Category Archives: News

A Day of Remembrance = A Day of Action

The first Day of Remembrance in 1978 was political. We staged it as a car caravan from Seattle to a family potluck and program at the Puyallup Fairgrounds, but it was only to create a safe space for the Nisei to begin to express their long-suppressed rage at expulsion and incarceration, and channel it into a long-overdue petition for redress of grievances and a call for our elected leaders to right a wrong.

So it felt familiar to make the same drive on February 23 down Interstate-5 to call stage at protestfor shutting down the Northwest Detention Center, between the Tacoma Dome and downtown Tacoma.

Over the course of two hours, close to 500 joined the call for an end to mass detentions and deportations under the nationalist and exclusionary policies of the current administration. Our historical and moral obligation to do so was evident. As Densho director Tom Ikeda pointed out, we stood within sight of Union Station, where Tacoma-area Nikkei assembled for eviction in 1942.

Satsuki Ina and Mike IshiiAnd it was a pleasure to welcome national leaders Satsuki Ina and Michael Ishii back to the Northwest. Satsuki, who was born in the Tule Lake Segregation Center, recalled the hunger strike her father joined to call attention to their extra-judicial detention in the infamous Tule Lake Stockade, a jail within the jail of their concentration camp.

camp namesLinda Ando said she was up until midnight the day before making signs for the ten War Relocation Authority camps to be used at the protest to #ShutDownNWDC. It was significant that she added the Justice Department family internment camp at Crystal City, Texas, where Satsuki, her mother, and brother were finally reunited with her father after the closing of Tule Lake. And now added to the list of infamy: the Geo Corporation’s Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.

This day’s action was just a start. Satsuki, Michael, and Tom are part of a steering committee organizing a national Pilgrimage to Close the Camps in Washington D.C. on June 6, for which registration has just opened.

Shawn Wong’s 49-year journey with “NO-NO BOY”

Shawn Wong with photo of himself at typewriterAdd performance art to the resume of novelist and professor Shawn Wong.  audience at Kane Hall, University of Washington

Before an audience of 500 for the Friends of the Libraries annual lecture at the University of Washington on January 30, he acted out what he called the “mostly true” story of how he brought John Okada’s No-No Boy from 1,500 copies in print to selling more than 160,000.

His story of the rediscovery and republication of the book started with finding it in a used Bay Area bookshop in 1971, contacting and interviewing John’s widow Dorothy later that year, and successfully reprinting the book with the Combined Asian American Resources Project (CARP) in 1976 after being turned down by many publishers, including the University of Washington Press. He gave an interview to The Seattle Times in 1977 meeting  in which he was critical of the Press, and the director called and asked for a meeting. Shawn Wong with photo of conference table “I’m new in town, and I’m already in trouble,” he thought. Shawn reenacted the meeting with the entire staff of UW Press around a conference table, where it turned out the Press wanted to know of other books he thought it should republish. He suggested the titles that are now known as the Classics of Asian American Literature series. No photos were taken of the meeting, so yes, that’s a photo of Vladimir Putin.

Shawn then showed how he brought a major NY publisher to the table for its unauthorized reprinting last year of No-No Boy. After describing how his social media campaign led to major media coverage, Shawn publicly confirmed details of a recent settlement: the publisher is withdrawing all copies Shawn Wong with details of settlement with Penguin of its No-No Boy from distribution in the U.S., and will pay royalties to the Okada family for all copies delivered to bookstores in the U.S. prior to withdrawal and for all copies sold abroad. “This fight could not have been won without the help of all those who put social media pressure” on the interloping publisher, he said, and exclaimed, “Social media is amazing. It’s better than going to court.”

The University Libraries also blogged about Shawn’s appearance. UPDATE: Here’s the video of the hour-long talk, cued to start with Shawn taking the stage.

For more on Shawn’s 49-year journey, read “The Legacy of No-No Boy” by Vince Schleitwiler in the University of Washington alumni magazine. UW Magazine banner

In Memoriam: Hiroshi Kashiwagi — poet, playwright, no-no, and renunciant

Hiroshi with Frank AbeHiroshi Kashiwagi once confided that when he was young he felt his real calling was as an actor. He had the soul of a poet, modest and soft-spoken, until he got on stage. Then he could command a voice that was measured and determined, almost Shakespearean in tone. He held a strong sense of right and wrong, and pushed himself to write and to study public speaking in order to be heard. Continue reading In Memoriam: Hiroshi Kashiwagi — poet, playwright, no-no, and renunciant

