book cover

ISBN 978-0-939165-58-2
264 pages








Young Reader's Edition
For Readers nine years old and up
Looking Like the Enemy:
My Story of Imprisonment in a
Japanese-American Internment Camp
By Mary Matsuda Gruenewald
Adapted by Maureen R. Michelson


When Mary Matsuda was 16 years old, her life changed forever. Mary's happy, carefree life growing up on a berry farm in Washington state ended the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Along with her brother Yoneichi, and her parents, Mary was forced to leaver her Vashon Island home and face imprisonment in Japanese-American internment camps during World War II. Why? Because Mary was Japanese American and she looked like the enemy.

Just when Mary was preparing to spring into adulthood, her life tumbled into uncertainty and an unknown future. She wondered if she would ever see her home again, or worse, die. For four years, the Matsuda family faced hardships, anxiety and discrimination, but in the end they persevered. Mary's story is honest, heartbreaking, and hopeful. Her life will inspire young readers to find strength as they face their own difficult times. For ages 9 and up.

This Young Reader's Edition of Looking Like the Enemy introduces younger readers to U.S. history through the details of this personal and riveting story. There are several educational tools for young readers, including:

  • Historic photos
  • Author interview
  • Teacher's and Reader's Guide
  • Students' Writing and Research Activities
  • Glossary of Japanese terms
  • Glossary of vocabulary words

Mary Matsuda Gruenewald


Download the Author Interview here

Q: When did you decide to write a book about your experiences in Japanese-American internment camps? What inspired you to start writing?

A: I began my initial writing efforts in 1995 after my son David asked about what happened to our family during World War II. When my children were young, I had told them little stories about the internment camps, in particular the lighter side of life at that time. I never spoke about the difficult experiences. In 1999, Seattle writer and teacher, Brenda Peterson, invited me to join her writing class, and I realized I was ready to begin writing seriously about my experiences. At first, I thought I was just writing down my story to share with my family. But after a few years, around 2002, my writing teacher and classmates strongly encouraged me to consider writing a book for publication.

Q: How long did it take you to write your book and what was that experience like?

A: It took me about 10 years to get the story out of me and onto the paper. So, I began writing when I was 70 years old, and held my first published book in my hands when I turned 80 years old!

Initially, I was frustrated and discouraged because I had buried my feelings about all those years in the internment camps. I had to overcome the Japanese cultural norm of keeping silent about one’s painful experiences. Traditionally, Japanese people do not openly express or discuss their disappointments or struggles. Also, when I began writing, I didn’t want to show my grown children how I felt about being imprisoned in internments camps. I was afraid I would begin to cry and not be able to stop.

Once I got over my fear of opening up, I did spend a lot of time crying, mostly when I was alone sitting in front of my computer. I had to remember the pain wrapped up in all those memories in order to be able to write about them. My writing teacher and my seven classmates were very supportive during this process.

One of the assignments my writing teacher gave me to help me overcome my resistance to opening up was to buy a Japanese doll to replace the ones my family burned prior to our evacuation. Another thing that helped me open up to the memories and my deep feelings was to buy a CD with a Japanese song, “Sakura,” that was so familiar to me during my childhood. Sakura means cherry blossom in Japanese. It is a simple, beautiful melody that helped me to reconnect with what it is like to be Japanese.

Q: What was it like to remember the events from your youth and write about them?

A: It was extremely difficult to go back and explore and feel the emotions that accompanied our evacuation more than 50 years earlier. Once I began writing, it was like the dam broke: the emotions gushed out of me at times so intensely that I had to stop whatever I was doing and allow myself to feel the pain, fear, disappointment and anger before I could continue.

Q: Did you learn new things while you researched and wrote your book?

A: Yes, many things. I didn’t know much about the courage of the soldiers of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, who fought so bravely in Europe during World War II. Since my brother, Yoneichi, never spoke about the War, I had to turn to books to find out what he went through as a soldier. In fact, I didn’t even know my brother was awarded a Bronze Star for bravery until after he died many years after the War.

