Japanese American Intergenerational Narratives

See all interviews

About the project

After the entrance of the United States into World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, which mandated the forced removal of Japanese Americans from their homes on the West Coast into incarceration camps inland for the duration of the war. This unjust incarceration uprooted families, disrupted businesses, and dispersed communities—impacting generations of Japanese Americans.
The Japanese American Intergenerational Narratives Oral History Project documents and disseminates the ways in which intergenerational trauma and healing occurred after the United States government's incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. These interviews examine and compare how private memory, creative expression, place, and public interpretation intersect at sites of incarceration. 
Initial interviews in this project focus on the Manzanar and Topaz prison camps in California and Utah, respectively, and pose a comparison through the lens of place, popular culture, and collective memory. How does memory graft differently on different sites? What gets remembered about these sites, and by whom? How does memory differ across generations? Has interpretive work around these sites provided intergenerational catharsis for families of those incarcerated? Does geography and popular culture matter in the healing process? 
Exploring narratives of healing as a through line, these interviews of descendants of World War II incarceration investigate the impact of different types of healing, how this informs collective memory, and how these narratives change across generations.
This oral history project began in 2021 with generous funding from the National Park Service's Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant. Most of the early interviews were conducted remotely via Zoom due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Oral histories online

Interpretive material

Graphic narrative illustrations

The OHC commissioned artist Emily Ehlen to create ten illustrations based upon stories and themes recorded in the interviews. Ehlen’s artwork can be found on the OHC blog and is available for download for educational purposes. We encourage you to use and share Ehlen’s artwork, especially in classrooms when teaching the history and legacy of the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans. When using these images, please credit Emily Ehlen as the artist (for example, Fig. 1, Ehlen, Emily, WAVE, digital art, 2023, Oral History Center, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley), and see the OHC website for more on permissions when using our oral histories. To save a digital copy of any illustration for fair use, right click on the image and select “Save Image As…” The text description that accompanies each illustration aims to provide accessibility for the visually impaired in lieu of alternative text limitations, which does not easily accommodate graphic narrative images. 


Season 8 of The Berkeley Remix podcast, “‘From Generation to Generation’: The Legacy of Japanese American Incarceration,” features stories of activism, contested memory, identity and belonging, as well as artistic expression and memorialization of incarceration. It was produced by Rose Khor, Roger Eardley-Pryor, Shanna Farrell, and Amanda Tewes, and narrated by Devin Katayama. All four episodes are available on the OHC’s SoundCloud account and in your podcast feeds.

Related resources


This project was funded, in part, by a grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program. The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the opinions or policies of the U.S. government. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute their endorsement by the U.S. Government.

This material received federal financial assistance for the preservation and interpretation of U.S. confinement sites where Japanese Americans were detained during World War II. Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, as amended, the U.S. Department of the Interior prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability or age in its federally funded assisted projects. If you believe you have been discriminated against in any program, activity, or facility as described above, or if you desire further information, please write to:

Office of Equal Opportunity
National Park Service
1201 Eye Street, NW (2740)
Washington, DC 20005