Hawai‘i is touted as a multicultural paradise, but the history of the sugar industry in this occupied Native land tells us otherwise. The industry played a central role in the making of modern Hawai‘i, but it was built on the backs of hundreds of thousands of laborers who toiled in the sugarcane fields owned by the haole (white) elite. While capitalist exploitation plays a central role in contemporary Hawaii’s foundation story, so too do tales of worker resistance.
Photographs and moving images of World War II incarceration have helped keep memories of that era alive for decades. But since cameras were largely forbidden inside the camps, few images from the point of view of prisoners exist. Though not permitted to take photos, Kango Takamura documented his wartime experience at Santa Fe and, later, Manzanar through expert sketches and watercolors. Like the better-known works of Mine Okubo, Takamura depicted camp life with a keen and sometimes darkly humorous eye.
In the wake of the horrific terror attacks in Manchester and London, calls for “rounding up” Muslims in WWII-style “internment camps” are once again rearing their ugly head. Thankfully, these calls have largely been met with resistance and outright condemnation. But supporters and opponents have one thing in common: they’re both conflating internment camps with concentration camps, and that’s a problem.
The world is seemingly filled with media about the exploits of the Nisei soldiers during World War II. While it is certainly true that there are still many out there who don’t know the story—nor the story of the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans—it is reasonable to ask whether another book on the 442nd Regimental Combat Team is worth reading for those of us who do know the story. Count me as definitely skeptical going in.
From 1969 to 1974, Gidra, the unofficial voice of “the Movement,” chronicled changing tides and unfolding dramas within the Asian American community. Taking its name from a giant three-headed dragon out of Japanese monster movies of the 1960s, Gidra helped define the terms of the Asian American Movement and covered, among many other topics, the fight for ethnic studies on college campuses, activism against gentrification and urban renewal, the Vietnam War, and other anti-imperialist movements in Okinawa, the Philippines and Korea. Each issue also featured a healthy dose of art, poetry, and self-deprecating humor—as well as some serious fashion statements.
Perhaps because there are so many oral history accounts of Japanese Americans imprisoned in American concentration camps during World War II (including many hundreds on our website), it’s always seemed like there are more camp memoirs than there are. In reality, there are surprisingly few, and as the years go by and survivors continue to pass on, there will soon be no more. Thus, I am glad to note the most recent addition to the list: Jeanette S. Arakawa’s The Little Exile (Stone Bridge Press, 2017).
Mothers’ Day is around the corner—which means most of us are busy getting ready to show some love and affection to the women who raised us. (Y’all should really be doing this every day, but the holiday is still a good reminder to give Mom and Baachan a call.) We’re celebrating with a look back at the strength and sacrifice shown by mothers during the trials of World War II.
- book review
- camp life
- current events
- Densho statement
- film review
- hidden histories
- In memoriam
- oral history
- Pacific Northwest
- photo essay
- popular culture