Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dear Miss Breed by Joanne F. Oppenheim

Dear Miss Breed: True Stories of the Japanese American Incarceration During World War II and a Librarian Who Made a Difference by Joanne F. Oppenheim - 288 pages

Dear Miss Breed tells the story of one librarian who made a difference to dozens of children incarcerated against their will during World War II.  Miss Breed, as the children's librarian at San Diego Public Library, was disappointed when the U.S. government moved the West Coast Japanese to internment camps.  Doubly so since most of the children who were avid readers and visitors at her branch were young second- and third-generation Japanese Americans.  So when they could no longer come to the library, she sent the library to them.  Throughout the time of internment, Miss Breed loyally wrote her "children" and sent them donated and discarded books to read as well as other necessities.  And they always wrote back, sometimes sending gifts or money to request purchases, and always requesting more books.

The format of the book makes it conducive to learning.  The book opens to a "portrait of the era."  Then it moves into a format where each chapter opens to the history of the months it covers, followed by the stories of Miss Breed and the children during the same period.  It ends with a follow up on everyone's life.  In the latter half of the chapters and the follow-up, many primary sources are included.  We can read excerpts from articles Miss Breed wrote on her efforts, letters the children wrote to her, relevant excerpts from Eleanor Roosevelt's My Day column, and oral history interviews the author conducted.  Sadly, none of Miss Breeds letters survived the harsh conditions of the camp.

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