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Local families whose lives were reshaped by internment in World War II loaned memorabilia to the library for the Winter Read exhibit.

Since kicking off its 2020 Winter Read at the end of January, The Community Library has organized a plethora of programs, including lectures, film screenings and book discussion groups, all revolving around the central theme of Japanese-American internment at Minidoka during World War II and around the novel “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” by Jamie Ford.

In addition to all those programs, two visual exhibitions have gone up, one at the library and one at the Regional History Museum in Forest Service Park. The opening reception for the latter formally launched proceedings on the entire Winter Read.

So, fittingly and with attentiveness to symmetry, the Winter Read will conclude with a public reception of the other exhibition, followed by Jamie Ford’s keynote talk (see the cover story of this section for details of that event).

The exhibit, titled “The Bitter and Sweet: Word War II Stories of Japanese Americans in the West,” has been on display in the library’s main foyer since the beginning of the Winter Read. Occupying a number of glass cases in the lobby, individual displays of small items tell a big story.

“The Bitter and Sweet,” curated by the library’s Jeanne Rodger Lane Center for Regional History, provides a unique and insightful perspective on the topic of Japanese-American incarceration during World War II.

Executive Order 9066, issued by President Franklin Roosevelt, led to the internment of more than 120,000 Japanese-Americans and Japanese citizens living in the United States.

The library’s exhibit takes this story of enormous scale and focuses on relatable, human experiences. It takes those staggering numbers and finds the intimate moments therein by pulling together the personal stories of five Japanese-American families impacted by the Executive Order, each with a family member currently living in the Wood River Valley.

The families of Marsha Takahashi Edwards, Karen Miyagishima Bliss, Robyn Kawakami Achilles, Rod Tatsuno and Scott Watanabe have all contributed photographs, mementos and other such commemorative materials.

Three of the stories on display relay the experiences of family members who were incarcerated. The other two focus on families who, although they lived outside of the exclusion zone and were not forcibly relocated from their homes, nevertheless faced daily anti-Asian persecution.

All five families also share proud stories of the honor of serving in the United States armed forces in various capacities despite the prejudice they faced.

“We are offering the community an opportunity to learn more about the incarceration of Japanese-Americans in World War II and the toll it took on families for generations after the war,” said Mary Tyson, director of regional history. “It’s a great moment in this exhibit to be able to see some of the important objects in a family’s past, which were carefully kept by the survivors. The personal memorabilia on loan from the families is compelling, sweet and at the same time moves one to tears.”

The reception will take place in the library’s foyer on Thursday, March 12, from 4:30-6 p.m., immediately preceding Jamie Ford’s keynote talk. Taking a few moments to explore the stories of the exhibition will provide important context moving into Ford’s talk.

Both the reception and the talk are free and open to the public. Visit comlib.org/winter-read.

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