“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.
Our thanks to Kimiko Marr and Erin Aoyama of Japanese American Memorial Pilgrimages for bringing us to their online audience.
Here’s more from a draft synopsis of the book to be published by Chin Music Press of Seattle:
Japanese Americans complied when expelled from their homes in World War II and forcibly incarcerated in American concentration camps – but when it came to their ongoing incarceration, many among them refused to submit without a fight. For the first time, three of their stories are tied together within an epic narrative of the entire camp experience:
We hear the voice of Jim Akutsu, the inspiration for John Okada’s No-No Boy, who refused to be drafted from camp after the draft board classified him as a non-citizen, an enemy alien;
We take the closest and most comprehensive look ever at Tule Lake, the segregation camp for those who refused a government loyalty questionnaire, and through the eyes of Hiroshi Kashiwagi we trace the events which led to disturbance, denationalization, repatriation, expatriation, and (for many) the mistaken renunciation of American citizenship;
And for the first time, we hear the personal voice of Mitsuye Endo, a California state employee made a reluctant but willing plaintiff to a lawsuit which led to a decisive victory at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Through their eyes, we see the devastating impacts of mass incarceration based solely on race, and expose the depth and breadth of the long-suppressed story of camp resistance.
We Hereby Refuse is accompanied by an online Educators Guide for secondary schools. It was commissioned by the Wing Luke Asian Museum of Seattle through a grant from the National Park Service.
Looking forward to sharing the finished work with you on February 9th. #WeHerebyRefuse
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.
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
UPDATE: On August 27, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California denied, without prejudice, the Tule Lake Committee’s motion for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). The order allows the Tule Lake Committee to file a renewed motion for
a TRO, which the Tule Lake Committee is preparing to file, and directs additional support on particular issues, according to a TLC news release, which added:
This graphic in last Monday’s Sacramento Bee says it all: “The proposed fence would encircle the Tulelake Municipal Airport next to the town of Newell,”
The Tule Lake Committee has issued an urgent call to #SaveTuleLake, where more than 24,000 Japanese Americans were imprisoned during World War II. They are appealing for voices to be heard against the construction of a three-mile-long fence that will close off an airport that sits on two-thirds of the former concentration camp site and which, if built, would permanently close off access to the barracks area where most people lived. A national civil rights site will be irreparably damaged. Continue reading Save Tule Lake: Send a letter by Oct. 10→
None of the 24,000 Japanese Americans sent to live in the shallow volcanic lakebed of Tule Lake for the duration of World War II wanted to be there, but their presence makes this a National Historic Landmark.
In hindsight, an airstrip operating on a site of this historic significance is not an appropriate or compatible use, but before anyone could know that, the government after the war granted homestead rights to farmers, and in 1951 granted two-thirds of the main detention and barracks site to the city of Tulelake for an airstrip, which today hosts just one business, a crop-dusting service. It’s not easy to see without an aerial view, but the airstrip runs left to right in the photo below.