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The Little Exile

The Little Exile

An American girl of Japanese ancestry is exiled in her own country after Japan attacks Pearl Harbor.

After Pearl Harbor, little Marie Mitsui, who considers herself a typical American girl, sees her life of school and playing with friends in San Francisco totally upended. Her family and 120,000 others of Japanese ancestry are forcibly relocated to internment camps far from home. Living conditions in the camps are harsh, life after camp is similarly harsh, but in the end, as she and her family make their way back to San Francisco, Marie sees hope for the future. 

Told from a child’s perspective, The Little Exile deftly conveys Marie’s innocence, wonder, fear, and outrage. Though names and some details have been altered, this is the author's own life story. She believes that underlying everyone's experience, no matter how varied, are threads of humanity that bind us all. It is her hope that readers of all ages are able to find those threads in her story.
















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"Jeanette Arakawa has done a masterful job in bringing this tragic story to life. It should be required reading in our schools. We have to make sure that what happened to my parents, and tens of thousands of other Japanese-Americans, never happens again. The Little Exile belongs on everyone's shelf.”

Prof. Michio Kaku, Professor of Theoretical Physics, author of Physics of the Impossible

"Arakawa revisits the fear, confusion and injustice her family experienced during World War II... Describes years of displacement and privation as she comes to understand the meaning of discrimination in the land of the free. "

The Mercury News

"Deeply moving and poignant"

Gayle Noguchi, Wheel of Dharma

"A literary-cultural-historical gift"

Asian American Literature Fans

"Through the sharp and observant eyes of a preteen child, Jeanette Arakawa offers a readable, matter-of-fact account of wartime upheaval and the imprisonment of her family and 120,000 other Japanese-Americans. . . . The Little Exile should be required reading for every schoolchild and every U.S. government official.”

 Sharon Noguchi, journalist

"An illuminating glimpse inside a stolen life."

101 Books About Japan

"Moving, beautiful, and important."

Doug Dorst, New York Times Best-selling author of S (with JJ Abrams) and Alive in Necropolis

"A delightful read for all ages — a young heroine who prevails through the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans. Marie Mitsui is as tenacious as a Hayao Miyazaki heroine, so perhaps, rather than a 1940s movie that rarely had Asian faces, you might discover an inspiring animation as you read The Little Exile.

Nichi Bei

"With the deftness and colorful detail of a gifted artist, Arakawa captures the WWII confinement experience of Japanese Americans as seen through the eyes of a young child. Little Marie’s innocent wisdom and spritely audacity frame the enormity of the trauma along with the minutiae of everyday life confined by barbed wire. Her story tugs at the conscience and inspires human kindness.”

Satsuki Ina, Ph.D., Producer, PBS documentary, Children of the Camps

"Arakawa’s detailed child’s eye view of that story is by turns funny, angry, and sad, like most children are. It is a worthwhile addition to the camp memoir club."


5/5 "Arakawa tells her remarkable story with neither bitterness nor anguish but spares no details of the disturbing experience."

— San Francisco Book Review

"Set amidst the tumult and trauma of displacement and incarceration, Arakawa offers us the moving and poignant story of a young girl whose American identity is constantly challenged. The Little Exile dramatically captures not only the broad historical injustices, but also the small acts of kindness and cruelty that leave such an indelible impression on our lives."

Michael Omi, University of California, Berkeley

"These are experiences that need to be remembered"

Kirkus Reviews

"Few books about Japanese American incarceration capture so vividly the feel of community before the war, during the incarceration, and in the postwar relocation years. Arakawa has written an epic story in small, exquisitely remembered vignettes that glow with humor, warmth, and her own and her family's wisdom."

Gil Asakawa, author of Being Japanese American

"An evocative excursion into a young person’s life being drastically inverted."

The International Examiner

"The Little Exile is a memoir worth reading. One piece of advice though: be prepared to read it in multiple sittings. My heart needed time between chapters or it would’ve broken."

Hippocampus Magazine

"The Little Exile has a renewed and special relevance for today's national discussion related to immigration issues and the unhappy willingness of a great many Americans to repeat the errors of our past."

The Midwest Book Review

"[The Little Exile] gives us a peak into the racism and the hate Japanese Americans had to endure during those years—but also the small acts of kindness that they also experienced too. These kinds of stories are important."


"Arakawa takes readers on a journey through the brutal challenges that many Japanese Americans faced."

JQ Magazine


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About the Author(s)

Jeanette S. Arakawa

Jeanette S. Arakawa

Born in San Francisco, California to Japanese immigrants. During World War II, she was part of a diaspora that took her to Stockton, California, Rohwer, Arkansas, and Denver, Colorado.

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