The protagonist and author of Farewell to Manzanar. Jeanne is the youngest of the Wakatsuki children and Papa’s favorite. She observes and comments on her own and her family’s experiences before, during, and after the wartime internment. In the beginning of the narrative she is a naïve seven-year-old, but as she grows older, she loses her naïveté and comes to understand the true nature of the camps, her family, and herself.
Jeanne’s father and the patriarch of the American branch of the Wakatsuki family. Papa is a first-generation Japanese immigrant with a strong sense of honor. His experience shows how unfair accusations hurt many Japanese families: when the FBI accuses Papa of being a Japanese spy, his relationship with his family deteriorates and he becomes an alcoholic.
Jeanne’s mother. Patient and caring with her children and husband, Mama places a high value on privacy and dignity. Despite Papa’s violent treatment of her while at Manzanar, she is the first member of the Wakatsuki family to make amends with Papa, demonstrating her commitment to family.
The third Wakatsuki child. Woody is the most fatherly of Jeanne’s brothers and takes charge when Papa is detained for a year at Fort Lincoln. Woody demonstrates his loyalty to America by joining the U.S. army.
The ninth Wakatsuki child and Jeanne’s closest brother. Kiyo shares many experiences with Jeanne, including being ambushed by children in the Japanese ghetto on Terminal Island and being spat at and called a “dirty Jap” by an old woman in Long Beach.
The second Wakatsuki child and Jeanne’s oldest sister. Eleanor leaves the camp with her husband, Shig, to relocate to Reno, Nevada, but returns to the camp when Shig is drafted. She gives birth to a baby boy, which leads Mama and Papa to a reconciliation.
The oldest Wakatsuki child. Along with Woody, Bill serves as one of Papa’s crew before the war on his sardine boats. In the camp, he is the leader of a dance band called The Jive Bombers.
Jeanne’s brother-in-law and Martha’s husband. Kaz is stopped by a detachment of frightened military police while monitoring the reservoir with his crew on the night of the December Riot.
Papa’s aging aunt in Hiroshima, Japan. Woody visits Toyo in 1946 and is impressed by the dignity of her graceful manner and the rich meal she prepares for him in spite of her family’s poverty. Woody comes to see this dignity in the face of difficulty as a Wakatsuki family trait.
Jeanne’s white best friend at Cabrillo Homes in Long Beach after the war. Radine’s surprise at Jeanne’s ability to speak English makes Jeanne realize that while she will not be attacked for being Japanese, she will always be seen as different and not American. Radine’s popularity and recognition in high school further underscore the fundamental difference between her and Jeanne, whose Japanese ancestry makes her an outsider.
Jeanne’s classmate at her new high school in San Jose. Leonard’s willingness to be friends with Jeanne despite her outsider status is admirable and contrasts with their teachers’ inherent prejudice against Japanese people.
The American military man who questions Papa at Fort Lincoln, North Dakota. The interrogator’s grilling of Papa on his personal history and his accusation that Papa supplied oil to Japanese submarines represents the U.S. government’s tendency to stereotype Japanese Americans as traitors.
A leader of the Japanese American Citizens League and suspected collaborator with the U.S. government. On December 5, 1942, Tayama is severely beaten, and the arrest of his attackers leads to the December Riot at Manzanar.
The Japanese Americans whose Supreme Court cases lead to the eventual closing of the camps in 1944 and 1945.
Mama’s mother, sixty-five at the time of the relocation to Manzanar. Granny’s inability to go to the mess halls is one reason that the Wakatsuki family stops eating together.
Woody’s wife. Chizu is on the wharf with Jeanne and Mama when the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor is announced.