All posts by Frank Abe

FRANK ABE is co-author of a new graphic novel on Japanese American resistance to wartime incarceration, WE HEREBY REFUSE, to be published in February by Chin Music Press. 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 with the French translator of “No-No Boy”

cover of French translationMerci beaucoup  to the readers and independent bookstores in France now discovering the work of John Okada through a new translation of No-No Boy.

Published on October 29 by Valérie Millet of Les Éditions du Sonneur, the new translation is by Paris-based writer Anne-Sylvie Homassel. She reports that bookstores across France reopened last Saturday from the pandemic and they’re eagerly welcoming the new edition, as can be seen in this Facebook post from La Geosphere of Montpelier on the south coast of France.

This is the third international edition of No-No Boy, joining the German and Japanese translations.  As with those versions, I had a delightful correspondence  with the translator to help untangle a few of Okada’s more idiomatic phrases and Nisei colloquialisms. Thanks to Le Sonneur for the nice acknowledgement and reference back to this website.

Homassel is a Paris-based writer and translator. She co-directs The Green Face (Le Visage vert), a literary magazine and small press devoted to supernatural fiction, and has translated close to 100 volumes, including those of Max Beerbohm,  Henry Darger, Willa Cather, John Buchan, Zane Gray, Herman Melville and L. Frank Baum. Under the name Anne-Sylvie Salzman,  she’s written the novels and collections Sleep (Sommeil); On the Edge of a Slow Black River (Au bord d’un lent fleuve noir); Lamont; Feral (Vivre sauvage dans les villes);  and Zelenka (Dernières nouvelles d’Œsthrénie).

We were fascinated to know more, so here is an edited trans-Atlantic interview conducted via e-mail:

Resisters.com: What was the origin for the French edition? Were you commissioned by the publisher or did you bring the idea to them? 

Anne-Sylvie Homassel
Anne-Sylvie Homassel

Anne-Sylvie Homassel: I frequently travel to Japan, where I have many friends, and In September 2018, I read an article about No-No Boy in The Japan Times.  I soon ordered the book—and when I finished reading it I knew I would want to translate and offer it to French-speaking readers. I mentioned it to publisher Valérie Millet, who runs an independent press called Les Éditions du Sonneur, and she was as thrilled as I was by the novel. Le Sonneur has been publishing for more than 15 years books of all description—works of fiction, travel literature, essays—with a focus on literary quality. So Le Sonneur acquired the rights to No-No Boy—and two years and a pandemic later, here we are.
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YouTube preview of forthcoming graphic novel, “We Hereby Refuse”

“Three voices …  Three acts of defiance …  One mass injustice.” That’s one of the taglines for our forthcoming graphic novel which presents an original vision of America’s past with disturbing links to the American present. We had a fast-moving conversation about it on Black Friday, with a special look inside the 3-D modeling by  one of our two artists, Ross Ishikawa, to recreate key scenes based on  historical reality.

Here’s the one-hour JAMP YouTube channel event moderated by Erin Aoyama,  to get you ready for publication on February 9, 2021.

Continue reading YouTube preview of forthcoming graphic novel, “We Hereby Refuse”

“Setsuko’s Secret” and Paul Tsuneishi’s fight for our film

Setsuko's Secret coverThe story of camp resistance is now recognized as part of our wartime experience, but a new book reminds us that it’s only been 20 years from a time when the subject was taboo.

Here’s how I describe Shirley Higuchi’s new book, Setsuko’s Secret: Heart Mountain and the Legacy of the Japanese American Incarceration, when given the chance to read an early version of it last year.

“A rich and original story. Shirley Higuchi captures the sweeping narrative of incarceration through the lens of a single camp and ties it to our present reality. Her resolve as a daughter of the camps is Setsuko’s real legacy.”  — Frank Abe, director of Conscience and the Constitution

Continue reading “Setsuko’s Secret” and Paul Tsuneishi’s fight for our film

Interview with producers of new Densho podcast series

podcast logoIn two forthcoming books, I try to capture the epic arc of the camp experience — whether through the voices of characters in our graphic novel on camp resistance, or in the selections we choose for a new anthology of camp literature. Producers Hana and Noah Maruyama take much the same approach with their new Densho podcast series, which expertly weaves scores of sound bites into an aural tapestry to create the effect of a single voice conveying the shared experience of camp.

Campu is a remarkable feat of knowledge and editing. Listen to the first 48-minute episode, centered around “Rocks” as an object-based theme.

Continue reading Interview with producers of new Densho podcast series

First public panel for forthcoming graphic novel

Our graphic novel on Japanese American resistance to wartime incarceration,  WE HEREBY REFUSE, is not due for publication until February — but when doing a project like this, you can’t pass up the opportunity when asked to be part of a panel titled, “Japanese American Voices in Graphic Novels.”

UPDATE October 27: Here is the YouTube program, cued to start with our 5-minute debut of the artwork and story, followed by the panel moderated by librarian Jessica Buck and featuring Mari Nomi, Sarah Kuhn, Kiku Hughes, and Yuko Ota. [The screen is blank but the video does play.]

Continue reading First public panel for forthcoming graphic novel

The “Frank Abe Collection” expanded at Densho

With the 32nd anniversary this week of the signing of the Civil Liberties Act, this is a good time to belatedly acknowledge one year’s worth of work by the good people at  Densho to scan and archive seven bankers’ boxes full of archival Day of Remembrance and redress materials from the decade that spanned 1978 to 1988, along with the raw materials that went into production of  Conscience and the Constitution from 1992 to 2000.
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Voices of early redress activists captured in 1980 audio archive

symposium posterIf the fuse for public support of redress was lit with the first Days of Remembrance in Seattle and Portland in 1978 and ’79, the question was how to keep the momentum going into 1980. Our local congressman, Mike Lowry, had quickly introduced the first bill calling for direct and individual compensation for the government’s violation of Constitutional protections, but National JACL was going its own direction. Without a national organization of our own, we needed a vehicle to advance the discussion and keep the community engaged. 

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Sharing “NO-NO BOY” with teachers in six cities

The story of No-No Boy and John Okada is being shared this summer with middle and secondary teachers of history and the humanities in six cities across the nation, as part of a series of place-based online workshops sponsored by the National Japanese American Historical Society of San Francisco and the National Park Service. Continue reading Sharing “NO-NO BOY” with teachers in six cities

Okada book club & “Conscience” director’s commentary set for virtual camp pilgrimage

Tadaima imageAn ambitious nine-week online event kicks off today,  a virtual camp pilgrimage designed to make up for all the summer site visits cancelled by the pandemic. Among the plethora of programs are two that we’ve agreed to host.

In Week 3, on Saturday, July 4 at 2:00 pm PDT, join me and moderator Erin Aoyama for a live group viewing of Conscience and the Constitution with a twist: while the film is streaming, I will offer the kind of director’s commentary on the making of the film that we were never able to include on the DVD. Tune in for behind-the-DVD coverscenes stories about the Heart Mountain draft resisters, and leave questions in the chatroom for discussion afterwards. Erin brings her own experience of working on building a forthcoming database with the biographies and archival files of all 63 defendants in the largest mass trial in Wyoming history [UPDATE: Here’s the YouTube video of the Director’s Commentary].

No-No Boy cover illustrationIn Week 4, on Friday, July 10 at 5:00 pm PDT, we will have a live book club presentation and discussion of the novel No-No Boy and the story of the author behind it.  If you missed our book release events last year for our biography of John Okada, we’ll reprise that presentation while mixing in a fuller discussion of the themes of the novel. Vince Schleitwiler will moderate.  [UPDATE: Here’s the  YouTube video of the Book Club].

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