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Publication Date

Spring 2010

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


English and Comparative Literature


Noelle Brada-Williams


David Masumoto, David Mura, Japanese American Literature, Japanese Internment Camps, Julie Otsuka, Sansei Literature

Subject Areas

Literature, Comparative


After President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 in 1942, 110,000 to 120,000 men, women, and children of Japanese decent were moved into Internment Camps. Of these internees, roughly 62% were citizens of the United States of America.

Because the Sansei (third generation, Japanese Americans) largely did not experience the Internment Camps, Sansei writers have a different perspective from Issei and Nisei writers. Sansei writers have a unique emotional and aesthetic distance that creates a type of literature specifically different from Issei and Nisei literature. The Sansei may not have experienced the Internment Camps, but this generation is still active in artistically preserving this event.

The Japanese Internment Camps of World War II is arguably the most important historical event that shaped Japanese-American ethnic and cultural identity. Removed from the event itself, much of Sansei literature explores how the Internment Camps relate to and affect the Sansei generation. Because of this tension, the Sansei feel obligated to retell the experiences of the Internment and/or acknowledge the role of the Internment as it shapes the Sansei a generation later. I call this Sansei obligation to the Internment Camps, "guilt from secondary victimization." This thesis explores this psychological issue as a main factor that motivates Sansei writers to react to and express their feelings regarding the Internment Camp experience.