George Takei's They Called Us Enemy

The AY 2020-21 Common Read Book Selection is They Called us Enemy by George Takei.

They Called Us Enemy is a graphic memoir of actor, social activist and LGBTQ+ icon George Takei's experience in WWII American concentration camps in California and Arkansas. This work exposes readers to a shameful time in America's past through young Takei's point of view, showing the impact of internment on Takei's Japanese American family and community. With illustrations by Harmony Becker, They Called Us Enemy is a moving and eye-opening work.

Engaging with a graphic memoir offers us all new opportunity and flexibility as Common Read participants to experience different, non-traditional forms of literacies. Graphic literature helps us all to push the boundaries and limitations of understanding what reading a text may mean for us all. Most significantly, They Called Us Enemy is a timely work on so many different levels regarding all the -isms many of us are thinking about during this time and place in America..

This Common Read selection aligns with the upcoming KHC exhibit “The Concentration Camps: Inside the Nazi System of Incarceration and Genocide” and is an appropriate text across disciplines and student populations at our College, both in credit and non-credit courses.

They Called Us Enemy is truly beautiful — moving, thoughtful, important, engaging, and stunningly rendered. I am so excited to see this book's impact on the world.” — Jacqueline Woodson, National Ambassador for Young People's Literature and National Book Award-winning author of Brown Girl Dreaming

“George Takei's story reveals the important lessons of the WWII Japanese American Incarceration that still need to be learned today. They Called Us Enemy is a compelling must-read for all ages.” — Karen Korematsu, Founder and Executive Director, Fred T. Korematsu Institute

“Riveting… Takei has evolved into an increasingly powerful voice for oppressed communities, and Enemy finds him at peak moral clarity — an unflinching force in these divisive times.” The Washington Post

If you have any questions relating to the Common Read, you may contact Meg Tarafdar at cetl@qcc.cuny.edu or John YI at jyi@qcc.cuny.edu to discuss possible connections between the text and your class.

Common Read Events-Spring 2021

Oppression and Resistance in America's World War II Concentration Camps: Wednesday, February 24 at 12 p.m.

Common Read Kick-off Event

Many historians and Japanese Americans cite the loss of US citizenship rights as the biggest injustice of the camps, and many believe cooperation and not resistance was the norm. Join Dr. Gary Okihiro, Professor Emeritus of international and public affairs at Collumbia University and a Visiting Professor of American studies at Yale University, as he outlines the nature of the oppression in that historical experience, and the resistance posed to those oppressive acts. This lecture is part of the 2020-21 Harriet and Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Center (KHC) and National Endowment for the Humanities Colloquium entitled, “Internment & Resistance: Confronting Mass Detention and Dehumanization,” and is presented in partnership with the Asian American/ Asian Research Institute-CUNY and the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center, Cincinnati.

Recorded Event Link:

Oppression and Resistance in America’s World War II Concentration Camps Recording


How to Read a Graphic Novel: Thursday, February 25 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.; March 2 from 4 to 5 p.m.; Robin Ford, English

Common Read Kick-off Event

Join Professor Robin Ford, English, in this engaging and informative session on how to read a graphic novel and learn more about this unique genre. Professor Ford has taught a wide array of graphic texts in her courses and has taught a course specifically on the graphic genre, ENGL 264: Graphic Genres. Come learn specific terminology, nuances and styles that are required to know when reading the graphic novel. This event is especially helpful for those needing a foundation and assistance in reading George Takei’s They Called Us Enemy. A short Q & A will follow Professor Ford’s talk. All are welcome to join and participate.

See Recorded Event Link from Professor Ford's February 25th talk:

How to Read a Graphic Novel Recording

Passcode: e=4yXs0^


A Social Media Conversation about They Called Us Enemy ; Raquel Corona, Zivah Katz, and Robin Ford; #CommonReadQCC21 #TheyCalledUsEnemy Twitter: @GeorgeTakei IG: @georgeehtakei


Biology of a Hate Crime: Monday, March 1 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.; John Yi, English

This event hopes to shed some light on hate crimes that are presented in George Takei’s They Called Us Enemy, as well as make connections to hate crimes today. In particular, this talk hopes to discuss and examine the recent rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans, as well as activism that has resulted from these hate crimes including the “They Can’t Burn Us All” rallies, an anti-racism movement. Students are invited to participate and share any relevant perspectives and experiences.

