Nisei Naysayer: announcing the memoir of journalist James Omura

Congratulations to Art Hansen for fulfilling the promise he made to James Omura before Omura’s death in 1994 — to get Jimmie’s memoirs published someday.

It’s taken a quarter-century, but thanks to Art and Stanford University Press you can now see how the journalist who called out JACL in 1942 for “selling Japanese America down the river” was shaped by his beginnings on Bainbridge Island and coming of age in the Pacific Northwest, his early work on Nisei vernaculars in California, and his showdowns with JACL and the US government in San Francisco and Denver.

Frank Chin provides the Foreword, “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,” Heart Mountain draft resister Yosh Kuromiya provides the Preface, and I was honored to be asked to write the Afterword, entitled “Who Writes History?”

Here’s the press announcement with a link to the pre-order page where you can use the code HANSEN to get a 20 percent discount.

Nisei Naysayer: The Memoir of Militant Japanese American Journalist Jimmie Omura
Edited by ARTHUR A. HANSEN

AUGUST 2018. 408 PAGES. FROM $29.95
Receive 20% off at www.sup.org with code HANSEN

Among the fiercest opponents of the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II was journalist James “Jimmie” Matsumoto Omura. In his sharp-penned columns, Omura fearlessly called out leaders in the Nikkei community for what he saw as their complicity with the U.S. government’s unjust and unconstitutional policies—particularly the federal decision to draft imprisoned Nisei into the military without first restoring their lost citizenship rights. In 1944, Omura was pushed out of his editorship of the Japanese American newspaper Rocky Shimpo, indicted, arrested, jailed, and forced to stand trial for unlawful conspiracy to counsel, aid, and abet violations of the military draft. He was among the first Nikkei to seek governmental redress and reparations for wartime violations of civil liberties and human rights.

In this memoir, which he began writing towards the end of his life, Omura provides a vivid account of his early years: his boyhood on Bainbridge Island; summers spent working in the salmon canneries of Alaska; riding the rails in search of work during the Great Depression; honing his skills as a journalist in Los Angeles and San Francisco. By the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Omura had already developed a reputation as one of the Japanese American Citizens League’s most adamant critics, and when the JACL leadership acquiesced to the mass incarceration of American-born Japanese, he refused to remain silent, at great personal and professional cost. Shunned by the Nikkei community and excluded from the standard narrative of Japanese American wartime incarceration until later in life, Omura seeks in this memoir to correct the “cockeyed history to which Japanese America has been exposed.”

Edited and with an introduction by historian Arthur A. Hansen, and with contributions from Asian American activists and writers Frank Chin, Yosh Kuromiya, and Frank Abe, Nisei Naysayer provides an essential, firsthand account of Japanese American wartime resistance.

James Matsumoto Omura (1912–1994) was a newspaper editor and later operated a landscaping business in Denver, Colorado. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Asian American Journalists Association in 1989.

Arthur A. Hansen is Professor Emeritus of History and Asian American Studies at California State University, Fullerton.

In advance of the book’s August publication, the UCLA Suyama Project is sponsoring a special program in Jimmie’s hometown of Denver at which Art Hansen will speak. Here’s the flyer, followed by the news release from Suyama research associate Martha Nakagawa.

March 10 Program Recognizes Those Who Battled World War II ‘Fake News’

While President Trump may have popularized the term, “fake news,” the late Nisei journalist Jimmie Omura and the draft resisters were battling fake news long before Trump was even born.

Prof. Arthur A. Hansen, professor emeritus of history at California State University, Fullerton, will share excerpts from an upcoming memoir of Omura, which will touch upon Omura’s World War II court trial that stemmed from his support of the Heart Mountain draft resisters, his subsequent ostracism from the Nikkei community and his re-emergence as a civil rights leader during the 1980s.

Omura’s memoir, “Nisei Naysayer,” will be published by Stanford University Press in late 2018 and is based, in part, on journals kept by the Bainbridge Island-born Omura, who moved to Denver to avoid camp incarceration and lived out his post-war years in the area.

The program will take place at the Mezzanine meeting area of Sakura Square, from 1 p.m. It is being co-sponsored by the Japanese American Resource Center of Colorado (JARCC), the Japanese American Association of Colorado (JAAC) and the UCLA Asian American Studies Center’s (AASC) Eji Suyama Endowment, which strives to preserve the history of Japanese American dissent during World War II.

This 60 minute program will begin with a short introduction about the Suyama Project by Prof. David K. Yoo, vice provost for the Institute of American Cultures and professor of Asian American Studies and History at UCLA. There will also be a website presentation on the Suyama Project. This will be followed by Prof. Hansen, in dialogue with Prof. Lane Hirabayashi, emeritus professor of Asian American Studies and the former George & Sakaye Aratani Endowed Chair at UCLA. There will also be an answer and question session, and a reception with light refreshment after this.

The Sakura Square, Mezzanine meeting area, is located at 1905 Larimar Street in downtown Colorado. To get to the meeting room, the Sakura Square Mezzanine is located at ground level on Larimer Street, between 19th and 20th streets, and not at the regular Sakura Square address. For more information or to RSVP, please contact Marge Taniwaki at margetaniwaki@aol.com or call (303) 333-2130.

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