The Moved-Outers (book)
|Author||Florence Crannell Means|
|Publisher||Houghton Mifflin Company|
|Awards||Newbery Honor Book|
Landmark novel for teenagers by Florence Crannell Means about a Japanese American family's forced removal and incarceration that was published in 1945 by Houghton Mifflin. One of the most popular and acclaimed writers of children's books at that time, Means' book was a runner up for the John Newbery Medal in 1946, the most prestigious award for children's literature.
Florence Crannell Means (1891–1980) specialized in children's literature that depicted American ethnic minority groups, starting in the 1930s. Her father was a minister and educator, at one time the president of the Kansas City Baptist Theological Seminary, and she grew up in a household where people of many races visited. She married attorney and businessman Carl Bell Means in 1912 and the couple settled in the Denver, Colorado area, where they had one daughter. Her earliest young adult books were stories of pioneer settlers in the West, based in part on her grandparents' stories, or stories of young women in college. But she began writing books for younger children featuring protagonists of various ethnic groups starting in 1929 for Christian Fellowship Press, one of which, Rainbow Bridge (1934) was about a Japanese American family. Her first young adult book with an ethnic minority protagonist was Tangled Waters (1936), whose heroine was a Navajo girl, followed by the acclaimed Shuttered Windows (1938), about an African American girl from Minnesota entering a school for African American girls in the South. She went on to write books about African Americans, Native Americans, and Chicanos as well as Japanese Americans. "The books about minority groups have had varied motivation," she wrote later in life, "more than any other the desire to introduce one group of people to another, who otherwise might never know them, and so might regard them with the fear which is bred of lack of knowledge, and which in turn breeds the hate, the prejudice...." She chose to write for children because she felt that, unlike adults, "the adolescent, as has been proved by careful research, can be really moved—and changed—by it, if characters are so strong and situations so vital as to force self-identification." Widely read from the 1930s through the 1950s, she and other white authors who wrote about ethnic minority groups fell out of favor in the 1960s and 1970s, as ethnic American authors began to write and publish their own books. She died at the age of 89 in 1980, having published over forty books.
Published on February 28, 1945, while the concentration camps were still in operation, The Moved Outers centers on Sue Ohara, an 18-year-old Sansei who is forcibly removed from her small California town first to the Santa Anita Assembly Center then to the Amache, Colorado, concentration camp. Before the war, her family ran a successful nursery in the fictional town of Cordova, is strongly Christian, and is well-known and liked. Her parents are both Nisei from Hawai'i, and her father is a member of both the Rotary Club and the Japanese American Citizens League. But after the attack on Pearl Harbor, everything changes as her father is interned, and the family is forced to prepare for their eviction. We follow Sue, her mother and brother Kim—they also have an older brother in the army and a sister going to college at Wellesley—to Santa Anita and Amache. Their neighbors at both camps are the Itos, a family of lower social class whom the elder Oharas harbor a strong dislike for, especially as signs of a romance between Sue and son Jiro Ito emerge. Sue, Kim, and Jiro vacillate between hopelessness and optimism as they encounter various issues in camp from the lack of privacy and freedom to embittered zoot suited gangs and gun toting townspeople. The novel ends with Sue and Jiro's sister Tomi leaving the camp to start college at the University of Denver.
The Moved-Outers was sympathetically reviewed, with many reviewers noting the significance of the topic. Writing in The Saturday Review, Ruth A. Hill noted that "This is not only an interesting and moving story of attractive young people who courageously faced complete upheaval of their ordered, happy lives. It is, too, an accurate and very human record of one of country's most tragic experiments." In a similar vein, Anne Roller Issler wrote that "Classified as a juvenile suited to boys and girls in their teens, this little volume might well be passed on to parents, teachers, judges, and potential juries." In The Horn Book Magazine, Howard Pease called it Means' "best book, beautifully written, profoundly moving, yet restrained. And it possesses that rare quality of saying something about our world today, here at home. It explains and interprets, it enlarges our sympathy and understanding, and it makes plain that the story of Sue and Jiro has implications far more important that happens to one family or to one minority group." In the Manzanar Free Press, Sue Kunitomi wrote that the "book was read in one evening. It was midnight when I turned the last page. For a moment I sat and let my thought wander."  In addition to its Newbery Honor Book status, it also won the Child Study Association Award in 1945 (for the best book dealing with present-day problems). However, despite the awards and positive reviews, a good number of schools and libraries refused to stock the book. Kay E. Vandergrift wrote that it "did not achieve the readership or visibility it deserved and was, for a long time, one of those Newbery Honor books available but not generally known by young people." In a more recent review in the Asian American Movement era publication Bridge, a reviewer called it "moving but paternalistically sympathetic," citing occasional "racist and exist comments" and its implicit message that ethnic minorities must become "good, hard-working patriotic Americans to show that you are worthy of being treated as human beings."
