REVIEW: Writing in the camps as an act of defiance

Relocating Authority In her revelatory new book, Mira Shimabukuro sets a new standard in camp studies with her framing of what she calls “writing-to-redress.” She goes beyond Bulletin #3 from the Fair Play Committee to recover a wide range of camp writing that challenges authority, much of it by women. such as the letter from the Mothers Society of Minidoka protesting the drafting of their sons, signed by more than 100 Issei women.

Our review in the International Examiner calls this a significant act of redress that once again changes the way we look at the Japanese American response to incarceration, and belies the claim of Mike Masaoka in our film that resistance in the camps was limited to “a relatively small number of dissidents.”

“Resistance Capital:” Writing in the camps as an act of defiance

Relocating Authority: Japanese Americans Writing to Redress Mass Incarceration by Mira Shimabukuro
University Press of Colorado, 250 pages. Paper, $26.95

reviewed by Frank Abe
special to the International Examiner, May 18-31, 2016

I want to thank the author of this study for putting a name to the sense of purpose I felt in writing an essay for the old Northwest Nikkei in 1992, on my feelings upon first reading the manifestos of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee. What I was obeying, she says in citing that piece, was my “inheritance of resistance capital” – the idea that writing by Japanese American camp resisters in 1944 created a kind of currency that can be grown and reinvested generations later by their spiritual descendants.

It’s one of several useful rhetorical constructs framed by Mira Shimabukuro, poet and lecturer at the University of Washington, Bothell, in her revelatory new work cleverly called Relocating Authority. Her title plays upon the name of the civilian War Relocation Authority that was created to imprison Japanese Americans in ten wartime incarceration camps, while subverting euphemism to put the authority back where it belongs: in those incarcerees, especially the women, who used the written word to “talk back” as a means to take back some measure of power and self-worth. Read more …

Mira_FPC bulletin
At the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle on May 5, Mira Shimabukuro points to Bulletin #3 of the Fair Play Committee, which crosses the line from protest to resistance, as a vehicle by which the resisters amassed authority in camp by what she calls “writing to redress.” (Photo by the author).

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