I also learned much more about the difficulties within the Japanese-American community regarding the Loyalty Oath we all had to sign while in the internment camps. At the time I was 18 years old and I only understood the “Yes Yes” side of the argument. More than 50 years later while researching for my book, my eyes were opened to understanding the other side of the argument—the families who signed “No No” to the Loyalty Oath. I didn’t really understand Japanese-American families who disagreed with the U.S. government until I met and became close friends with a “No No” family, and heard their viewpoints.

In my research, I was especially glad to learn more about the movement that eventually lead to a formal apology from the President to all Japanese Americans held in internment camps, along with reparation payments to the survivors of the internment. This led me to study South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, established by President Nelson Mandela in 1995 to reveal the South African government’s past racial injustices and resolve the conflicts in order to find national unity. In learning about Nelson Mandela, I found even more reasons why it is so important to look for ways to reduce conflict and work for reconciliation.

Q: Now that you are in your 80s, do the experiences in the internment camps still affect you?

A: I have come to look at conflict in different ways. I am more at peace with myself, and more resolved to extend my efforts towards the needs of others.

Q: What did your children think when they read your memoir?

A: My children originally felt “exposed” when they read parts of my writing, but they were pleased to know how our family dealt with the difficulties during that time. They became even more proud of our family and learned a great deal of our family history that they didn’t know before.

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Q: Why did you decide to do a Young Reader’s edition of your memoir?

A: I have always enjoyed speaking to young children and middle- schoolers about my experiences in the Japanese-American internment camps, especially because I was only 17 when my family was removed from our home. In addition, I believe it is so important for children to understand all the parts of our country’s history, even the parts we are not proud of. We can learn from our mistakes, and hopefully, not make those mistakes again.

My publisher and editor, Maureen R. Michelson, encouraged me to consider a Young Reader’s edition of my memoir. I immediately recognized the importance of young people being exposed to the experiences of other young people who suffer judgment, rejection, and negative encounters based on outward appearances.

Q: How has writing this book changed your life?

A: As a published author, I am more in the public eye and find greater demands on my time. Looking Like the Enemy is a very personal story, and many readers are interested in sharing their own family’s experiences with me. I have been touched by their stories and I have met many wonderful people as a result of writing my memoir.

I find it fascinating how some people are drawn to me because of this book. I think this is because no matter what happened to us, my family found the strength to overcome many obstacles and emerge even stronger as a result. My hope is readers will draw on the power of the written word in order to overcome their own difficulties.

I have heard many stories as fascinating as my own, and I often encourage people to write down their stories for their own families. Writing is a powerful way to heal, to connect, and to demonstrate love for other people. I would like nothing better than for some of my young readers to find out more about the stories of their own families, which are just as unique and important as my family’s history is.

Q: Have you visited Japan? How did the Japanese people receive your story and your book?

A: I traveled on a three-week book tour throughout Japan in April, 2005. I found the people very gracious, accepting, and curious about the Japanese-American experience during World War II. Japan is an amazing country, and I was treated like royalty during my visit. It was a privilege and an honor to be welcomed there.

Q: How did your trip to Japan affect you? What was the most inspirational? What was the most difficult?

A: Before the trip, I was somewhat fearful about going since I had not spoken any Japanese since my mother died in 1965. I need not have worried. People were very gracious and helpful. I gave several book readings and shared my story with people in Japan.

The son of one of my cousins (on my mother’s side) met me in Kyoto, Japan and he took me to meet his mother. She was the wife of my cousin who had died. Normally, gatherings in Japan are conducted in restaurants or other public places. I knew that it was a great honor to be invited into this 83 year-old woman’s house to meet her. When I met Shizuko-san, the traditional Japanese form of greeting someone for the first time flowed spontaneously out of my mouth! It felt like my mother was inside of me addressing Shizuko-san in the formal, gracious way that was traditional in 1920. I was astonished and so was she. This was the first time I had spoken Japanese in 45 years!

I went to many other places in Japan and met many other wonderful people, but the highlight of the whole trip was meeting this relative.

Q: What do you hope young people will get from reading your book?

