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.
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.
When we staged the first Day of Remembrance 43 years ago, we had no idea how it would persist to become an invented tradition to be observed wherever Japanese Americans live. This year it’s a weekend more crowded than ever with five events at which I’ve been asked to speak. One consequence of pandemic isolation is the ability to be anywhere with Zoom, so I agreed to two events on Saturday and three on Sunday, covering all angles of resistance to wartime incarceration and the echoes to today:
Saturday, February 20, 2021, 11:00 am PT
Wing Luke Museum virtual tour of INS Building
A key scene in our graphic novel We Hereby Refuse takes place inside the U.S. Immigration Station, on the edge of Seattle’s Chinatown, where 100 immigrant Issei were held after their arrest by the FBI two months after Pearl Harbor. I’ll join the virtual tour as a guest speaker to show scenes from our book of the detention of Jim Akutsu’s father inside the Immigration Station, and also read from my father’s own memoir about his detention there in the 1930’s. Register here.
Saturday, February 20, 2021, 2:00 pm PT
Wing Luke Museum online book launch
Copies of our graphic novel won’t be ready for sale until March, but we’re going ahead with the Day of Remembrance launch of We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American Resistance to Wartime Incarceration. I’ll unpack how the structure of the book and its narrative arc upend the usual expectations around camp stories, Tamiko Nimura will read from a scene with her uncle Hiroshi Kashiwagi, and artists Ross Ishikawa and Matt Sasaki will break down their process. To get the Zoom link to watch, you’ll need to register here.
Sunday, February 21, 2021, 1:00 pm PT
Tsuru for Solidary car caravan for Seattle’s Day of Remembrance
In advance of a Day of Remembrance car caravan from the Puyallup Fairgrounds to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, I’ve recorded a video greeting that links the first Day of Remembrance at the fairgrounds in 1978 to the ongoing need to press for release of asylum-seekers still held at the GEO Group private prison operated on behalf of ICE. “Another Time, Another Place” is sponsored by Tsuru for Solidarity, La Resistencia, Densho, the Minidoka Pilgrimage Planning Committee, Seattle JACL, and Puyallup Valley JACL.
[UPDATE: Here’s the four-minute video greeting from the blog’s YouTube channel]
MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL, MN
Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, 4:00 – 6:00 pm CT
Twin Cities JACL Day of Remembrance
A Twin Cities coalition is screening Conscience and the Constitution for its Day of Remembrance, after which I’ll join an online discussion with Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and Japanese American and Muslim students from the University of Minnesota. Moderated by Twin Cities JACL chapter president Vinicius Taguchi.
[UPDATE: Watch my opening comments and the post-screening discussion, courtesy of the East Freedom Library YouTube channel]
SAN JOSE, CA
Sunday, February 21, 2021, 6:00 pm PT
45th anniversary screening of Farewell to Manzanar
West Wind Capitol Drive-in Theater
3630 Hillcap Avenue
Saving the fun one for last: I was a featured actor in the 1976 TV-movie, Farewell to Manzanar, and was prevailed upon by publisher Kenji Taguma to organize and moderate a virtual cast and crew reunion prior to the COVID-safe screening of the film at a San Jose drive-in theater. We just recorded the Zoom gathering and those in their cars at the screening will hear some truly great stories. It’s sponsored by the Nichi Bei Foundation as the closing night event of its 10th anniversary Films of Remembrance series. Read the Nichi Bei Weekly article about it.
[UPDATE: For the live audience at the drive-in, a 20-minute video was screened. Here is the 28-minute “director’s cut,” produced and edited by Greg Viloria, courtesy of the Nichi Bei Foundation YouTube channel]
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
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.
Continue reading The “Frank Abe Collection” expanded at Densho
An 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-scenes 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].
In 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].
At the Association for Asian American Studies conference in Madison, Wisconsin, our new volume on John Okada was given an academic analysis in a panel titled “John Okada’s Unknown Works: Reassessing the (Un)governability of Japanese Americans in Mid-century America.”
We missed Vince Schleitwiler’s presence on the panel, but moderator Floyd Cheung of Smith College did a great job presenting Vince’s paper on Okada’s satirical essays, “A Larger Capacity for Normalcy: Apparitions of the Non-Alien in Midcentury Empire” (download a PDF, also revised and published online as “The Bright Future and Long Shadow of John Okada’s No-No Boy“).
John Streamas of Washington State University impressed with his own paper, “Street Lit: John Okada Ventures into the Proletarian” (download a PDF), a close reading of the Okada short story, “What Can I Do?”
And in the notes for his own presentation, “I Must Be Strong’: Awareness and Resistance in John Okada’s December 7th Poem” (download a PDF) Floyd Cheung investigates Okada’s prescience about dominant American racism and the need to self-govern Japanese American identity.
At the New Books Reception it was great to get the gang back together with the physical book available to share. Thanks to our editors at the University of Washington Press, Larin McLaughlin and Mike Baccam, for helping bring our book to life.
Thanks to Greg Robinson for organizing a panel revisiting the legacy of Conscience and the Constitution and Rabbit in the Moon on their 20th anniversary. Great to see Emiko and Chizu Omori again and to meet discussants Elena Creef, Chris Suh, Robert Hayashi, and Jonathan van Harmelen.
Finally, Professor Masumi Izumi of Doshisa University in Kyoto presented her translation of the Tule Lake Stockade Diary of Tatsuo Inouye. It’s a rare insight into the thoughts of the Issei and Kibei Nisei held in the prison within a prison camp for standing up for better living conditions for their families and community. It was a crucial guide in assuring the accuracy of our forthcoming graphic novel on camp resistance, and will likely have a place in our anthology of camp literature, which is also forthcoming. #AAAS2019
It was a quintessentially Okada-esque rainy day in 2015 when Midwest filmmakers Bill Kubota and Steve Ozone came to Seattle to talk with me about John Okada.
I’d known Bill from our mutual support on his film on Ben Kuroki, Most Honorable Son, and my film, Conscience and the Constitution, which featured Kuroki. He and Steve were doing a new film on the Military Intelligence Service, and they wanted to know more about Okada’s service in Guam with “The Flying Eight-Ball.” We talked in my basement office, then ventured out in the rain to see the clock tower at King Street Station where the novel opens.
You can see what a nice job they did in this clip from The Registry.
Thanks to all who came to hear us speak in 2018. The schedule for the first half of 2019 is shaping up as an even busier one, with events for JOHN OKADA, CONSCIENCE AND THE CONSTITUTION, and a look back at the first Day of Remembrance. For updates on this calendar, please always check the Upcoming Events page on the main menu. Continue reading Events coming up for the first half of 2019