Recorded Event Link:

Biology of a Hate Crime Recording

Passcode: i76*7Q6A

Remembering the Japanese Internment Through Its Camps: Tuesday, March 2 from 12 to 1 p.m. Danny Sexton, English

This audience-engagement event is the first of a two-part event that focuses on how we remember the Japanese internment through its camps. For this first part, the focus will be on the terminologies of camps with attention being given to the various camps and their locations as well as the debate over the various terms used to describe them and which ones, if any, are more accurate and appropriate. During this event, we will pay close attention to the descriptions of the various camps as depicted in George Takei’s They Called Us Enemy.

Recorded Event Link:

Event Recording


Resilience and coping strategies on Mental Health: Tuesday, March 2 from 5 to 6 p.m. and PTSD & Stress Management: Tue, March 2 6:00 PM-7:00 PM;

Janet Rice Franzese & Kathleen Pecinka, Nursing

Join Professors Janet Rice Franzese and Kathleen Pecinka for this engaging, student-led event on mental health. Presentations will be made by their Nursing students that cover a wide range of mental health topics, specifically on resilience and coping strategies, as well as PTSD and stress management. Their nursing students will also be present during this event to lend their voices and perspectives. There will be opportunity for a brief Q & A session following the presentations.

Recorded Event Links:

Common Read Zoom Recordings

Passcode: #Qz*yp*2


Italian Internment During World War II and the Limits of Racism in America: Wednesday, March 3 from 12 to 1 p.m.; Dr. Laura Ruberto

Even before the United States and Italy went to war, various fascist and anti-fascist efforts impacted Italian Americans. During the war over a half a million Italian citizens living in the United States (not American citizens) had to register as enemy aliens, thousands were forced to resettle, and a small number were interned. In the same era Italian soldiers and merchant marines were imprisoned throughout the United States. Well before the war with Italy would end the United States government lifted restrictions on Italian citizens in this country and, later still, the status of many Italian POWs also changed. The differing ways Italians and Italian Americans were treated in the United States were not only influenced by political concerns but also by practices of xenophobia and racism, a point made especially clear in comparison to the experiences of Japanese Americans. And yet, better understanding the multiple realities of Italians in the United States in this era helps complicate our sense of how race and ethnicity shapes experiences in wartime and in peace. Dr. Laura Ruberto, Humanities professor at Berkeley City College, will reflect on how political pressure, cultural visibility, and an emerging position of whiteness helped build public acceptance of this immigrant community.

This lecture is part of the 2020-21 Harriet and Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Center (KHC) and National Endowment for the Humanities Colloquium entitled, "Internment & Resistance: Confronting Mass Detention and Dehumanization," and is presented in partnership with the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute at Queens College-CUNY and the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center, Cincinnati.

Recorded Event Link:

Italian Internment During World War II and the Limits of Racism in America


Horror, History & Monsters: Thursday, March 4 from 1 to 2 p.m.; Ilse Schrynemakers & Valerie Peyer, English

Join us to explore how the horror genre is used to tell stories of resistance, bravery, survival, and resilience. Film and television examples we’ll delve into include the early Godzilla films and the AMC series The Terror: Infamy, which combines the supernatural and the historical to tell the story of the Nakayama family who, along with other Japanese-American families in World War II America, are forced to live in prison camps. We’ll discuss themes, watch cast interviews, and, if possible, view short clips from the series and monster-related films.

