In the Clara Breed letter collection I chose a letter from Fusa Tsumagari who was in Poston, Arizona. The letter was written on September 8th 1942. One thing that stuck out to me in the letter and a theme I’m noticing throughout reading different letters is the amount of positivity people can have during such awful times. For example the writer says it doesn’t feel like she is in prison and talks about going to friends houses and girls club meetings. I’m wondering since these letters were written mostly by younger children did they know what was happening or why they were in these camps? I’m guessing the writer understands the circumstances she’s in because she acknowledges that not only has she been separated from family but she is also forced to live in barracks. She also notes that her life is going through a transformation which adds to the idea that she knows the situation she is in. She ends that sentence with an exclamation point though which could give off a sense of her being happy or excited. Yet in this letter the writer also talks about things such as it being really cold, the beds being uncomfortable, getting called savages, and the cold reception they received when they arrived at the camp. I think she is weighing or trying to make sense of both the positives of negatives of her current situation. Also even though she knows what is going on she is still possibly young and may not realize the full extent of being in an internment camp. It must have been hard for people to understand why they were getting punished for something they did not do. Why did so many people’s lives have to be changed as a consequence of what a smaller group did? Another part of the letter I found interesting was that Tsumagari asks Miss Breed if she can come visit the camp in Arizona. I did not know this was something that could be done or was done especially if they wanted to make sure this group stayed separate from the rest of society. Allowing visitors could be a very beneficial thing but I think it could also create a lot of problems for everyone involved. What is it like when the visit is over?
For class we each read two of the last letters from people who died in The Holocaust. Although both that I read were really meaningful and heartbreaking, one of the letters really caught my attention. The letter was from Ida Goldis to her sister before she was deported from a ghetto. This letter really stuck out to me because I noticed the amount of hope this woman had even though she knew the terrible situation she was in. When talking with the class I noticed this was a common theme and I was wondering how people could have hope or try to in such a difficult time either knowing or not knowing what is going to happen to them. It’s very sad and difficult to read letters that people wrote to their loved ones saying things like I hope I will see you again soon when you know it is very unlikely to happen. Another thing I saw in this letter was the writer went back and forth from having hope to losing it. At one point she says “I hoped that we would see each other again, but now I have lost all hope.” She contradicts herself in the same letter but I think she was probably just trying to get everything that she could out onto paper before it was too late. The letter was smuggled out of the ghetto she was in. She had a lot to say but there probably wasn’t much time to think about it. Still it definitely came from her heart and you can tell she means what she says. One question I had was what time if ever do you give up hope? Later on in the letter the woman says she has lost all hope. Even though I have never been to a situation at all like this I think this makes sense. Is it bad to be too hopeful? Is thinking about the future and getting out of a bad place positively or negatively affect the people in life or death situations? Or in any situations? I don’t know if it’s better to live in the moment or be thinking about a future that may not be attainable. I was also thinking about was even though many people wrote about being hopeful of getting out of their situation they still decided to not share some information in their letters to family probably because they didn’t want them to worry even more. People could be suffering but that doesn’t mean they want people to go through or feel the same pain they are.
This week in class we were introduced to the Muhlenberg World War II letter collection. Muhlenberg did a lot to stay in touch with its students and I don’t know if many other schools were able to do so or at least keep the artifacts from that time period so well preserved. It shows the school cares in many ways. They care about the people who go there or went there and they care about making sure students can actually look into the school’s history. It is so interesting to see artifacts that actually relate to the place where you are. Usually when looking at a primary source it isn’t something you can exactly relate to. Although I wasn’t alive or at Muhlenberg during the time of World War II it is special to see what has changed and what has stayed the same. One of the biggest changes I saw was that Muhlenberg used to be only men. The school didn’t become coed until 1957 and it was opened in 1848. I would want to look more into whether that is on the later or earlier side for a college to become coed. Another thing we looked at this week was the different ways people communicated during World War II. As we had seen through the Muhlenberg collection, letters were written but there was also propaganda and censorship of the news going out to people or the public. One big takeaway I had was our communication during the war was not always very honest. I’m wondering if that is more of a good or bad thing especially during such a crazy time period. Do you try to protect people or do you tell them what is really going on? I focused on looking at propaganda and learned that it has several goals it wants to achieve even depending on the group. It can also be used for good and bad. It was even used as a way to make others look worse, possibly in a way to get more support. For example some photographs used in propaganda were staged to make it seem like prisoners were being taken care of better than they actually were. Propaganda did a good job of targeting people’s emotions which is one of its goals. I’m interested in looking more into modern day propaganda to see how it has changed.
The thing I like most about my writing process is I think I’m good at planning how I want to organize my writing especially with essays. For letter writing I’m a bit more all over the place but with essays I know the structure that it needs to have. It’s also a lot harder when physically writing to go back and change something. I like that I’m always using my resources whether it’s an outline or going to a teacher for help. I always make sure I have the actual assignment directions near me when I’m writing or planning. I also like that sometimes I write whatever comes to mind and then go back to neaten it later so I can make sure I’m actually getting my ideas out. One thing I would like to improve about my writing is sentence length and structure. I think I have a lot of run on sentences that either don’t make sense or could be shortened. I sometimes put in words that don’t necessarily need to be there. I think working on this could make my writing clearer and help me to get my point across more effectively. As a writer, I hope to be able to show more than tell. I feel like I could be more descriptive in certain parts of my writing. I also hope to feel more comfortable sharing my work and not think that everyone is going to judge me.
To me, ‘epistolary explorations’ means discovering and learning about the different types of letter writing that exist. I think it could also mean getting to explore the types of letters you are most interested in and writing your own. I’m excited about this course because writing letters has always been a thing I love doing. I love the feeling of getting physical mail even when it isn’t a letter because it is so uncommon now. It’s so much more interesting and surprising than opening the mail app on a phone or computer. I went to sleep-away camp for six years so writing letters was always a big part of my summer. I would write letters almost every day and sometimes more than one whereas other kids would have to be asked several times to write to their family. I would always need stationary with a lot of lines because there was so much I wanted to tell either my family or friends about. I actually still have all the letters I received while I was at camp and my mom has the ones I wrote to her and it’s nice to look back and remember certain moments. My mom wants to send me stationary so I will write to her about college even though we speak everyday. I’m not sure if I want to do it. She definitely misses getting letters from me. My brother still goes to camp but he refuses to write letters home so I think she may in a way want me to make up for what he didn’t do. At the moment I’m concerned about having to write a short fiction story because that was something I always struggled with in high school. I could never think of ideas or I would think my ideas weren’t good enough. I often compared myself to the other people in my classes and I still continue to do so sometimes. I’m not sure if it will be harder or easier to write fiction in letter form.