While in Idaho for a symposium, I took the opportunity to research settings for the forthcoming graphic novel on camp resistance, in particular the places where the draft resisters from Minidoka were jailed and put on trial in September, 1944.
With the Friends of Minidoka — Hanako Wakatsuki, Mia Russell, and Kurt Yokoyama Ikeda — we started at the Ada County Courthouse, where Jim and Gene Akutsu and the other draft resisters were brought from camp and held in the old jail on the top floors. We could still see the iron grates over the windows, from where they could look out. The top floors are now sealed off from the public.
To get to the old federal courthouse two blocks away, the prisoners would have to have been marched across what is now Cecil Andrus Park, where they would have seen the grand dome of the Idaho State Capitol to their right, and brought into what’s now known as the Borah Buiding, at 304 N. Eighth St.
They they were tried in what Jim Akutsu called the kangaroo court of U.S. District Court Judge Chase Clark. I was lucky to be with Hanako as she talked our way into getting the courtroom unlocked so that we could photograph every square inch for the graphic novel. The full story of the trial is vividly retold in Eric Muller’sFree to Die For Their Country.
The occasion for my being in Idaho was to deliver the keynote address for the 13th annual Minidoka Civil Liberties Symposium, as we approach the 40th anniversary of the very first “Day of Remembrance” at the Puyallup Fairgounds. Look for a blog post coming up closer to the actual anniversary of the first DOR, which took place on November 25, 1978.
The Seattle book launch for JOHN OKADA was a fun one, thanks to the 85 people who joined us to celebrate the legacy of the Seattle novelist and help launch our new book on his life and unknown works.
This was a special event, on the occasion of the 95th anniversary of Okada’s birth in Pioneer Square, held on the site where he got his professional start as a reference librarian at the old Carnegie-era Seattle Central Library.
Karen Maeda Allman of the Elliott Bay Book Company was on hand to introduce the afternoon and sell books afterward. Tom Ikeda introduced the speakers by sharing his own story of being introduced to the novel while a student at Franklin High in Seattle.
Novelist Shawn Wong, who contributed the chapter, “Republishing and Teaching No-No Boy,” told of the place of No-No in the emergence of the then-new field of Asian American studies. Prof. emeritus Stephen Sumida, who contributed the chapter, “Questioning No-No Boy: Text, Contexts, and Subtexts,” outlined his findings from a 40-year career of teaching the novel, and even broke out his actor’s voice in telling the folk tales of Momotaro and Urashima Taro that Okada subtly weaved into his story.
As special guests, we were honored to be joined by John’s younger brother Roy, his wife Mary and their daughter Pam Grubbs, and Cathy Okada, the daughter of Yoshitaka Robert and Jane Okada, and John’s niece. It was the patience and grace of the Okada family that helped make the biography of John possible.
Thanks to Stesha Brandon and Karen Maeda Allman for making this event happen in such a great space, and our editors and staff from the University of Washington Press to come listen: Larin McLaughlin, Mike Baccam, Mike Campbell, and Beth Fuget.
Thanks also to Emily P. Lawsin, David Nguyen, Mike Baccam for sharing their photos above. The TV lighting came from the Seattle Channel, our municipal cable station, which recorded the entire one-hour, 20-minute program for you to watch here.
The Seattle Public Library also recorded the event for an audio podcast, which you can download here for listening [mp3 file size: 38.86MB, play time: 1 hr 24 min].
Speaking of audio, you can listen to the 13-minute radio conversation with Shawn Wong and myself with our good friend Bill Radke, host of “The Record,” weekdays at noon on KUOW 94.9 FM, the NPR station in Seattle. And below is the display ad that ran in The Seattle Times, courtesy of a great partnership between the Times and the Seattle Public Library Foundation to promote literacy.
I’m no lawyer, but I could not say no when the Case Western Reserve Law Review asked for a piece based on our EO9066 panel last November.
The symposium offered me the opportunity to revisit the McDonald Maternity Hospital in Cleveland where I was born, just a block from the Western Reserve campus, and explore my own pre-history of the postwar resettlement of my father out of Heart Mountain and into the Midwest. Continue reading “Resistance, Resettlement, and Redress”→
It’s an extremely readable book, a must-have companion piece to Okada’s novel … Abe, who lives in Okada’s early stomping grounds of Seattle, wrote the precise, well-researched 100-page biography of the author.
It was an honor to be recommended by Jeff Fleischer at “Foreword Reviews.” a journal for the independent book trade that is dedicated to the “art” of book reviewing. “Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love,” they say, and they cater to independent bookstores; the small press buying department at Barnes & Noble; the small press buyers at Costco; and librarian subscribers including those in LA, San Francisco, New York, Dallas, Denver, Chicago, and Detroit.
“John Okada,” reviewed by Jeff Fleischer, Foreward Reviews magazine, summer 2018
The book begins with a detailed biography of the author by Frank Abe … This is a strong compilation, mixing Okada’s writing with copious analysis of it, and telling a story of his life that both echoes and informs his best-known work.”
Podcast fans can hear the story of how Frank Chin, Shawn Wong, Lawson Inada, and Jeff Chan first rediscovered and republished No-No Boy, and how that set us on the four-decades-long journey in search of John Okada. I had a fun conversation with Stephanie Bastek at The American Scholar, a quarterly journal of literature, science and culture published for a general readership since 1932. “Who saved the book—and what was lost—is a story fit for legend. Listen to Frank Abe—who was there!—tell the tale on our podcast.”
Finally, here is the saved Facebook Live video of my Aug. 8 performance at Hing Hay Park in Seattle Chinatown for the Wing Luke Asian Museum’s “It Happened Here” series — weaving together the real events from the life of John Okada with the imagined world of postwar Seattle in No-No Boy. Thanks to all who came out to listen on a hot day at the heart of Maynard and King, where so many of the events in the novel collide.
UPDATE: On August 27, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California denied, without prejudice, the Tule Lake Committee’s motion for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). The order allows the Tule Lake Committee to file a renewed motion for
a TRO, which the Tule Lake Committee is preparing to file, and directs additional support on particular issues, according to a TLC news release, which added:
As documented in our new book, JOHN OKADA: The Life & Rediscovered Work of the Author of No-No Boy, the Japanese American experience was in some ways the reverse of this week’s child separations on the southern border. In our case it was the fathers — harmless men like the fathers of both John Okada and Jim Akutsu — who were ripped from their children and wives in Seattle on Feb. 21, 1942, locked up in the Immigration Detention Center on Airport Way, and then paraded out at King Street Station the morning of March 19, 1942, and put on a train for the Justice Department alien internment camp at Fort Missoula, Montana. Their children and wives reached through an iron fence and screamed out to the men in English and Japanese, not knowing if they would ever see them again.
I shared this story yesterday with this five-minute interview with the BBC World Service that aired in London and worldwide on June 20.