POWELL, Wyo. — The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, which operates a museum on the site of one of the 10 incarceration camps that held Japanese Americans during World War II, is extending a formal invitation to members of the Muskego-Norway School Board of Wisconsin to visit the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center and meet with staff and descendants of the incarceration.

Julie Otsuka is the author of “When the Emperor Was Divine” and “The Buddha in the Attic.”

Earlier this month, a school board committee rejected an earlier school decision to buy 60 copies of the award-winning “When the Emperor Was Divine,” the 2002 novel about the Japanese American incarceration by Julie Otsuka. Media reports cited concerns about “balance” in the interpretation of the incarceration, including a suggestion by one board member that the school curriculum should include the 1937 Nanjing massacre in China by imperial Japanese troops as a possible reason for the incarceration of Americans of Japanese descent.

Two-thirds of the incarcerees were born in the U.S. and 40 percent were under the age of 18. Many of their immigrant parents had lived and worked in the U.S. for decades but were prohibited from naturalizing as U.S. citizens. They had nothing to do with the policies of the imperial Japanese government.

Multiple U.S. government reports, scholarly books and articles conclude that the reasons for their incarceration were racism, war hysteria, and failure of political leadership.

“We are sincere in our hope that the Muskego-Norway School Board members will come to our site, where they can experience the power of place and engage in dialogue about what happened here, how it happened, and why,” says Aura Sunada Newlin, a descendant of Heart Mountain incarcerees and the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation’s Interim executive director. “We pride ourselves in creating a safe and enriching space for such conversations to unfold.”

The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation preserves the historic site where some 14,000 Japanese Americans were unjustly incarcerated in Wyoming from 1942 through 1945. The stories of those incarcerees are told within the foundation’s museum, Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, located between Cody and Powell. For more information, call (307) 754-8000 or email info@heartmountain.org.

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