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Blossoms in the Desert
Topaz High School Class of 1945
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Blossoms in the Desert
Topaz High School Class of 1945

Edited by Darrell Y. Hamamoto
2003, 252 pages, Paperback.
Book Description from the Preface
Comments from Back Cover

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Book Description from the Preface

Blossoms In The Desert - Topaz High Class of 1945 -Our Story in an American Concentration Camp, is the collective effort of members of the Topaz High School Class of 1945, which recounts the experiences of their growing up and receiving their entire high school education from September 1942-June 1945, within the confines of the Topaz Concentration Camp in Utah.

Of the 8,000 plus persons imprisoned in Topaz, the high school class of 1945 numbered some 254. This class Included those who graduated in January 1945, June 1945, as well as the January 1946 class members who had enough course credits to graduate with the June class before the camp closed.

Their average age was about 14 years old at the time when they and their families were uprooted from their homes and imprisoned in a hastily-built compound in a harsh, remote desert. The student body came from various urban and rural settings, from San Francisco's Japantown to remote farms located in Washington. No matter what their background, they found their three years in camp to be perhaps the most impressionable years of their lives. From a sociological and psychological point of view, they were forced to cope with circumstances that few teenagers had to face. Adjustment to loss, dislocation and uncertainty, was compounded by having to live in a confined environment where personal privacy was nonexistent…

Questionnaires were analyzed, oral history interviews were conducted, and some classmates wrote their own personal histories. The interviews recalled the impact of those three years of confinement, not only on education, but on the toll that was exacted in the breakdown of the traditional family unit. Lives were governed by a peer society where students spent much of their time together because most of their social interactions took place at school and the activities therein. There was nowhere else to go to form other relationships or to pursue outside interests. Because most families lived in single rooms with no extra space to entertain guests, friends could not visit each other in the barracks.

The interviews also brought out the strength of the friendships that were formed during those high school years. Since there was no exposure to social or cultural contacts with outside communities or schools, except for athletes competing against nearby high schools, all interactions among the students were restricted to the mono-ethnic student body at Topaz High.

The book remembers those who have preceded the contributors and also reflects on the events that occurred sixty years ago by rediscovering the bonds of common experience of the members of the class within the confines of barbed wire fences, guarded by armed sentries, in a concentration camp named Topaz, which has been returned to the desert from which it arose.

These stories of Incarceration and education in a concentration camp during World War II, unique in the annals of our country's history, are our collective legacy to succeeding generations to ensure that such a travesty of justice never again befalls any other group of people in this country.

Paul "Shorty" Bell, State College, PA
Kumi Ishida, San Mateo, CA
Kenzo Ishimaru, San Jose, CA, project coordinator
George "Dorsey" Kobayashi, St. Louis, MO
Glenn "Rosie " Kumekawa, Wakefield, RI
Daisy Uyeda Satoda. San Francisco, CA
Ron "Tubby" Yoshida, Northridge, CA

September, 2003.

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Comments from Back Cover

"Topaz High School has disappeared, but this collection of oral histories will allow us to remember what it was like for young Nisei to live and go to school behind barbed wire, and grow up in a nation at war that discriminated against its own citizens because of their ethnic background. The recollections, at times poignant, reveal how members of Topaz High School's last graduating class coped with a harsh, and even hostile, environment."
United States Senator

"Blossoms in the Desert captures one of those rare, bittersweet moments in the lives of Japanese Americans incarcerated at Topaz, one of America's ten concentration camps during World War II. The stories ... tell of the lives of young Japanese Americans caught in the grip of war and the impact on their teenage lives. This personal collective memoir reveals their pain but also tells of how they tried to make the best of it through makeshift education, sports, lessons in leadership, and more than anything, lessons about life. The stories... are about young Japanese Americans who demonstrate, above all else, a sense of their humanity and courage."
National Executive Director
Japanese American Citizens League (

"Blossoms in the Desert reveals what it was really like to come of age in an American concentration camp during World War 11. The stories told by students of the Topaz High School Class of '45 are important to every one who cherishes the rights guaranteed by our Constitution. The book also reminds us that those rights are only as strong as the commitment we make, as Americans, to upholding them."

"Blossoms in the Desert is the collective story of the young men and women bound together for life as members of the Topaz High School Class of 1945. This book of poignant-interviews provides a unique look at the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II from perspectives not found in standard history books."
Member of Congress

"The recollections expressed in Blossoms in the Desert display the strong and determined spirit of an American high school class who were forced to learn and grow behind a barbed wire compound armed with US guards. Each story presents an undiscovered aspect of life during the challenging war years as well as how the vision and strength of this unique and unified group of individuals has cherished the value of friendship to guide and shape their lives over the past six decades."
State Librarian of California

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