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Our June 3 selection is "Twice Orphaned, Voices from the Children's Village at Manzanar," by Catherine Irwin. This is the story about the nearly 100 orphaned Japanese American children whose parents had died or were unable to care for them. All were interned at Manzanar, Children's Village. The book tells about their double abandonment -- first by their parents and then by their country. 

Review of “Twice Orphaned” by Catherine Irwin, 2008, California State University Fullerton press 

By Gordon Smith

“Twice Orphaned” is primarily a collection of transcripts of oral history interviews of some of the children and staff who were held at the orphanage, at Manzanar, known as Children’s Village. The transcripts come from two different time periods – one around 1993 and another around 2006. The time gap between the periods was due to the difficulty of securing funding to complete the interviews and publish them. The first interviews underpinned the 60 Minutes segment “Orphans of Manzanar” shown on December 7, 1997. The interview transcripts are organized chronologically from the lives of the children prior to their incarceration, through the years of Children’s Village and their lives after Manzanar. Each set of interviews is prefaced with historical information as background to the interviews.


The book well informs the reader of the historical context of Children’s Village and the interviews provide illuminating insights into the personal lives and stories of not only the children but of their parents and families, orphanage staff and eventual foster families. The interviews reveal the complexities underlying the situations of most of the children and they were not just simply orphans who had lost their parents. The interviews also shed light into the pre-camp lives of the children who were at one of three orphanages, in California, which had been established specifically for children of Japanese ancestry. The complexities of post-camp life are also revealed ranging from foster placements to reunification with one or both parents. The stories are not just stories of orphans at Children Village but also insights into what the lives of orphans and half-orphans are like across society.


The book will appeal strongly to those who cherish the personal, firsthand recollections of people who had been in the incarceration camps. This book will reward them with much from the lives of a unique set of children and their caregivers amongst a time of upheaval for the Japanese population during the war. For those looking for more of a historical accounting of the events surrounding Children’s Village, the book provides valuable information in that regards; though, perhaps not as much as might be sought by those seeking more facts and figures.


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