Thursday, January 21, 2010

Archive Spotlight: Kind Neighbors and a Full House

In an interview Densho recently conducted for the Topaz Museum, Chiyoko Yano recalls how her family fared better than many others when the order came to leave their home in spring 1942. In Berkeley, they were renting from an Italian family who felt sorry for their plight and let Chiyoko's father buy the house for a low price. Then their African American and Irish neighbors helped them pack and watched over the house for the nearly four years the family was detained at Topaz, Utah. At one point, as many as thirty people lived in their house, working different shifts at the shipyard.
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When Chiyoko's family was released, a neighbor met them at the station and brought them home. Unlike many returning Japanese Americans, they found the only damage to their possessions was normal wear and tear on the furniture. When Chiyoko moved away with her husband, her parents invited homeless Japanese Americans to live with them, even to stay for several years. In a video clip from her interview, Chiyoko recalls her "very nice" neighbors.
View other Densho Archive Spotlights.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Beyond the Divide: Japanese American Responses to the "Loyalty Questionnaire"

"The government is asking... a father and a son who have different situations, the same question, and on the basis of your answer your family might be broken up." -- Frank Isamu Kikuchi

One of the most divisive legacies of the World War II incarceration remains the issue of loyalty. The loyal/disloyal divide continues to haunt the memory and interpretation of Japanese American history, as many in the community still grapple with what has become such a stigmatized and controversial label. We examine what scholar Eric Muller calls the "loyalty bureaucracy" -- the registration and segregation program implemented within the camps to measure the "loyalty" of the imprisoned population. While Muller and other scholars have done important work in highlighting the absurdity of this premise, less explored are the varying ways in which Japanese Americans reacted to the government's efforts. In looking at the wrenching decisions Japanese Americans were forced to make during this time, we come to understand that these decisions were not expressions of "loyalty" or "disloyalty," but measured responses to difficult and often extreme circumstances.

Read more of this article.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Meet Allen Say - Talented Children's Book Author

Our friends at the Elliott Bay Book Company here in Seattle tell us that Allen Say, a Caldecott Medal winner for the children's book Grandfather's Journey, will speak at the downtown library on Sunday, January 17.

Born in Yokohama, Say is the son of a Korean father and Japanese American mother. He emerged from an unhappy childhood to become a successful photographer and then a highly respected artist and writer of children's literature. His works include Tea with Milk, Tree of Cranes, and Emma's Rug.

The publisher's webpage for Say features an NPR interview with the author, who discusses Home of the Brave, his dreamlike book about the World War II incarceration camps. In an ironic comment, Say confesses to the NPR interviewer that he is terrified of children. Luckily that doesn't prevent him from producing beautiful books for them.