BOOK

MOVING WALLS PROJECT

To buy: Japanese American National Museum

Exhibit: Moving Walls: Heart Mountain Barracks in the Bighorn Basin

Cards: In Shop

I’m proud to announce some news about a book project I’ve been working on. For just over two years I’ve been collaborating with Sharon Yamato, a writer friend from Los Angeles, on a book about the barracks from the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming, an American concentration camp that unjustly incarcerated some 14,000 Japanese Americans during WWII.

This is a follow-up to a small book we published in 1995 that documented a project by the Japanese American National Museum to preserve two of the Heart Mountain barracks. Recently, Sharon got a grant from the National Park Service to expand the book and produce a companion documentary.

The book is now out, and it’s called Moving Walls: The Barracks of America’s Concentration Camps. Sharon’s idea was to find out what happened to the barracks after the war. It turns out that the U.S. government, through the Bureau of Reclamation, sold off the flimsy wooden structures for $1 apiece to homesteaders, many of them returning WWII veterans and their families.

Sharon found about a dozen of the original homesteaders, most of them still living in homes that had once served as barracks in the nearby Heart Mountain camp and were later enclosed or modified by construction. Most of the homesteaders bought two or three of the barracks, turning one into their living quarters and the others into out buildings. In this way these artifacts of history have been preserved within the walls of many houses in the area while those that were used as storage buildings remain in almost original condition.

It was fascinating to hear the stories of the homesteaders and see how these barracks were transformed to serve the needs of a different population. This shared history between the incarcerees and the farmers became the central theme of the book. One group was forced, via an executive order, and later, at gunpoint, to uproot their lives and live in crude conditions on desolate land, stripped of their freedom for several years. The other group came voluntarily, looking for work after serving in the war and hoping to live the American dream in the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming.

We hope the book helps illuminate the history of this unconstitutional incarceration and also a little-known part of post-WWII Wyoming history.

The book can be found at the online shop at the Japanese American National Museum. Click here.

If you happen to visit either the JANM in Los Angles or the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center in Powell, WY, the book is also available in both gift shops. The Interpretive Center is also showing an exhibit in their gallery of 20 images from the book until the end of 2017. Click here.

In addition to the book, I have made two sets of note cards with black & white images from the book that are available at both museums and on my website. Click here.

And on Dec. 9, Sharon’s documentary will be screened at JAMN in Los Angeles. Click here.  I’ll be there, and we hope to do a book signing after the film.