Only What We Could Carry: The Japanese American Internment Experience

An Important Classic in Heyday's California

In the wake of wartime panic that followed the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor, more than 100,000 Japanese Americans residing along the West Coast of the United States were uprooted from their homes and their communities and banished to internment camps throughout the country.

Through personal documents, art, and propaganda, Only What We Could Carry expresses through words, art, and haunting recollections, the fear, confusion and anger of the camp experience. The only anthology of its kind, Only What We Could Carry is an emotional and intellectual testament to the dignity, spirit and strength of the Japanese American internees.

A project of the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program


“The presence of such a volume inspires historical and moral reflection on both the delicate construction of individual liberty and the ambiguities of national identity”



“It conveys the deep anguish felt by Japanese who defined themselves as citizens of the United States and yet lost their rights as citizens during a time of national fear.”

School Library Journal


Only What We Could Carry gathers together the voices of interment—private, personal stories that could have been lost, but will now be heard and felt. It's as if we have a seat at a family dinner, listening to stories passed down from one generation to another, feeling the pain and the spirit of hope.”

—David Mas Masumoto, author of Harvest Son: Planting Roots in American Soil

About the Editors

William Hohri is a Nisei born in San Francisco in 1927. He was interned at the Manzanar camp during his high school years and graduated from the University of Chicago after the war. He is the author of Repairing America: An Account of the Movement for Japanese-American Redress (1988) and a columnist for the Rafu Shimpo newspaper.
Patricia WakidaPatricia Wakida’s published books, essays, stories, and poetry include: Only What We Could Carry: The Japanese American Internment ExperienceGenerations ExperienceA Japanese American Community PortraitLetters of Intent,  the San Francisco Bay GuardianNikkei HeritageKyoto JournalSanta Barbara Review, and the International Quarterly. 
Lawson Fusao InadaLawson Fusao Inada is regarded by many as the poet laureate of Japanese America.He is co-editor of Aiiieeeee! (1983) and The Big Aiiieeeee! (1991) and author of Legends from Camp (1992) and Drawing the Line (1997). Inada is a multiple recipient of NEA Poetry Fellowships and has read his works at the White House. He has been Professor of English at Southern Oregon State College since 1966.