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 for 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.
And 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.
Linda 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.
Add performance art to the resume of novelist and professor Shawn Wong.
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. “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 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.”
Hiroshi 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→
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Angelenos 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.
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”→