Saturday, September 27, 2014

Garden of Stones and Historical Accuracy

The novel Garden of Stones is marred by many historical inaccuracies/implausibilities, but is a well told story that has no doubt introduced many to the story of Japanese American wartime expulsion and incarceration.

In the last decade and a half or so, there have been a lot of novels published that involve the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans as part of their plots. The same can be said for plays, movies and TV shows, documentary films, and other storytelling media. I'll save ruminating on the reasons for this for another time and instead focus on another issue: that of historical accuracy/dramatic license and its importance.

What brings me to this topic is a recent novel, published last year, titled Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield. Published by Harlequin, the book and author seem to have quite a following, and positive reviews abound.

At the same time, Alisa Lynch of the Manzanar National Historic Site pointed us at Densho to a review by Terry Hong of the Smithsonian's Asian Pacific American Center. While Hong found the book well written and gripping, she was troubled by the dramatic liberties taken by the author, in particular the depiction of widespread sexual abuse of women and children at Manzanar by white staff members, something there is no documentation for. "Fiction though Garden of Stones clearly is, that Littlefield chose a historical event, a real-life location and experiences (including actual staff positions!), surely requires accurate depictions," Hong writes.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Giro Nakagawa: Searched by the FBI at an Oyster Farm Station House

Giro Nakagawa was working for the New Washington Oyster Company in South Bend, Washington, before World War II. In this clip, he describes a visit from the FBI while he was out on a station house, a building on stilts out in the water, where he lived and worked during the oyster harvesting season. Giro Nakagawa's full interview is available in the Densho Digital Archive.

View the Archive Spotlight interview excerpt

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

New Densho Encyclopedia Articles, August 2014

New to the encyclopedia this month are articles on writers and artists, Nisei soldiers during World War II, and a little known INS detention camp, among other topics.

Patricia Wakida, one of the encyclopedia's associate editors, has been interested in Japanese American writers and artists—and is one herself—and will be contributing many articles on this area in the weeks to come. New this month are her pieces on Los Angeles based Nisei sisters Louise and Julia Suski, the former a writer and editor and first English language editor of the Rafu Shimpo newspaper, the latter a well-known artist and musician, as well as Albert Saijo, whose exposure to Zen Buddhist at Heart Mountain eventually led him to become a key figure in the Beat Movement of the 1950s.

Abbie Grubb is contributing a number of articles on movies and exhibitions that tell the story of the wartime incarceration as well as pieces on Japanese Americans in the military during World War II. This month, she contributes pieces on the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion and the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion. Laura W. Ng has contributed an article on the East Boston Detention Station, where a handful of enemy aliens were held during World War II. I have also added pieces on pioneering Issei lawyer Takuji Yamashita; the Chandler Committee, one of several federal or state legislative bodies to investigate administration of the concentration camps during the war; wartime senator and governor of the state of Washington Monrad C. Wallgren; and the JACL's early postwar lobbying arm, the Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC).