The violence against Asian Americans in Atlanta and across the nation is rooted, as many this week have pointed out, in a history of systemic exclusion and racism that includes the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans in WW2. It’s in this moment of heightened awareness that we confirm our graphic novel on that subject will be published on May 18. Continue reading May 18 publication set for “WE HEREBY REFUSE”
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]
The moment I saw the portrait of a young John Okada gazing at me from the cover of Greg Robinson’s new book, The Unsung Great: Stories of Extraordinary Japanese Americans, I ordered a copy. It’s a photo used in the eponymous book we wrote and edited called John Okada.
Then when I opened Greg’s book I was floored to discover not one but two chapters devoted to the author of No-No Boy: Greg’s essay on the reviews of the novel upon its first publication in 1957 (previously published by Discover Nikkei), and a new section on the origins of our own 2018 collaboration, together with Floyd Cheung, in a piece called “How John Okada Was Born.”
Continue reading How “JOHN OKADA” was born
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.
Continue reading Interview with the French translator of “No-No Boy”
“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.
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
In 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.
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.]
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
If 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.