All posts by Frank Abe

FRANK ABE is co-author of the new graphic novel on Japanese American resistance to wartime incarceration, WE HEREBY REFUSE (Chin Music Press: A Wing Luke Museum Book). He won an American Book Award for JOHN OKADA: The Life & Rediscovered Work of the Author of No-No Boy (University of Washington Press), and made the award-winning PBS documentary, CONSCIENCE AND THE CONSTITUTION, on the largest organized camp resistance. He is currently co-editing an anthology for Penguin Classics on The Literature of Japanese American Incarceration.

Interview: “Betrayed”

Starting today and for the month of May you can watch director Rory Banyard’s new film on Minidoka, Betrayed:  Surviving an American Concentration Camp, on select local PBS stations and the PBS app.

Frank Abe in filmI want to thank Rory for calling me in to talk about the Munson Report, the wartime JACL, growing up Sansei, and other stuff.  What he produced isn’t another victim narrative of camp, but something that digs into the more complicated threads of the draft resistance at Minidoka and the postwar campaign for justice through redress. So I’m pleased I had the chance to contribute to the film, along with Satsuki Ina, Tom Ikeda, Clarence Moriwaki, Lawrence Matsuda, Michael Ishii, and many others. I can never bear to watch myself on screen, but this one is okay.

The Munson Report is not something I’ve researched on my own. It was prepared by a special investigator especially for President Roosevelt, and informed him that the Japanese in America posed no military threat and that the Nisei were in fact “pathetically loyal” to the U.S. It’s existence was first  revealed by Michi Weglyn in her groundbreaking book, Years of Infamy, where I read about it like everyone else. But the director wanted to bring it out so I  obliged by re-reading that section and talking about it as a means of honoring the memory of dear, sweet Michi.

Frank Chin in filmIn the first few minutes of the film you will see long-unseen archival footage of the very first Day of Remembrance, on November 25, 1978, including an interview with DOR creator Frank Chin holding a very young Joby Shimomura, daughter of Bea Kiyohara. Rory licensed the footage from a film archive that had acquired it from KOMO-TV in Seattle. It’s a great way to open the film as it captures the moment when many of those who were removed from Seattle to Minidoka first stood up for redress and reclaimed the history of camp as their own.

Check it out!

AKCHO Award for outstanding original research

Many thanks to AKCHO: The Association of King County Historical Organizations for honoring our book with the Virginia Marie Folkins Award for Outstanding Historical Publication. It’s our first juried award and it’s especially meaningful as the Folkens Award recognizes works that demonstrate “outstanding original research.”

AKCHO bannerAKCHO awardee list

AKCHO logoIt’s quite a list of much-revered local and regional organizations. I didn’t realize it at the time, but having the chance to work with King County Executives Gary Locke, Ron Sims, and Dow Constantine in Seattle and see up close how government can and does work helped me understand in developing this story how a diferent government betrayed us in WW2.

We couldn’t have finished the book without the project management of Cassie Chinn of the Wing Luke Museum and publisher Bruce Rutledge of Chin Music Press.

The AKCHO Awards Celebration will be held virtually on Tuesday, May 24th at 5:30 pm.

award plaque

Interview: “(Nearly) Everything I Know about the Creative Process I Learned at Cowell College”

Alumni Week logoIt’s been nearly fifty years since I graduated from Cowell College at the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1973. Organizers of the Class of ’72 reunion asked me to take part in their Alumni Week events and I will be glad to catch up with old friends.
Continue reading Interview: “(Nearly) Everything I Know about the Creative Process I Learned at Cowell College”

A season of professional development workshops

February was certainly a month dominated by speaking engagements around the Day of Remembrance and the 80th anniversary of the signing of EO 9066. My schedule for this spring and summer is lining up to be a season of professional development workshops to train the trainers, both educators and lawyers.

