Desert Exile (book)

Title Desert Exile
Author Uchida, Yoshiko
Original Publisher University of Washington Press
Original Publication Date 1982
Current Publication Date 2015
Pages 154
WorldCat Link
RG Media Type books
Title Desert Exile: The Uprooting of a Japanese American Family
Creators Yoshiko Uchida
Interest Level Grades 9-12; Adult
Grade Reading Level Grades 9-12; Adult
Theme Injustice; Displacement; Evils of racism
Genre Biography; Non fiction
Point-of-View/Protagonist Characteristics First person; Japanese American woman
Availability Widely available
Free Web Version No
Has Teaching Aids? Yes
Geography Berkeley, California; San Bruno, California; Delta, Utah
Chronology 1942-1946
Facility Tanforan [15]; Topaz (Central Utah) [1]

Desert Exile: The Uprooting of a Japanese-American Family is an autobiography by noted children's book author Yoshiko Uchida that chronicles her experiences in the years before and during her incarceration in an American concentration camp during World War II. It was originally published in 1982 by the University of Washington Press and reissued with a new introduction by Traise Yamamoto in 2015.

Uchida writes extensively about the Issei, especially through observations of her own parents, and how they responded to the enormous losses and humiliation wrought by the government's decision to forcibly remove all Japanese from the West Coast and into government war camps. It is a deeply personal book, one in which she tells of her father's abrupt seizure by the FBI from their home in Berkeley, California; of her family's frantic efforts to vacate their home on ten days notice; of being forced to live in a horsestall at Tanforan detention center; and of being sent on to Topaz, a bleak camp in the Utah desert, surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards. Through intimate, detailed accounts of the losses suffered over the duration of the years in camp, Uchida illustrates the lasting impact that the U.S. government policies had on Japanese Americans' economic, cultural, physical, and psychological well-being.

In the book's epilogue, Uchida explains her purpose in writing Desert Exile: "I wrote [the book] for the young Japanese Americans who seek a sense of continuity with their past. But I wrote it as well for all Americans, with the hope that through knowledge of the past, they will never allow another group of people in America to be sent into a desert exile ever again"[1]

Authored by Patricia Wakida

Might also like Dandelion Through the Crack/Kiyo's Story by Kiyo Sato; Looking Like the Enemy: My Story of Imprisonment in Japanese-American Internment Camps by Mary Matsuda Gruenewald; We the People: A Story of Internment in America by Mary Tsukamoto

For More Information

Desert Exile at the University of Washington Press website.

Chen, Fu-jen, and Su-lin Yu. "Reclaiming the Southwest: A Traumatic Space in the Japanese American Internment Narrative." Journal of the Southwest 47.4 (Winter 2005): 551–70.

Yamamoto, Traise. Masking Selves, Making Subjects: Japanese American Women, Identity, and the Body. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.


  1. Yoshiko Uchida, Desert Exile: The Uprooting of a Japanese-American Family (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1982), 154.