The poem, “The Question of Loyalty” by Mitsuye Yamada, reflects the experience of Yamada during the World War II. During the war, President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the U.S. signed an executive order stating the internment of Americans or Japanese Ancestry. She, together with her mother and brothers, was sent to the Minidoka Relocation Center and was ordered to renounce her allegiance to the Japanese Empire. However, she refused to do so and had herself incarcerated for her refusal.
During this time, Yamada was able to write poems; and these poems reflected the degradation of concentration camp life and the discrimination experienced by cultural minorities in postwar United States of America. She was able to collate all her poems and the compilation was entitled, Camp Notes and Other Poems.
The poem, which has an ironic version of the Japanese haiku and senryu, also speaks of multicultural identities and feminist awareness. She points out that, women had a choice and that women should be empowered in everything they do and decide on. However, the persona had no choice but to choose between her “American children” and to her “own people”. With her lack of power, she signed and agreed for her to get out and be safe.
The poem wants to empower women and let them be aware of their choices and the consequences that come with their choices. It also wants to increase the awareness of the public regarding the discrimination Japanese-Americans and other cultural minorities.
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Topic: The Question on Loyalty
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