Category Archives: News

Family separations nothing new for Japanese Americans

John Okada at desk in New York City, 1949As 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.

BBC World Service logoI shared this story yesterday with the BBC World Service.  Click here to hear the five-minute interview that aired in London at 10 am on June 20. In the iPlayer window scrub nearly to the end of the audio, to the 48:00 minute mark.

Here’s the photo referenced in our book from The Seattle Times of March 19, 1942, that accompanied the story, “Tears, Staccato Chatter Flow As Jap Menfolk Leave Seattle.” The DOJ confiscated the suitcases of the Issei men, who dressed formally for the long train trip in suits and fedoras, and gave them paper bags to hold their books and toothbrushes. See the arms of their families reaching through the iron fence for one last tearful goodbye.

The Seattle Times, March 19, 1942

Under the “What I Should Have Said” Department, when the presenter offered, “Well, senior presidential advisor Stephen Miller says the policy is working, and the polls show the American public agrees with it,” I exploded with something about “Yes, but not in my name” and “He’s playing to his base which is about one-third of America.” What I should have done was challenge the premise, that this border business is a manufactured crisis, that this is another example of the big lie, that this is just the sort of dehumanization and demonizing of the other as thugs and animals that enabled our incarceration and the Nazi final solution, that those polling numbers are why the rest of America is appalled and ashamed of ourselves as a nation and working for a change in leadership.  #FamiliesBelongTogether

Read an outtake chapter from the forthcoming “John Okada”

JOHN OKADA book spinesAdvance copies of JOHN OKADA: The Life & Rediscovered Work of the Author of No-No Boy arrived in the mail this week, and the books are a joy to hold. The covers feel good in the hand, with the same texture as the 2014 paperback edition of No-No Boy itself.  I’ll be lugging dozens of copies on the bus to the upcoming Tule Lake and Minidoka Pilgrimages for the booksellers there. If you’re also going, please signal your attendance at these Facebook Events for our Tule Lake workshop, “No-No Boys, John Okada, and the Kibei Resistance at Tule Lake,” with Martha Nakagawa and Takako Day on July 1, or at the Minidoka panel, “John Okada, No-No Boy, and the Draft Resistance at Minidoka, on July 6.

Discover Nikkei logoIn advance of our imminent publication, which is now slated for July 13,  co-editor Greg Robinson has just posted a treat for you — an outtake from our book, something we really tried to get in but could not fit into our maximum page count. It’s a look at how No-No Boy was originally received in 1957, titled “First Impressions: Early Reviews of John Okada’s No-No Boy.”  The article appears on the Discover Nikkei blog, and we’ve provided links to the texts of all the 1957 reviews cited by Greg here on this blog. Continue reading Read an outtake chapter from the forthcoming “John Okada”

“JOHN OKADA” book launch at Asian American Studies conference

Greg speakingMany thanks to all the students and scholars who came to our book launch for JOHN OKADA at the Association for Asian American Studies conference at San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel — whether to our panel on Saturday morning in the Grand Ballroom, or visiting the University of Washington Press table in the exhibit hall. Continue reading “JOHN OKADA” book launch at Asian American Studies conference

Events for the 2018 Day of Remembrance

TV viewers in the Pacific Northwest tuning in to the Winter Olympics  this week have been getting an unexpected, 30-second education in America’s wartime incarceration camps, thanks to a personal testimonial I gave for the importance of the work of KING-TV’s  Lori Matsukawa.

Continue reading Events for the 2018 Day of Remembrance

Making February 19 a Day of Resistance

I realize there’s too much to focus on right now, between keeping kids safe from guns, the Russian indictments, and more, but February 19 is coming up. Please join Dale Minami and others in making this Day of Remembrance a Day of Resistance as well by signing this open letter. This is part of a national strategy for Japanese Americans who remember the camps to formally stand with Muslim Americans, led by the one-time coram nobis attorneys who are getting the band back together to file an amicus brief in the names of Korematsu, HIrabayashi, and Yasui as the Supreme Court rules on the Muslim travel ban.

hands cutting barbed wire

Add Your Name to an Open Letter to the Country
Continue reading Making February 19 a Day of Resistance

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?” Continue reading Nisei Naysayer: announcing the memoir of journalist James Omura

John Okada: His life and unknown work revealed in forthcoming book

UW Press book coverWe’re pleased to announce the publication in July 2018 of a new book  from the University of Washington Press that reveals new information about the life of John Okada and brings to light his unknown works.

Preorder now through the UW Press and use the promo code WST30 to get a 30% discount.

Here’s the synopsis just released by the UW Press on page 8 of its new Spring 2018 catalog. Continue reading John Okada: His life and unknown work revealed in forthcoming book

Save Tule Lake: Send a letter by Oct. 10

graphic by Nathaniel Levine - Sacramento BeeThis graphic in last Monday’s Sacramento Bee says it all: “The proposed fence would encircle the Tulelake Municipal Airport next to the town of Newell,”

The Tule Lake Committee has issued an urgent call to #SaveTuleLake, where more than 24,000 Japanese Americans were imprisoned during World War II. They are appealing for voices to be heard against the construction of a three-mile-long fence that will close off an airport that sits on two-thirds of the former concentration camp site and which, if built, would permanently close off access to the barracks area where most people lived. A national civil rights site will be irreparably damaged. Continue reading Save Tule Lake: Send a letter by Oct. 10

Hirabayashi jail cell memorialized at King County Courthouse

plaqueSeventy-five years ago, University of Washington student  Gordon Hirabayashi said enough was enough and simply refused to obey an 8pm curfew aimed only at persons of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast. He got himself arrested and was held in a jail cell on the top floor of the King County Courthouse for nine months. He took his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Continue reading Hirabayashi jail cell memorialized at King County Courthouse

Film mentioned as an #inspirASIAN

graphic image of Frank AbeHumbled and a little embarrassed by this online recognition from the Asian American Journalists Association and friend Lori Matsukawa — but worthwhile if it encourages AAJA members to embrace their role in the newsroom and pitch stories that shine a light on our diverse communities — just as Lori has done so effectively in her position on air. Also worth it if it helps call attention to the film and the story of the Heart Mountain resisters and all the resisters in camp and the courts.
Continue reading Film mentioned as an #inspirASIAN