Recorded Event Link:

Horror, History & Monsters Recording


Unpacking Anti-Japanese Imagery: Friday, March 5 from 4 to 5 p.m.; Barbara Emanuele, English

During World War II, Japanese Americans were confronted with Anti-Japanese propaganda via print ads. In this discussion, Anti-Japanese imagery will be unpacked through a discussion of how color, placement, and repetitive imagery is used to create an unconscious mind worm. Students will then be asked to find contemporary anti-ethnic imagery, unpack it using the techniques discussed, and evaluate how social media has added to the use of imagery as hate speech.

Recorded Event Link:

Unpacking Anti-Japanese Imagery Recording

Password: !h0dRz?a


Trauma & They Called Us Enemy : Monday, March 8 at 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Rezan Akpinar, Biology

Join Dr. Rezan Akpinar and her Eastern I students as they present an engaging talk on trauma from Eastern medicine perspective. Their talk on trauma will also intersect with areas in George Takei's They Called Us Enemy. There will be some time for a Q & A following the presentation. All are welcome!

Recorded Event Link:

Trauma & They Called Us Enemy Recording

Presentation Slides


Purpose, Imagination and Connection: George Takei's Singular Life: Monday, March 8 from 12 to 1 p.m.; Beth Counihan, English

Students will present about Takei’s family history and his life before and after internment: as an actor, activist and icon. Attendees will participate in break-out rooms to discuss how their own families, passions and concerns about social justice motivate them to action.

Recorded Event Link:

Purpose, Imagination and Connection Recording

Password: 0wLKs#BP


Library Guide Tour on Queens History as World History: Tuesday, March 9 from 10 to 11 a.m.; Madeline Ruggiero, Library

Join Professor Madeline Ruggiero, Library, for this engaging and interactive library guide tour on doing ethnographic research. Professor Ruggiero will share her library guide titled, Queens History as World History, and will share helpful tools and techniques for conducting research, particularly ethnographic research on a given social, cultural, and historical topic or area. Resources related to Japanese American Internment will also be shared and talked about during this tour. The library guide tour willconclude with a Q & A and opportunity for any research-related questions to be answered.


Tsuru Rising! Activism, Resistance, and Solidarity: Tuesday, March 9 from 1 to 2 p.m.; Ilse Schrynemakers, English

Join us to partake in a watch party of the short documentary “Pilgrimage” (23 mins, 2006). This short film features the story of transforming an internment concentration camp into a symbol of solidarity in post-9/11 America. We will discuss & reflect on the meaning of being an activist and of feelings of solidarity with targeted communities. Together students will create individual Tsuru/paper cranes, which has long been a powerful image of commitment to making a more peaceful world

Recorded Event Link:

Common Read Tsuru Rising Recording


Art and Incarceration: Tuesday, March 9 from 2 to 3 p.m.; Cara Murray, English

Over 2.3 million people were behind bars in the United States in 2016, roughly a quarter of the total prison population on the planet. Rarely do we get the chance to see artwork made by people who are currently imprisoned. Join us for a student-led virtual tour of the MOMA PS1 exhibit: “Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration.” Students who have researched these artists and artworks, will walk you throughthis ground-breaking exhibit.


Facing my Engineering Technology Major : Wed, March 10, at 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM; Huixin Wu, Engineering Technology

Facing my Engineering Technology Major project consists of students creating graphic memoir using electronics components. This graphic memoir offers a purpose to self-reflect on the difficulties that each Engineering Technology student has or is facing through their career/major. Students can also illustrate the process that each of them is doing to overcome the difficulties in the formation of their professional career. Once students have chosen the difficulties that they want to present, they will need to build a circuit, using electronics components or software simulation (Multisim), to graphically represent his/her memoir. Through the circuit, students should be able to show and justify how the circuit design assembles the difficult moments through the engineering technology major. In addition, students will also need to link passengers of Takei’s book that has inspired them to come up with the idea of building the circuit.


Exploring haiku! Wednesday, March 10 from 12 to 1:30 p.m.; Alison Cimino & Ben Miller, Creative Writing Club.

