Farewell to Manzanar: Character Profiles
Radine is one of Jeanne’s peers once they move to the Long Beach area. Her family, described as poor whites, migrated to California for better opportunities. Initially, she is very protective of Jeanne and defends her when other peers are mean-spirited. However, as the girls age, they grow apart and Jeanne no longer sees her as a friend, but rather as her competition.
Leonard is one of Jeanne’s high school classmates at Long Beach Polytechnic High School. He accidently overhears teachers discussing Jeanne’s chances of being carnival queen and the idea that they will not allow a Japanese-American to win. He tells Jeanne, but most importantly, he advocates on her behalf and threatens to go public if the teachers don’t allow for a fair vote. His courage leads to Jeanne being selected the first Japanese-American carnival queen.
Fred Tayama is another member of the Mazanar campsite. He is outspoken and unapologetically radical in his advocacy of their rights. Because of his commitment to these issues, he is beaten. After news of his beating spreads through the camp, a riot in protest of his mistreatment ensues.
Aunt Toyo is Jeanne’s great Aunt and Ko’s aunt, who still resides in Japan. While in Tokyo, Woody visits Papa’s aunt who, erroneously, believes that Ko is dead. She is shocked to discover that Woody is Ko’s son and that Ko is alive and well in the United States. She presents him with a samurai sword that has been a part of the family for centuries. Woody proudly accepts the gift and presents it to his father upon his return to the States.
Jeanne is the protagonist of the story. She is a young adolescent girl throughout most of the book and then matures into a teenager and later an adult who is looking back and retrospectively narrating her life’s story. She is observant and curious and must mature rapidly in order to understand the world around her in Camp Manzanar and the larger world that awaits her.
Ko (Papa) Wakatsuki
Ko is Jeanne’s father who wants to adhere to Japanese culture and traditions in raising his family. A successful fisherman by trade, his life is forever changed when he is accused of aiding the enemy, Japan. He is detained and upon his release, he is withdrawn and easily agitated by his family and others.
Woodrow “Woody” Wakatsuki
Woody is Jean’s oldest brother who also spends a considerable amount of time in the camp. Eventually, as with some other Japanese-American detainees, is drafted in the army and fights for America in World War II. He is a sharp contrast to Papa as he asserts his American identity boldly and proudly. Upon his return, his father is proud and sees Woody as a reflection of himself. Woody serves as a reminder of his family’s contribution to American freedom, of which his father, albeit conflicted, is proud.
Riku (Mama) Wakatsuki
Riku is Jean’s mother. She is compassionate and kind and often defends her children from their father’s outburst. She demonstrates her resiliency and fortitude when she becomes the sole provider for the family after their internment ends and Ko cannot find work.
Kiyo is the brother to whom Jeanne is closest in age. The two engage in many acts and activities that allow them to enjoy their childhood, including running, playing and attending a makeshift school while in Manzanar. Kiyo comes to the defense of Mama during one of Papa’s more violent attacks on his mother.
Eleanor is Jeanne’s older sister. Initially, she does not live in the camp. She and her husband reside in Reno, Nevada, but he is drafted and she reunites with her family. During this time she is pregnant, and Papa and Mama express grave concern about the safety of their daughter giving birth in the camp. She eventually does give birth, and both mother and child are healthy and safe.