“NO-NO BOY” and “JOHN OKADA” in NY Times and American Book Awards

You’d never expect John Okada and the entire literature of Japanese American incarceration to be featured in the Style magazine of the New York Times … but thanks to the passionate interest of Thessaly La Force, features director for T: The New York Times Style Magazine, her deeply felt essay is now online. It will appear in print in the Sunday Times edition on November 17th.T: The New York Times Style Magazine

Many thanks to Thessaly for reaching out to Shawn Wong and myself to learn more about this history, and the life and work of John Okada in particular. The literature of Japanese American incarceration is a field that JOHN OKADA co-editor Floyd Cheung and I are researching for a new anthology scheduled for 2021.

Floyd was not present, but Greg Robinson and I were, when our volume on John Okada was honored Friday with an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation.

American Book Award recipients onstage

Here are my prepared remarks for the acceptance: Continue reading “NO-NO BOY” and “JOHN OKADA” in NY Times and American Book Awards

Gag order lifted on lawsuit to stop the fence at Tule Lake

Little news emerged in the past year from the effort to stop the fence at Tule Lake — a three-mile long airport fence that would block access to the “hallowed ground” of America’s worst concentration camp.

Now we have some insight into why: according to a series of tweets from the Tule Lake Committee, the federal judge overseeing the case has lifted a gag order on the case, and the committee is raising funds for what could be the last leg of this long legal journey. We’ve kicked in, you can too. Here’s the thread unroll from @SaveTuleLake:
Continue reading Gag order lifted on lawsuit to stop the fence at Tule Lake

“JOHN OKADA” among winners of 2019 American Book Awards

We’ve just learned that JOHN OKADA is one of the winners of the 2019 American Book Awards. This honor is especially meaningful as it comes from the Before Columbus Foundation which, as its name suggests, recognizes “literary achievement from the entire spectrum of America’s diverse literary community” and is “a writers’ award given by other writers.”

Our thanks to Ishmael Reed, Justin Desmangles, and Shawn Wong for their lifetime of work to sustain the Foundation. Continue reading “JOHN OKADA” among winners of 2019 American Book Awards

Interview with Thomas Girst on new German translation of “No-No Boy”

German coverCongratulations to author and cultural manager Thomas Girst for providing the literary and historical commentary appended to the new German translation of John Okada’s No-No Boy. 

Girst is the author of the 2015 academic study, Art, Literature, and the Japanese American Internment: On John Okada’s “No-No Boy,” and he reveres Okada’s work as much as anyone. Girst’s fine epilogue provides the context of the WW2 incarceration experience for the German reader, and a close reading of Okada’s text. Continue reading Interview with Thomas Girst on new German translation of “No-No Boy”

Campaign launched to support UW Press edition of “No-No Boy”

Buyer beware: The edition of No-No Boy published by the University of Washington Press is the only edition authorized by the family of John Okada. The largest publisher in the US is now opportunistically exploiting a loophole in the copyright to bring out its own unauthorized knock-off. Continue reading Campaign launched to support UW Press edition of “No-No Boy”

“The Lim Report” now back online: the Mueller Report of its time

The Lim Report book coverThanks to your requests, we’ve spent some time to make “The Lim Report” available online once again. In many ways, it was the Mueller Report of its time.

Deborah Lim’s work was explosive for the details she revealed of  JACL cooperation and collaboration with the government in our own wartime incarceration, its suppression of resistance, and its demonization of the no-no’s and renunciants at Tule Lake. Continue reading “The Lim Report” now back online: the Mueller Report of its time

Full house for Los Angeles book launch of “JOHN OKADA”

photo by Nancy OdaAngelenos react to a rainstorm as Seattleites do to snow: it’s an excuse to stay indoors. So we have many thanks to all those who braved the rain in Los Angeles last week to come to our JOHN OKADA launch events at USC, UCLA, and the Japanese American National Museum.
photo by Cory Shiozaki
The full house of 250 that packed the Tateuchi Democracy Forum at JANM was especially fun.  The discussion was lively and it was a real treat to see so many friends there, including Martha Nakagawa, Naomi Hirahara, Karen Tei Yamashita, Nobuko Miyamoto, Tak Hoshizaki,  and Masumi Izumi even flew in from Japan for the weekend.  Our special guests for the event were John Okada’s children from Pasadena, Dorothea Okada and Matthew Okada, who contributed so much time in the writing of their father’s biography. Continue reading Full house for Los Angeles book launch of “JOHN OKADA”