Farewell to Manzanar: Biography
Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston is an American-born writer who rose to literary fame after the 1973 publication of her memoir, Farewell to Manzanar. Born on September 26, 1934, in Inglewood California, Wakatsuki and her family were detained in the Japanese Internment Camp called Manzanar. Her mother, Riku, was a first-generation American whereas her father, Ko, was born in Japan.
In Farewell to Manzanar, Wakatsuki captures her experiences and the impact of the internment on her, her family and others who were interned. After being released, most of her extended family relocated to the East Coast, while Jeanne and her parents remained in California. She graduated from Long Beach Polytechnic High School. She went on to attend and graduate from San Jose State University, where she met her husband James D. Houston who cowrote the memoir with her.
The original success of the book propelled the plight of survivors into the public realm. Wakatsuki has enjoyed extensive experience speaking on the lecture circuit and writing. Numerous high schools have adopted Farewell to Manzanar in their curriculum.
In 2002 the book was rereleased with a film version. With the reissuing of her text, Wakatsuki Houston’s work has been introduced to a new generation of American readers. In the afterword of the 2002 edition, she and her husband write “for many readers of many backgrounds, the story of a young girl who finds herself separated from the larger society for reasons she does not yet understand can have a strong contemporary resonance” (187).
In addition, she is the author of Don’t Cry, It’s Only Thunder, published in 1984, and she cowrote Beyond Manzanar and Other Views of Asian-American Womanhood with Paul G Hensler in 1985. Additionally, she cowrote a play, “Barrio,” with her husband.
As of 2011, Jeanne and her husband reside in Santa Cruz, California. She is the mother of three children, Corinne, Joshua and Gabrielle.