My Definition of Family 

Brandon Lee, Chicago, IL

During World War II, my Japanese American family was put into an internment camp in Minidoka, Idaho. After camp my grandmother, her husband, many members of their families, as well as thousands of other interned Japanese Americans moved to Chicago. 

This picture shows my grandmother (5th from right) along with her family, made up of her mother, sisters, brothers, cousins, and their spouses and children, at a Christmas dinner at their first Chicago apartment near the corner of Grand and Halsted. My grandmother had five children, and her siblings had children of their own. “Family” cannot be defined so narrowly as simply mother, father, sisters and brothers – their children were raised by an extended network of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, older siblings, and friends. 

My family (both immediate and extended), along with other Japanese American families, together formed a vibrant community that held camp reunion picnics, served on school PTAs, joined churches, and sustained community organizations, all of which built upon family circles. 

No individual can do it alone. It takes a family, and it takes a community. Keep families together, keep communities together, and that will keep America moving forward. 


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