Category Archives: Penguin anthology

Coming May 2024: The Literature of Japanese American Incarceration

Floyd Cheung and I are pleased to announce that our new anthology, The Literature of Japanese American Incarceration, will be published as a Penguin Classic on May 14, 2024. You can now pre-order the book from your neighborhood independent bookstore, or from one of these online sellers.

cover of Penguin anthology

I am grateful to Floyd for inviting me on this journey six years ago. We kicked it around and settled on the narrative arc to frame the 68 selections in the volume.  While we wait for the chance for you to see it, please add it to your Goodreads queue and online wish lists. We will be arranging local book events next spring and summer. In the meantime, we’ve just revised the online metadata to better describe its content:

The Literature of Japanese American Incarceration – Paperback – May 14, 2024

The collective voice of Japanese Americans defined by a specific moment in time: the four years of World War II during which the US government expelled resident aliens and its own citizens from their homes and imprisoned 125,000 of them in American concentration camps, based solely upon the race they shared with a wartime enemy.

This anthology presents a new vision that recovers and reframes the literature produced by the people targeted by the actions of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Congress to deny Americans of Japanese ancestry any individual hearings or other due process after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. From nearly seventy selections of fiction, poetry, essays, memoirs, and letters emerges a shared story of the struggle to retain personal integrity in the face of increasing dehumanization – all anchored by the key government documents that incite the action.

The selections favor the pointed over the poignant, and the unknown over the familiar, with several new translations among previously unseen works that have been long overlooked on the shelf, buried in the archives, or languished unread in the Japanese language. The writings are presented chronologically so that readers can trace the continuum of events as the incarcerees experienced it.

The contributors span incarcerees, their children born in or soon after the camps, and their descendants who reflect on the long-term consequences of mass incarceration for themselves and the nation. Many of the voices are those of protest. Some are those of accommodation. All are authentic. Together they form an epic narrative with a singular vision of America’s past, one with disturbing resonances with the American present.

Searching for families of these Issei writers

This is an appeal for anyone with leads on the families of Joji Nozawa, Kazuo Kawai, Hyakuissei Okamoto, Yoshio Abe, Iwao Kawakami, and other Issei writers whose work we plan to feature in a forthcoming anthology of camp literature [UPDATE: We’ve now heard from relatives of Nozawa and Kawakami].

blue cover of Tessaku magazine
A cover for Tessaku Magazine, in the collection of the Japanese American National Museum. Photo by Frank Abe.

Prof. Floyd Cheung and I have nearly completed the manuscript for The Literature of Japanese American Incarceration to be published by Penguin Classics in spring or fall 2024. The collection includes around 60 selections from Before Camp, The Camps, and After Camp. Continue reading Searching for families of these Issei writers

First preview of our forthcoming anthology of camp literature

For three years, Floyd Cheung of Smith College and I have been gathering pieces and building the outline for a new anthology of camp literature commissioned by the publisher of Penguin Classics. On Sunday I presented a preview of our work on translations of Issei writing in camp in Japanese, part of what the late Yuji Ichioka called “our buried past.” This video screen is cued to the start of that discussion:

Continue reading First preview of our forthcoming anthology of camp literature