The Moved-Outers was republished in 1972 by Houghton Mifflin, shortly after the publication of Yoshiko Uchida's Journey to Topaz, the first young adult novel on the wartime incarceration by a Japanese American. Another new edition appeared in 1992.
For More Information
Means, Florence Crannell. The Moved-Outers. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1945.
Rahn, Suzanne. "Early Images of American Minorities: Rediscovering Florence Crannell Means." The Lion and the Unicorn 11.1 (June 1987): 98–115.
Vandergrift, Kay E. "A Feminist Perspective on Multicultural Children's Literature in the Middle Years of the Twentieth Century." Library Trends 41.3 (Winter 1993): 354–77.
Beshoar, Barron B. "A Novel of the Evacuation." Rocky Mountain News, March 27, 1945. Reprinted in Pacific Citizen, March 31, 1945, 4.
Bridge Magazine, July 1976, 21.
Hill, Ruth A. "A Tragic Experiment." The Saturday Review, Apr. 21, 1945, 30.
Hohri, Sam. "Story of a Typical Evacuee Family Told in New Novel." Pacific Citizen, 4/7/45, 5.
Issler, Anne Roller. The Survey, Oct. 1945, 275.
Jordan, Alice M. The Horn Book Magazine 21.1 (1945): 37.
Kunitomi Sue. "Purely Personal." Manzanar Free Press, June 30, 1945, p. 2.
Pease, Howard. "Without Evasion: Some Reflections After Reading Mrs. Mean's The Moved-Outers." The Horn Book Magazine 21.1 (1945): 9–17.
- Biographical sketch drawn from Suzanne Rahn's "Early Images of American Minorities: Rediscovering Florence Crannell Means," The Lion and the Unicorn 11.1 (June 1987): 98–115; Kay E. Vandergrift, "A Feminist Perspective on Multicultural Children's Literature in the Middle Years of the Twentieth Century," Library Trends 41.3 (Winter 1993): 354–77; "Means, Florence Crannell 1981–," in Something About the Author: Facts and Pictures about Contemporary Authors and Illustrators of Books for Young People, Volume 1 (edited by Anne Commire; Detroit: Gale Research, 1971): 154–55; "Means, Florence Crannell 1891–1980," Something About the Author: Facts and Pictures about Authors and Illustrators of Books for Young People, Volume 25 (edited by Anne Commire. Detroit: Gale Research, 1971). Quote by Means from Something About the Author, Vol. 1, p. 155.
- Ruth A. Hill, "A Tragic Experiment," The Saturday Review, Apr. 21, 1945, p. 30, accessed on December 10, 2013 at http://www.unz.org/Pub/SaturdayRev-1945apr21-00028?; Anne Roller Issler, The Survey, Oct. 1945, p. 275, accessed on December 10, 2013 at http://www.unz.org/Pub/TheSurvey-1945oct-00275?View=Search&SearchView=PDFHits&pages=275; Howard Pease, "Without Evasion: Some Reflections After Reading Mrs. Mean's The Moved-Outers," The Horn Book Magazine 21.1 (1945): 9–17, cited in Children's Literature Review, Vol. 56, edited by Deborah J. Morad, pp. 139–39. View=Search&SearchView=PDFHits&pages=30
- Sue Kunitomi, "Purely Personal," Manzanar Free Press, June 30, 1945, p. 2.
- Kay E. Vandergrift, "A Feminist Perspective on Multicultural Children's Literature in the Middle Years of the Twentieth Century," Library Trends 41.3 (Winter 1993), 367.
- Bridge Magazine, July 1976, 21.