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Colors of Confinement: Rare Kodachrome Photographs of Japanese American Incarceration in World War II

Edited by Eric L. Muller
With photographs by Bill Manbo

Published by the University of North Carolina Press and CDS Books of the Center for Documentary Studies
136 pages | 10 x 9 | 65 color and 6 black-and-white photographs
$35.00, hardcover | ISBN 978-0-8078-3573-9
$35.00 e-book | ISBN 978-0-8078-3758-0
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Available in bookstores or by ordering from the University of North Carolina Press
In 1942, Bill Manbo and his family were forced from their Hollywood home into the Japanese American internment camp at Heart Mountain in Wyoming. While there, Manbo documented both the bleakness and beauty of his surroundings using Kodachrome film—a technology then just seven years old—to capture community celebrations and to record his family's struggle to maintain a normal life under the harsh conditions of racial imprisonment. Colors of Confinement showcases sixty-five stunning images from this extremely rare collection of color photographs, presented along with three interpretive essays by leading scholars and a reflective, personal essay by a former Heart Mountain internee.
The subjects of these haunting photos are the routine fare of an amateur photographer: parades, cultural events, people at play, Manbo's son. But the images are set against the backdrop of the barbed-wire enclosure surrounding the Heart Mountain Relocation Center and the dramatic expanse of Wyoming sky and landscape. The accompanying essays illuminate these scenes as they trace a tumultuous history unfolding just beyond the camera's lens, giving readers insight into Japanese American cultural life and the stark realities of life in the camps.
Colors of Confinement is in its second printing and is also available in Japanese translation. Muller gave a talk at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., on March 8, 2013, which can be viewed online.
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Photo Gallery

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Talk and Book Signing

August 11, 2012

Heart Mountain Interpretive Learning Center
Powell, Wyoming
Directions http://heartmountain.org/PLANAVISIT.html

Talk and Book Signing

September 6, 2012, 4 p.m.

Institute for the Arts and Humanities
Hyde Hall, University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Directions http://iah.unc.edu/contact-us/directions

Talk and Book Signing

September 12, 2012, 7:30 p.m.

Quail Ridge Books
Raleigh, North Carolina
Directions http://www.quailridgebooks.com/hours-directions

Talk and Book Signing

September 20, 2012

Brown University
Providence, Rhode Island

Talk and Book Signing

September 27, 2012, 7 p.m.

Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University
Durham, North Carolina
Directions http://documentarystudies.duke.edu/about/directions

Exhibition Opening and Book Signing
October 3, 2012, 6 p.m.

Friday Center, University of North Carolina

Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Directions http://www.fridaycenter.unc.edu/directions/index.htm


October 10, 2012, 2 p.m.

Ackland Art Museum
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Directions http://www.ackland.org/Support/DIRECTIONS_PARKING

Book Signing 

October 10, 2012, 3:30 p.m.

Ackland Art Museum Store
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Directions http://www.ackland.org/shop/index.htm

Talk and Book Signing

November 14, 2012, 6:30 p.m.

New York Public Library in Mid-Manhattan

Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street

Directions http://www.nypl.org/locations/tid/36/directions

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Praise for Colors of Confinement

Winner of the 2013 Joan Patterson Kerr Award from the Western History Association, given biennially for the best illustrated book on the American West

“While a range of documentarians and journalists made various kinds of records of the realities of Japanese internment camps during World War II, Bill Manbo’s work is more personal, intimate, and complex. Perhaps beginning with the universal documentary impulse to use the camera to reflect and remember, Manbo made images that bear witness to what he, his family, and others experienced in the internment drama at Heart Mountain, Wyoming. Now, many years later, his images provide an even wider and more compelling view of this history, one that begins with the personal and extends across the landscapes of time and place.”
—Tom Rankin, director, Center for Documentary Studies, from the foreword

“The color photographs of Bill Manbo are at once beautiful, poignant, and stinging with irony. Young girls in vibrantly colorful kimono dancing in front of black tar-paper barracks; a teenager in full Boy Scout uniform lifting the Stars & Stripes up high in a U.S. concentration camp; these are pictures of resilience and fortitude from a dark chapter of American history.”
—George Takei, American actor of Japanese descent, chairman emeritus of the board of trustees for the Japanese American National Museum

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Winner of the 2013 Joan Patterson Kerr Award from the Western History Association, given biennially for the best illustrated book on the American West

As seen in the New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, Asahi Shimbun, London Daily Mail, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Choice, Jewish Daily Forward blog, Denver Post, Casper Star-Tribune, C-SPAN Book TV, Choice, and National Public Radio’s Arts & Life and Picture Show blogs, among other publications, and heard on the Bob Edwards Show on Sirius XM

“Stunning.”—Huffington Post

“These images offer readers glimpses of the internment that are in vivid color and, unlike government- sanctioned photos, candid and earnest.”—Choice

“On Feb. 19, 1942, two months after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order that the United States military used to remove every person of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast. Among the 120,000 people rounded up—two-thirds of them citizens—was Bill Manbo, an auto mechanic from Riverside, Calif., who dabbled in photography and model airplanes. He and his wife, Mary; their baby son, Billy; and her mother and younger siblings were detained at a racetrack near Los Angeles. . . .

In September, the family of seven was transferred to Heart Mountain, in northwestern Wyoming—one of 10 permanent “relocation centers” set up in desolate parts of the Mountain West and in southeastern Arkansas. . . .

With his camera and Kodachrome film, Bill Manbo captured scenes of beauty, action and pleasure: the splash of a diver at a swimming hole, the smiles of ice skaters, the concentration of little boys shooting marbles, the bustle of a scout parade, the clash of sumo wrestlers. In the light of day, he snapped a rainbow that seemed to end at the roof of a latrine, tumultuous efforts to fight a barrack fire, teenagers playing a game of pickup baseball and inmates lined up for an afternoon showing of the movie How Green Was My Valley. . . .

Mr. Manbo searched in his surroundings for beauty and excitement, a refuge from the pressure and monotony of confinement. He used his camera to draw his family together, to document some semblance of an ordinary life in extraordinary circumstances and to create for his young son a visual legacy of a normal childhood.”—From “Injustice, in Kodachrome,” The New York Times, June 23, 2012 
“In this provocative and noteworthy collection, published in association with the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, legal scholar Muller (American Inquisition: The Hunt for Japanese American Disloyalty in World War II) presents 65 photographs made from slides he discovered that were taken by photographer Manbo, a Japanese-American interned at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming during WWII. Manbo was active in the camp’s photo club and operated in the vernacular style, shooting color slide film, a recently developed technology and one that was rarely used to document the internment camps. Manbo shot not just the traditional camp views of bleakly uniform buildings, but parades, pastimes, cultural rituals, and family portraits (many of his adorable young son, Billy). The vivid color enhances the pageantry of the events, and the family photos seem almost strangely normal, while another photo shows a toddler gripping the camp’s barbed wire. The book’s three accompanying essays and one memoir of the camp, each by a different author, provide context, and while the photos could mostly be classified as snapshots, their subject matter and the use of Kodachrome film solidifies their unquestionable cultural and historical significance.”

—Publishers Weekly
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