Cover Photo: Illustration by Cori Lin for Catapult
Illustration by Cori Lin for Catapult

You Gave the Enemy a Face—and That Face Was Mine

In America, we like to be heroes—to find our enemies and defeat them. So, in a pandemic where the enemy is not visceral, we create one that is.


We Asian Americans need to embrace and prove our American-ness in ways we never have before . . . we should show without a shadow of a doubt that we are Americans.

[In contemporary narratives] the monster, while initially perceived as terrible and an outsider, proves himself through his actions and his ability to care for othersThe Kiss of Death: Contagion, Contamination, and Folklore

Who is sickWho is ?

Nakamura-Lin's grandfather, age fifteen, poses inside Granada War Relocation Center (Camp Amache) during World War II
Nakamura-Lin's grandfather, age fifteen, poses inside Granada War Relocation Center (Camp Amache) during World War II (Photo courtesy of author)

The intriguing part of disease legends,is that in addition to fear of illness, they express primarily a fear of outsiders.

It is very important that we totally protect our Asian American community . . . They are amazing people, and the spreading of the Virus is NOT their fault in any way, shape, or form. They are working closely with us to get rid of it.

about to They are working closely with us to get rid of it. They who is ?

real

Los Angeles TimesA viper is nonetheless a viper wherever the egg is hatched. A leopard’s spots are the same and its disposition is the same wherever it is whelped.

You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good?You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned into hell!

It was in the afternoon when we reached [the camp]From there we first got a glimpse of the center. I was wondering how will they ever put all of us in a small place that small . . . What surprised me most was why did the soldiers have to stand guard with guns . . . and to tell you the truth the way some people stared at us, it chilled me a bit.

Each block had a town hall meeting to discuss whether to volunteer The Issei , our parents, they said, ‘Why should our sons fight for a country that put us in a concentration camp?’ But the Nisei , we thought,‘This is the only country we know.’

Nakamura Lin's great uncle, Joe Nakamura, signs up to join the 442nd Infantry Regiment at Amache Relocation Camp.
Nakamura Lin's great-uncle, Joe Nakamura, signs up to join the 442nd Infantry Regiment at  (Photo courtesy of author)

race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.

circulated to promote capitalism and to undermine the credibility of black civil rights,

Reality is not the purpose of disease narratives,Instead, one population tells these narratives about another population, thus giving the stories a focus that is elsewhere and defining the infected population as something that is definitively Other.

We:

We [Asian Americans] are reputed to be so accomplished, and so law-abiding, that we will disappear into this country’s amnesiac fogWe will not be the power but become absorbed by power, not share the power of whites but be stooges to a white ideology that exploited our ancestors.

Life

Life magazine from December 1941

Individual Japanese Americans were quite willing to go to HBCUs,However, the council was not in favor, and gave various reasons which largely boiled down to ‘racial solidarity between African Americans and Japanese Americans is dangerous and could undermine the entire program of sending Japanese Americans to college.’

we

Japanese Children’s Favorite Stories

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Monsters appear to look like us but are not us,The self and the Other can shift and meld, depending on the performance context.

Jami Nakamura Lin writes the Catapult column "The Monsters in the Mirror." Her essays have appeared or are forthcoming in the New York Times, Electric Literature,  Passages North, and other publications. She was featured in the anthology  What God is Honored Here? (University of Minnesota Press, 2019).

She is the recipient of a 2016 Creative Artists Fellowship from the Japan-US Friendship Commission and the National Endowment of the Arts and a 2015 Walter Dean Myers Award from We Need Diverse Books.

Twitter: @jaminlin / jaminakamuralin.com