Following the forced exile from the West Coast under Executive Order 9066, many incarcerated Japanese Americans turned to art as a way to cope with their harsh prison environment. Stripped of the routines that had filled their pre-war lives, inmates picked up creative hobbies to while away the idle hours of confinement, and painting and drawing soon became popular pastimes.
Densho is first and foremost a history organization but as we have gotten more vocal about today’s political climate, we’ve become more acutely aware of the fact that art can help us get our messages out to a wider audience. That’s why we were thrilled to launch a new Artists-in-Residence program in 2018.
In the latest in a long string of attacks on immigration, this week Trump declared he would issue an executive order ending birthright citizenship. Established by the 14th amendment in order to grant citizenship to freed slaves, the idea that all people born in the United States are U.S. citizens, regardless of race or where their parents came from, has long been upheld by the courts and the Constitution. But this is not the first time white supremacists have tried to restrict the rights of citizenship along racial lines.
John Okada: The Life & Rediscovered Work of the Author of No-No Boy
Edited by Frank Abe, Greg Robinson, and Floyd Cheung
John Okada’s No-No Boy is a legendary and foundational work in both Asian American Studies and Japanese American history. First published in 1957, the novel was largely forgotten for over a decade until a group of young Asian American writers rediscovered it in the early 1970s and oversaw its republication. It has since been published by the University of Washington Press in two editions, the latest coming in 2014 and has been a staple of Asian American Studies courses for decades now. If there were an Asian American Literature Hall of Fame, No-No Boy would be a first ballot selection.
On a clear day, the 14,411-foot peak of Mt. Rainier looms large on Seattle’s southern horizon. The glacial mountain has played a major role in the lives of people living in the region for centuries. Long before settlers arrived, Indigenous peoples called it home and, to many, it remains a sacred place. Early Japanese immigrants living in the region also regarded it with great respect, dubbing it “Tacoma Fuji” because it reminded them of Japan.
“Kodomo no tame ni. They’re our children, set them free.” In a protest at the site of the old Tule Lake jail earlier this month, survivors of WWII incarceration pounded their fists in the air and chanted alongside family and friends. This action coincided with #FamiliesBelongTogether protests, in which people all over the country raised their voices in opposition to the practice of separating and detaining immigrant children and families, a practice that strikes too close to home for many.
By guest author Brandon Shimoda
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Liberties Act, with which the United States closed the book on Japanese American incarceration. Closed the book, with the overbearing hand of both the proud, proprietary storyteller and the person who is tired of, though more accurately haunted by, the story. The question now, 30 years later, is whether or not the book is in fact over. I risk preempting the question by saying that any history that still possesses the power to generate silence and denial, violence and shame, and seemingly boundless and unbroken reincarnations of injustice, is a history that has not ended.
- book review
- camp life
- current events
- Densho statement
- film review
- hidden histories
- In memoriam
- open letter
- oral history
- Pacific Northwest
- photo essay
- popular culture