Pin It

'Imprisoned in Paradise,' Priscilla Wegars 

The megaloads are traveling along roads built by the forced labor of Japanese-Americans.

click to enlarge art16329.jpg

Highway 12 crossing Lolo Pass in the Bitterroot Mountains opens incredible beauty to travelers, snaking alongside the Lochsa and Clearwater rivers in rugged central Idaho.

The route is also rich in history, largely paralleling where the Lewis and Clark expedition bushwhacked its way west in 1805.

It is in the headlines today as a highway of protest as residents and environmentalists object to the state allowing oil companies to transport out-sized mining gear over the narrow and twisty roadway.

Supporters of the so-called mega-loads have trumpeted that Highway 12’s main purpose is to serve commerce. And indeed, it was persistent lobbying for a commercial route through the mountains that swayed the federal government to build the road in the 1940s.

With forced labor.

Road construction began with federal prison inmates. But when America entered World War II, the labor camp was turned over to the Immigration and Naturalization Service to house Japanese internees.

These “alien enemies,” as they were called, continued the highway work deep in the Bitterroots until May 1945.

Priscilla Wegars, author of Imprisoned in Paradise, is more historian than storyteller, so her book is short on narrative and long on lists, dates and footnotes. There are, in fact, a dizzying 101 footnotes in the first 16 pages of the book, which carries the subtitle, “Japanese Internee Road Workers at the World War II Kooskia Internment Camp.”

Nonetheless, the racial hysteria that labeled Japanese resident aliens and American-born Japanese as enemies of the state — raided by the FBI, tried in kangaroo courts and stripped of property — is a compelling human drama.

Through photos, letters and detailed research, Wegars introduces us to an almost forgotten story. She reveals the incredible reach of the xenophobic program, which had countries as far away as Peru round up citizens of Japanese ancestry at the behest of the United States and ship them here to be incarcerated.

As a designated labor camp, Kooskia, unlike other relocation facilities, fell under the Geneva Conventions, and the internees fought for their rights using these tools.

Imprisoned is dry but rewarding.

  • Pin It

Latest in Arts & Culture

  • The Way
  • The Way

    For pilgrims of the Camino de Santiago trail, the journey never ends
    • Jul 21, 2016

    A new game of old characters transfixes the nation, and Spokane
    • Jul 21, 2016

    A welcome return, monstrous comic and disastrous novel
    • Jul 21, 2016
  • More »


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri
Nick Swardson

Nick Swardson @ Spokane Comedy Club

Through July 23

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Kevin Taylor

Most Commented On

  • Short Order

    A new food truck on the scene serves up specialty burgers and fries in the Shadle Park area
    • Jul 14, 2016
  • Let the Wanderlust Win

    Why you shouldn't let anything hold you back from traveling
    • Jul 14, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Blind Faith
  • Blind Faith

    In a vacant lot by the railroad tracks, an unlikely friendship is found
    • Jan 7, 2016
  • Blue Mist
  • Blue Mist

    2014 Short Fiction Contest - Runner Up
    • Dec 23, 2014

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation