The digital story “Rites of Passage” compares and contrasts the educational experience of the storyteller, Nikiko Masumoto, with the educational experience of her Japanese-American grandmother during WWII. This story made me acutely aware of the fact that for digital stories to truly appeal to me that they must connect to some shared personal experience. Although no one in my family was ever herded off to a concentration camp like Masumoto’s grandmother, I do have dear friends that underwent this tragic experience. I first learned of this wholesale injustice many years ago when I was studying the history of WWII while living in Japan. Until that point, I was ignorant of the terrible manner in which Japanese Americans were treated during the war. Many years later, while living in Hawaii, my wife and I worked for a Japanese-American family that had been arrested in Hawaii and forcibly evacuated to camps in the American West. My wife and I discussed this experience with these now elderly people and the long-term negative effects this internment had on their family. They expressed little anger but are still at a loss to understand how the U.S. Government justified this cruelty. My explanation is that when violent empires collide, empires that teach their citizens that they are superior, or might I say exceptional, it most often entails dehumanizing the other which permits all types of injustice. The fact they were handled like criminals and suspect due to their ethnicity is a crime in itself and one that must never be repeated.
The story worked very well, although it is actually two stories skillfully woven into one. It engaged me, possibly more than it might engage some, due to the experience of my friends that I described above. The characters are very real and I feel a personal connection to them. The story makes the importance of education very clear and also reminds us of the different opportunities we have due to circumstances that are beyond our control.
The project was very well researched and holds up to what I have learned of this tragic episode in U.S. History. Masumoto succeeds in sharing the experience of her grandmother without resorting to preaching. Although, her voice is a bit dramatic for my liking, and is not necessary, as the story itself evokes an emotional response.
The digital story itself was not overly creative, although the images she included nicely supported her storytelling and were visually appealing. I do wish that Masumoto would have included some period background music, as this would have added some life to her production.
I truly appreciate her sharing “Rites of Passage” with the world, nicely done!