A: The title of the book says it in a nutshell. We should not judge people by the way they look.

Q: As your book goes to press in 2010, what are you working on?

A: I am working on a new book based upon the wisdom of my mother, which is now a part of who I am as an elder. I plan to have the book also available as an audio book and I will be the reader.

Q: Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share with your young readers?

A: All of us are very much like one another regardless of our backgrounds or where we live in the world. We all need adequate food and shelter, as well as friendship and companionship. All of us need to be safe from harm of whatever kind and most of all, we need to be accepted for who we are, not for what we look like.

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  • Chapter One
    The Day My Life Changed Forever

  • Chapter Two
    Am I American or Japanese?

  • Chapter Three
    Being Japanese in America

  • Chapter Four
    Burning Our Japanese Treasures

  • Chapter Five
    The FBI Searches Our House

  • Chapter Six
    Leaving Our Home

  • Chapter Seven
    Family Number 19788

  • Chapter Eight
    The First Internment Camp

  • Chapter Nine
    Moved Again

  • Chapter Ten
    Last Dance in the Searchlight

  • Chapter Eleven
    Dignity in the Midst of Hardship

  • Chapter Twelve
    Collecting Seashells at Tule Lake

  • Chapter Thirteen
    Sharing Stories

  • Chapter Fourteen
    Making Friends

  • Chapter Fifteen

  • Chapter Sixteen
    No No or Yes Yes?

  • Chapter Seventeen
    The Great Divide

  • Chapter Eighteen
    Heart Mountain Internment Camp

  • Chapter Nineteen
    Remembering Twenty Years From Now

  • Chapter Twenty
    Yoneichi Goes to War

  • Chapter Twenty-One
    Nursing School

  • Chapter Twenty-Two
    Going Our Own Ways

  • Chapter Twenty-Three
    On My Own

  • Chapter Twenty-Four
    Nisei Soldiers

  • Chapter Twenty-Five
    The War Ends

  • Chapter Twenty-Six
    Home Again

  • Chapter Twenty-Seven

  • Chapter Twenty-Eight
    Return to Minidoka Internment Camp

  • Afterword

  • Author Interview

  • Vocabulary Words

  • Glossary of Japanese Words and Phrases

  • Teacher's and Reader's Guide

  • Students' Writing and Research Activities

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Download Chapter One here

Chapter One:
The Day My Life Changed Forever

I will always remember the day my life changed forever.

It was a typical Sunday morning. My brother Yoneichi and I quickly walked through a light rain to get to the local Methodist Church. As usual, we arrived early. We dusted the pews in the small country church and distributed church hymnals and bulletins as people arrived.

That December morning my brother and I were happy. We knew all the people in the church, and we always looked forward to singing the familiar hymns and feeling a part of the congregation. The Sunday service was in English so my parents didn’t attend. Instead, they would attend services in Japanese, held in their living room whenever a Japanese Methodist minister visited our community.

After church that day, my brother and I wished everyone a good week ahead and left for home. As we walked, I studied the Bible verse I had received and repeated it until I memorized it for next Sunday. That would be my last carefree morning, preoccupied with all the interests and worries of a sixteen-year-old American teenager.

We had a happy simple life growing up on a rural island called Vashon, just a fifteen-minute ferryboat ride from Seattle, Washington. My life in that beautiful setting was one of innocence and pleasure. I was just one of the island kids. I attended Vashon Grade School with eight grades in one building. Each teacher taught two different classes in the same room.

My parents, Heisuke and Mitsuno Matsuda, had a small berry farm on Vashon Island. We were one of the thirty-seven Japanese- American families living there. My parents worked long days in the berry fields to make a living for their family. They decided to raise their two children on Vashon because they wanted to protect us from the corrupting influences of life in the city.

But nothing could protect us from the events that would soon follow.

When we got to our house, we cheerfully announced our arrival. My father, whom we always called Papa-san, was sitting at the kitchen table. Normally, Papa-san would have been working outdoors, only returning to the house when lunch was ready. That day, he looked different. His eyes were downcast and he was silent.

