Lily Havey On Life In And After An Internment Camp on Monday's Access Utah

Jul 7, 2014

Lily Nakai and her family lived in southern California, where sometimes she and a friend dreamt of climbing the Hollywood sign that lit the night. At 10, believing that her family was simply going on a “camping trip,” she found herself living in a tar-papered barracks, nightly gazing out instead at a searchlight. She wondered if anything would ever be normal again. 


In this creative memoir, "Gasa Gasa Girl Goes to Camp," Lily Havey combines storytelling, watercolor, and personal photographs to recount her youth in two Japanese-American internment camps during World War II. In short vignettes/snapshots of people, recreated scenes and events a ten-year-old girl develops into a teenager while confined. Vintage photographs reveal the historical, cultural, and familial contexts of that growth and of the Nakais’ dislocation. The paintings and her animated writing together pull us into a turbulent era when America disgracefully incarcerated, without due process, thousands of American citizens because of their race. 

These stories of love, loss, and discovery recall a girl balancing precariously between childhood and adolescence. In turn wrenching, funny, touching, and biting but consistently engrossing, they elucidate the daily challenges of life in the camp and the internees’ many adaptations.

Lily Havey was born in Los Angeles. In 1942, along with 12,000 persons of Japanese descent, she was incarcerated in a Japanese American internment camp. After World War II her family moved to Salt Lake City. She graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music, pursued an MFA at the University of Utah, and taught high school for thirteen years before establishing a stained glass business.