Holocaust Center event flyerIn collaboration with the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, we just completed a virtual teacher training on We Hereby Refuse for educators in southeast Florida, organized by Toshimi Abe-Janiga of the Riviera Beach Preparatory & Achievement Academy for the Center for Holocaust and Human Rights Education at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

What’s great about our upcoming events is that they’re all currently planned to be live and in-person. Hope you can join us somewhere along the way:

Saturday, April 9, 2022, 12:00-1:30 pm
Pacific Sociological Association conference
Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel
“Reconstructing and Reframing the Collective Narrative of Japanese American Incarceration”

Pacifc Sociological Association logoFeatured speaker in-person for the Presidential Session, using We Hereby Refuse to speak to the conference theme of “Telling Our Stories: Collective Memory and Narratives of Race, Gender, and Community Identity. A key question for conferees is how we use memory as agency in disrupting power and systematic inequality, and as a tool for change and action. UPDATE: Friends and colleagues are invited to come join the audience without registering for the conference. The invitation comes from PSA president Dr. Wendy Ng of CSU East Bay, who says, “If you get me names, I can admit them for a one-day viewing for your presentation as non-sociologists and community members.” A donation at the door is welcomed but not required. Hope to see you there.

Thursday, May 26, 9:00 am-1:00 pm
Washington State History Museum
Joint Base Lewis-McChord Judge Advocates General workshop

Joint Base logoA special workshop presentation on We Hereby Refuse and Conscience and the Constitution for Army attorneys in the Legal Assistance Office at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, with retired Seattle University professor and noted coram nobis attorney Lorraine Bannai and Fred Borch, archive historian for the JAG office.

Saturday, June 4, 2022, 10:15 am
2022 NCORE Conference
Oregon Convention Center
“Teaching Japanese American Resistance Through the Graphic Novel”

NCORE bannerPresenting an in-person session and book signing on We Hereby Refuse to the annual meeting of the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education (NCORE), a program of the University of Oklahoma billed as “the leading national forum on issues of race and ethnicity in higher education.”

Wednesday, June 22, 2022, 10:30 am
Wednesday, July 27, 2022, 10:30 am
NEH Landmarks of American History and Culture Virtual Workshop
“We Hereby Refuse: The Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee and other camp resistance”

NEH Educator WorkshopsI’ll speak in-person to educators drawn from across the nation at a pair of week-long NEH Landmarks of American History and Culture Virtual Workshops on his film Conscience and the Constitution and the graphic novel We Hereby Refuse. We will examine mass resistance in all the camps to the government’s administration of a loyalty questionnaire, and the organized resistance at Heart Mountain to compulsory military conscription from inside camp. Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and hosted by the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation.

For updates to these and other public appearances, stay in touch via our upcoming Events page.

National Day of Remembrance tops February events

As the month for the annual Day of Remembrance, February is always the busiest time of year for speaking requests. This year being the 80th anniversary of EO 9066, A friend counted 33 DOR events nationwide. I have nine on the books myself, a personal record, including four on February 19th.
Continue reading National Day of Remembrance tops February events

The North American Post interview

In Seattle, the North American Post is the successor to the prewar Hokubei Jiji newspaper that Fuyo Tanagi helped edit, before she wrote the letter protesting the drafting of Nisei boys from camp for the Mothers Society of Minidoka. So it is an honor to be interviewed by Elaine Ikoma Ko in this wide-ranging exchange on No-No Boy, John Okada and We Hereby Refuse for the cover of the current issue of the Post.

Read the interview in the North American Post here.
Continue reading The North American Post interview

John Okada in Detroit History Podcast

Okada at Chrysler Missile (photo: Yoshito Okada family)
Okada at his desk in 1957 at the Chrysler Missile Operations plant in Sterling Township, Michigan (photo: the Yoshito Okada family)

The story of how John Okada migrated to Detroit in 1953 — where he wrote the great American novel, No-No Boy — is told in a new interview for the Detroit History Podcast.

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In Memoriam: Holly Yasui

As a community we are grieving the loss of Holly Yasui, youngest daughter of Min Yasui and producer/director of the award-winning film, Never Give Up!: Minoru Yasui and the Fight for Justice.

Continue reading In Memoriam: Holly Yasui

The Alien Enemy Hearing Boards at Fort Missoula

drawing of FBI interrogation
from “We Hereby Refuse,” Chin Music Press, artwork by Ross Ishikawa

At this weekend’s education conference for the Japanese American Confinement Sites Consortium, we’ll get a  virtual tour of the restored courtroom at Fort Missoula, and I’ll show how we used a transcript of a hearing inside that courtroom for a key scene in our graphic novel, We Hereby Refuse.

Continue reading The Alien Enemy Hearing Boards at Fort Missoula