Our mother, Mama-san, always greeted us with a smile whenever we came home. But that day, she looked pale as she leaned against the kitchen counter and stared out the window.

“Papa-san, why are you home early?” my brother asked.

When there was no response, Yoneichi’s wide smile vanished. His eyes darted back and forth between Papa-san and Mama-san. Then he turned to our mother.

“Mama-san, is something wrong? What’s going on?”

I put my things down, suddenly frightened. I had never seen this look on my father’s face. I wondered, Why won’t they look at us?

After a long silence, Papa-san looked up and answered quietly in Japanese. “Mr. Yabu called. Japanese airplanes bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii early this morning.”

Yoneichi whirled around and snapped on the radio. We didn’t have to wait long. The booming voice of an urgent reporter burst out the news of the bomb attack. We listened with horror as he hurriedly spit out information about the heavy losses sustained by the United States Navy.

We all stared at the radio in stunned silence.

This can’t be, I thought. There must be some mistake.

I didn’t want to hear about all the ships that had been hit or that more American servicemen had been killed. But the radio announcer’s loud, blaring voice kept interrupting the scheduled programs with more news about the attack.

I didn’t want to hear about all the ships that had been hit or that more American servicemen had been killed. But the radio announcer’s loud, blaring voice kept interrupting the scheduled programs with more news about the attack.

After awhile, I turned away from the radio and looked at my parents. They understood enough English to grasp the meaning of this announcement. Papa-san’s head dropped to his chest, and his shoulders slumped forward. He looked defeated.

Little did we know that Sunday afternoon how much our lives would change, but Papa-san knew enough to be afraid. He realized what could happen if people turned against us because we were Japanese.

Some forty years earlier, shortly after Papa-san’s arrival in the United States, my father and several other Japanese men were working in the coalmines in the Alaskan Klondike. One day, a white friend warned my father, “Harry, there’s a bunch of guys who don’t like you fellows and they are planning to raid your camp tonight. You’d better get out of town right away.”

The Japanese men scrambled to gather their things, hurriedly broke up camp, left their jobs, and escaped before the angry mob arrived. Papa-san told me, “I’m grateful for the friendship of some of the hakujin (white men). They saved our lives.”

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When Papa-san told us about this incident, he also described learning first hand about prejudice against people because of the color of their skin or because of the way they looked. He told Yoneichi and me how important it was to develop good relationships with everyone wherever we went.

Now, we realized all those good relationships with our neighbors and business associates would be tested.

Mama-san had been cooking fried chicken for our Sunday meal, but now it was set aside and forgotten in the midst of the unfolding crisis. She was the perfect Japanese wife—obedient and devoted. Ordinarily, Mama-san was lighthearted, gracious, and very practical about life. Today was different.

Now, her eyes filled with tears as she sank into the chair, whispering in Japanese, “This is terribly distressing. What will happen to us?”

Yoneichi and I looked at each other, stunned. We still couldn’t believe what was being said on the radio. I thought, This can’t really be happening. Are they insane coming thousands of miles from Japan to attack United States territory? Why did they do this?

Even though Papa-san had lived in America since 1898, and Mama-san since 1922, they could not become naturalized citizens. Many Western states, led by California, had enacted laws that prohibited Japanese arriving from Japan from becoming U.S. citizens. There were also “Anti-alien land laws” that prohibited Japanese from buying and owning land. Similar laws were enacted against the Chinese. These anti-Asian laws were the result of white Americans’ fears and prejudices toward Asian immigrants.

We had lived in our home for eleven years, had friendly relationships with our neighbors, and participated in the Vashon community. Still, my parents had no guarantees for their safety because the United States government considered them “aliens.” Yoneichi and I had been born in the United States, which made us American citizens. We were sure our citizenship would protect us, but still, we were afraid.

A big knot doubled, then tripled in the pit of my stomach. I was afraid for my family—and for the world. I had a gnawing feeling of guilt because I was Japanese. I didn’t want to think about the possibility that American people would consider me as the enemy.

