Barbed Wire Playground: Remembering Childhood Inside Heart Mountain

Worden, Samantha
A sad smile crosses Bill Shishima's face as he recounts Toru Shibata's story, Heart Mountain's lost boy. Dared by his brother to swim across a local canal, cold water shocked Shibata and carried him away. Shishima recounts the story, remembering just two weeks before the incident Shibata asked their church leader "what happens when we die?" Shishima takes long pauses and a deep sadness is prevalent. Softly nodding his head, he stumbles over words, remembering his fellow troop members holding hands walking across the canal, searching for their lost friend. According to Shishima the boys knew they had found their friend dead, as a troop member ran screaming from the canal. Looking up, speaking carefully and thoughtfully, Shishima remembers Shibata being cheerful. Shibata's foreshadowing resonated throughout Shishima's internment narrative. After the suspension of Executive Order 9066, former Japanese-American internees, like Shishima, recorded their memories of hardships associated with internment. These memories tell of forced evacuations, barbed-wired barracks, and deaths. Nevertheless, stories also possess happy childhood memories despite imprisonment. One hundred and eight former Heart Mountain internees reveal a struggle between the established collective narrative of hardship and deep individual memories of pastimes. Recognition of these deep memories shows multiple layers of the collective memory by complicating the accepted history of Heart Mountain.
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