Join the Creative Writing Club for a discussion and creative writing event exploring haiku! We will read examples of haiku and discuss some examples of haiku created in Japanese internment camps. In addition, we will write our own haikus! A haiku is a 3 line, Japanese form of poetry that relies on a syllable count of 5/7/5 syllables in each line.

Presentation Slides


Graphic Internment: Wednesday, March 10 from 12 to 1 p.m.; KHC/NEH 2020-21 Colloquium Event.

Join two faculty members from Queensborough Community College’s English Department for a conversation about the internment of Japanese-Americans in the United States during WWII. John Yi, Lecturer, will discuss QCC’s 2020-21 Common Read text, George Takei’s graphic novel, They Called Us Enemy, while Dr. Aliza Atik, Associate Professor, will review Mine Okubo’s Prisoner 13660. This lecture is part of the 2020-21 Harriet and Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Center (KHC) and National Endowment for the Humanities Colloquium entitled, “Internment & Resistance: Confronting Mass Detention and Dehumanization and both books are related to the KHC’s original exhibition, “The Concentration Camps: Inside the Nazi System of Incarceration and Genocide.”

Recorded Event Link:

Graphic Internment Recording


Documentary Theater and Historical Trauma on Theater of War by Lola Arias: Thursday, March 11 from 11 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.; Noelia Diaz, English

For this event, we’ll explore how documentary theater can be used to explore historical collective trauma. We will watch the documentary Theater of War by Argentine artist Lola Arias, focused on the Malvinas/Falklands War (April 2, 1982- June 12, 1982) between England and Argentina. In addition to documents, video, interviews and photographs the “actors” performing the play are former soldiers, both British and Argentine. After the viewing we will discuss how theater can help redefine collective memories of trauma, and the value and drawbacks, of relying on individual experiences to explore transnational conflicts.

Recorded Event Link:

Common Read Event Recording

Passcode: M+6g2Pm5


Remembering the Japanese Internment Through Its Camps: Part 2: Touring the Camps: Thursday, March 11 from 12 to 1 p.m.; Danny Sexton, English

This audience-engagement event is the second of a two-part event that focuses on how we remember the Japanese internment through its camps. Utilizing websites, we will take a virtual tour of three camps: Rowher War Relocation Center (Arkansas), Tule Lake War Relocation Center (California), and Manzanar War Relocation Center (California). George Takei and his family were first interned at Rowher and later transported to Tule Lake. We are including Manzanar because it is the best known of the camps, the first camp to be designated as National Historic Site, and the best preserved of the former camps. While there are many questions that this event is designed to elicit, the main one that participants would be asked to consider is how the images and presentation of the camps compare to Takei’s descriptions and experiences in They Called Us Enemy.

Recorded Event Link:

Common Read Event Recording


Remixing Propaganda: Thursday, March 11 from 12 to 1 p.m.; Nathaniel Sullivan, Art & Design;

Selected students will present a virtual screening of video art works from remixing propaganda, a project assigned concurrently to ARTS 191 students participating in the common read. A short, moderated Q & A will follow the screening, with students and attendees tying in the works with the current KHC exhibit, the uses of propaganda, and the common read text. Open to the entire campus community.

Recorded Event Link:

Remixing Propaganda Recording


To Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before: A Discussion on Star Trek, Takei and Philosophy:
Thursday, March 11 from 2 to 3 p.m.; Mark Zelcer & John Yi

Recorded Event Link:

To Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before Recording

Passcode: &4PDt%r?

Campus Cultural Centers

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Kupferberg Holocaust Center Opens in a new window

The KHC uses the lessons of the Holocaust to educate current and future generations about the ramifications of unbridled prejudice, racism and stereotyping.

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QPAC: Performing Arts CenterOpens in a new window

QPAC is an invaluable entertainment company in this region with a growing national reputation. The arts at QPAC continues to play a vital role in transforming lives and building stronger communities.

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QCC Art Gallery

The QCC Art Gallery of the City University of New York is a vital educational and cultural resource for Queensborough Community College, the Borough of Queens and the surrounding communities.