I picked up our cat, Kitty, and sat down on a kitchen chair. Repeatedly, I stroked Kitty’s lean silky body and held her close. Our dog, Frisky, sensed something was wrong. He stood nearby and stared at me with his searching gaze. I patted his head and rubbed his ears. In turn, Frisky licked my hand and comforted me as he leaned his body against my legs.

We couldn’t stop listening to the radio reports. Yoneichi kept going outdoors, searching the sky for planes. Whenever my brother sat down, his right leg nervously jiggled up and down, unable to contain himself. He kept rubbing his neck as though he had a pain there.

What could my brother possibly be thinking? I wondered.

Yoneichi was a recent high school graduate and was working on the family farm while he thought about his future. Now, his future seemed suspended.

We spent the rest of the day near each other, tense and silent. Radio reports brought more bad news—additional ships destroyed, growing casualties, more disasters wrought. In the end, we would learn that about 2,400 people were killed from the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

In time, we all went outdoors and kept looking at the sky for planes, unable to listen any longer to the radio reports of devastating news. That night, we had very little appetite for dinner and we stayed up later than usual. Each of us spent a restless night.

Mary's parents
Mitsuno and Heisuke Matsuda, Mary's parents. The photo was taken in 1922 shortly after Heisuke returned to the United States from Japan with his bride.
December 7, 1941, was the day my life changed forever. This was the day the President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, called “a date which will live in infamy.” The next day the United States declared war against Japan. On December 11, the United States also declared war against Germany and Italy, two countries that had joined forces with Japan to create the Axis powers. The United States joined other countries called the Allies, in order to fight and stop the Axis powers from invading other countries.

The day Japan bombed Pearl Harbor was also the last day I felt truly American, even though I had been born in the United States. For the rest of my life, I would struggle with the consequences of this day of infamy.

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Teacher's and Reader's Guide

Download the Teacher's and Reader's Guide here

  1. What happened on the day Mary said her life changed forever? What changed for Mary on that particular day?

    At this point in your own life, have you experienced something that you feel has changed your life forever? If so, what happened?

  2. Why is Mary conflicted about being Japanese and American? At what point did she start to feel this way?

    If you have a mixed cultural/racial background, do you feel conflicted? If so, what are the mixed feelings? If you do not come from a mixed background, what do you imagine would be things people from mixed backgrounds might be conflicted about?

  3. Why did Mary and her family decide to burn their Japanese treasures?

    If you had been in Mary’s situation, would you have burned your treasures? If so, what would you get rid of so the FBI wouldn’t find it?

  4. How many internment camps did Mary have to go to? Why did she move to different camps? What was the same and what was different about each camp?

  5. When was the last time Mary danced a traditional Japanese dance? What happened and why did she decide to never dance again?

  6. In Chapter 16 and Chapter 17, Mary writes about the huge conflict among Japanese Americans in the internment camps when filling out the questionnaire to determine their loyalty. Why did some people answer “Yes Yes” and others answered “No No”? Why did Mary decide to answer “Yes Yes”?

    If you had to decide for yourself, would you be a “Yes Yes” or a “No No” person? Why?

  7. When Mary was having a difficult time living in the internment camps, Mama-san asked Mary to imagine twenty years into the future, and look back at their experience in the internment camps. Mama-san suggested, “What kind of memories do we want to have then of how we faced these difficulties now.” What did Mama-san mean when she said that? Was it helpful to Mary?

    Can you think of something in your own life that is difficult that you want to imagine looking back on twenty years from now? If so, how would you like to remember it?

  8. Yoneichi never spoke much about his experiences fighting in World War II.

    Why do you think he was reluctant to talk about it—not even telling his family he had received a Bronze Medal?

  9. Why was Mary so emotionally torn and upset when she read about the United States dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan?

    If you were Mary’s friend or classmate, what would you say to her after hearing this news?

  10. Why did it take Mary so long to open up and tell the details of her experiences in Japanese-American internment camps? What were the cultural restrictions?

    Do you experience cultural restrictions in your own family? If so, what are they? Would they keep you from sharing your own life story?

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Copyright Mary Matsuda Gruenewald, 2006.