Johannes Schmid - Documenting Japanese American Internment: Framing Strategies in George Takei’s They Called Us Enemy and Miné Okubo’s Citizen 13660
After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, 120.000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated in concentration camps. This racist, discriminatory practice and its traumatic legacy have been documented in two major graphic narrative works: Miné Okubo’s Citizen 13660, an illustrated memoir that was first published in 1946 (and recently republished by the University of Washington Press, rebranded as a “graphic novel”), and George Takei’s 2019 graphic memoir They Called Us Enemy that he co-authored with Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker. While Okubo’s work presents one of the earliest examples of modern nonfiction graphic narrative, Takei is part of the recent trend involving major public figures publishing their memoirs as comics, which also includes Congressman John Lewis’ March-Trilogy, both published by TopShelf Productions.
Drawing on a model developed in my upcoming book Frames and Framing in Documentary Comics, this talk will connect theories of framing from disciplines such as cognitive narratology, sociology, literary studies, and media studies to comics analysis. Specifically, this talk will examine textual framing strategies – concerning paratexts, narrative structure, and graphic rendering – that Citizen 13660 and They Called Us Enemyemploy to document and make particular arguments about Japanese American internment. Encompassing the entire period since World War II, these two works will serve as a historical case study to discuss the potential of graphic narrative to influence public opinion and achieve social justice as well as to hypothesize possible futures of the medium.