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Stump the Teacher

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(A Letter)

In Response To Executive Order 9066

All Americans of Japanese Descent Must Report to Relocation Centers

Introduction:
This poem could be used in conjuction with a unit that deals with prejudice. (Holocaust or civil rights movement) Have the students imagine themselves in the the author's shoes.

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Dear Sirs:

Of course I'll come. I've packed my galoshes
and three packets of tomato seeds. Denise calls them
love apples. My father says where we're going
they won't grow.

I am a fourteen-year-old girl with bad spelling
and a messy room. If it helps any, I will tell you
I have always felt funny using chopsticks
and my favorite food is hot dogs.
My best friend is a white girl named Denise-
we look at boys together. She sat in front of me
all through grade school because of our names;
O'Conner, Ozawa. I know the back of Denise's head very well.
I tell her she's going bald. She tells me I copy on tests. We are best friends.

I saw Denise today in Geography class.
She was sitting on the other side of the room.
"You're trying to start a war," she said, "giving secrets
away to the Enemy, Why can't you keep your big
mouth shut?"

I didn't know what to say.
I gave her a packet of tomato seeds
and asked her to plant them for me, told her
when the first tomato ripened
she'd miss me.

--Dwight Okita--

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From Celebrate America in Poetry and Art by the National Museum of Art and the Smithsonian Institution, published by Hyperion Books, 1994.

Extention:
Have students write their own letter poem depicting the era of prejudice they are studying.