George Takei Speaking About New Graphic Novel, 'They Called Us Enemy' At Comic-Con
KPBS Midday Edition Segments / July 19, 2019
"The Called Us Enemy" tells the story of George Takei's childhood years spent in internment camps for Japanese Americans during World War II. The scenes and illustrations bring that shameful episode in American history to life.
Speaker 1: 00:00 Among the celebrities at this year's comicon is one full fledged cultural icon, actor, writer, Star Trek, alumni and activist. George decay will be at comic con with a new accomplishment to one Vail, his new graphic novel that title is, they called us enemy and it tells the story of George decays early childhood years spent in internment camps for Japanese Americans during World War II. The illustrations bring that shameful episode in American history to life and the book ends with a warning that it all may be happening again. It's a pleasure to welcome George to k to midday edition and welcome, sir.
Speaker 2: 00:40 Hello, how are you?
Speaker 1: 00:41 I'm quite well, thank you. Now I know that you've spoken and written about your experiences in the internment camps before. Your story was even the inspiration behind the Broadway musical allegiance. What makes this graphic novel different
Speaker 2: 00:56 with they called us enemy. Will you want to reach a a youth readership? Young Americans because they're the hope for our future. I call this book. They called us, sending me a book of hope because with enough young people who are at that age where they're absorbing information that will stay with them throughout their lives, they will grow up with that knowledge of that chapter of American history, learn to or be able to associate that with similar events that recur. And there'll be more of those people with that knowledge to prevent this sort of thing from happening again. Uh, in the future. Certainly we are living in fraught times today and very sadly, my book is chillingly timely. So, uh, yes, there are echoes of the past and what's happening today.
Speaker 1: 01:59 The information in this book is very detailed. You explain not only where you went and how you felt, but the tensions within the camps, the details of daily life and the hostility of the guards. Now, do you think those are the kind of details that have been glossed over in other accounts?
Speaker 2: 02:17 Well, I tell this story from the eyes of a, an adorable five-year-old me and that way, you know, I grew up on comic strips and this, this is a graphic memoir. So via this medium I want wanted, get people into the story. And once they get into the story, they're exposed to the larger heroin reality that my parents were struggling with. And yes, I do want them to understand the story in detail because it was a series of unrelenting Goding outrageous upon outrageous. But when we see this as, as Newco of today, we have reached a new low. We as children were always intact as a family. We were together with our parents. What's happening today on our southern border is children, infants being torn away from their parents, put in filthy, disgusting stomach turning cages. And some, some of them are even, I mean, really to underscore the evil in a, the intent of this government to scatter them in the far outlying areas of America from where they were, uh, torn away from their parents. Places like Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Jersey. And when the courts ordered them to bring the children together back with their parents, they are so incompetent that they can't locate the children or the parents. Something may have been deported already. This kind of horror is a new low. And we've got to increase the number of caring, compassionate, decent Americans who know this and in the future will a number those that will support this sort of outrage
Speaker 1: 04:17 as you're describing at the end of your book, they called us enemy. You do move us forward to the modern day with a drawing of a migrant child in detention. I'm were you at all concerned that that would alienate some of your readers?
Speaker 2: 04:33 You know, this is still from the eyes of uh, me as a little child. I hope that they are human enough to connect as another human with the a situation. Those that are alienated by this story are the very ones that are supporting the outrages that are happening again. And I want the larger, decent American public to be repurposed by people who are alienated by this story. I think this book will be enormously, uh, uh, embraced by the American reading public and uh, uh, the hope people that, uh, in the future will not allow this sort of thing to happen again in our name as Americans. We are better than these, this history that we have and we will become much better.
Speaker 1: 05:28 I want to ask you a couple of questions about yourself. If I may. I do you enjoy going to comicon? I know that you've been here before.
Speaker 2: 05:36 I have, I've done many a series star trek being the one that's best known startrek is 53 years old now and still going strong.
Speaker 1: 05:46 And as I said at the beginning, too many people, you're more than a celebrity. You're a cultural icon. And I always want, how do you deal with that kind of fame?
Speaker 2: 05:56 Well, this is all part
Speaker 1: 05:58 of what I do. Uh, I have a mission, but I also, uh, enjoy people. And I also am a passionate lover of our democracy and, uh, wanting to see our country be the best that it can be. And I think by, uh, talking not only about the, uh, dark chapters of our history, but you know, humanizing that story and that means also seeing some of the outrageous as ridiculous and they're far beneath us. And so that, out of that comes humor. My father used to tell me that resilience isn't just teeth grip, uh, grinding muscle flexing a strength. It's also having the strength to see beauty under horrific circumstances, to be able to fall in love, to be able to find joy. And so, you know, resilience is to live life fully and, and with purpose and, uh, uh, sharing my story as a child. Uh, and that, uh, the circumstances of my childhood I think is also a part of, uh, being a, a human being able to see, look back and try to use that to make, uh, our lives today a better one. And our government as a truer democracy is, this is my, uh, book of a hope for the future. I've been speaking with Dr. George Takei, who's exhibiting his new graphic novel. They called US enemy at comicon and Mr [inaudible], thank you very much for your time.
Speaker 2: 07:47 It's been a pleasure. Thank you.
Speaker 1: 07:49 George Takei with co-writers, Justin Issachar and Stephen Scott and artist harmony. Becker will make three comicon appearances with signings today and tomorrow, and a panel in room 25, ABC tomorrow at 1:00 PM.