japanese Americans, she was not in the camps, but heir to the silence that followed so many children of survivors. Her stories add another dimension that runs through the story, from December 7th, to the shock of imprisonment, to the end of the war and post-war struggles. Also among the voices are those of Hon. Norman Mineta, Sec. of Transportation, who was arrested at 10 for sledding past a fence that wasn't there, and townspeople, like former Senator, Hon. Alan Simpson and his brother, who lived in nearby Cody and visited the camp on several occasions. It's a unique collection of voices from teachers, students, resisters and vets of the 442nd. These unforgettable voices come from interviews, diaries, and letters, with photos and drawings from family albums, archives and newspapers. Available on Kindle and in bookstores.  


"Joanne Oppenheim and Nancy Matsumoto have put together a poignant memory book of the experience of the Japanese Americans confined by their own government during World War II.

The book offers us new and enlightening insights into the struggles of those confined to adapt to life in a tragic and unnatural environment."


-- Greg Robinson, author of By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans

"This vivid recounting of the World War II incarceration experience comes alive through excerpts from varied primary sources as well as informative author commentary. It reads like a script for a podcast. I’d like to hear the whole volume read aloud—the different voices are distinct, yet they fit together to form a coherent, poignant narrative."

Sojin Kim, curator, Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage/Asian Pacific American Center 

There are 12,000 stories from Heart Mountain, and Unforgotten Voices captures a multiplicity of them. I’m especially pleased to see the Fair Play Committee well-represented by original interviews with Frank Emi and Yosh Kuromiya.

—Frank Abe, Lead author, We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American Resistance to Wartime Incarceration

"Kudos to Joanne Oppenheim and Nancy Matsumoto for adding to the materials documenting the variety of experiences affecting Japanese Americans as they endured the shock of the Pearl Harbor attack and the subsequent rejection by many of their former friends, co-workers, and neighbors.  Based on interviews and comments recorded by Oppenheim more than 20 years ago, you'll learn about the day-to-day experiences of youths and adults as they adjusted to the realities of living in an incarceration camp far from home.  Matsumoto adds her own family members’ experiences during this time.  This book is particularly valuable as it documents the lesser-known history of the “No-no” segment of the incarcerated people, and how American citizen children of Japanese-born parents reacted to being repatriated to Japan, a country they had never known. Oppenheim also captures the reactions of parents and siblings, as well as those of the young men themselves, as Japanese Americans are drafted out of the camps to fight the wars in Europe and the Pacific.


Unforgotten Voices From Heart Mountain is a valuable addition to documentation of the Japanese American experience during World War II."


--Linda Canada, retired archivist, Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego

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