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.
Prior to the social and political upheavals of the 1960s, there was no “Asian America”—at least not as we know it today. While Americans of Asian descent had joined forces on the picket line and plantation field throughout history, their identities and struggles were mostly defined along distinct ethnic lines. But amidst the tumult of the civil rights movement, young people united their communities to forge a new identity based on their collective experiences as Asian Americans.
Last year’s roundup “10 Documentaries About Japanese American Incarceration You Can Watch Online for Free Right Now” has been one of our most popular blog posts to date. Since its publication, Densho content director Brian Niiya has been scouring the internet for more online documentaries and now adds four more titles to that list.
Japanese Americans subject to forced removal seventy-five years ago suffered tragic losses of property, business assets, family heirlooms, and more. But there were some notable exceptions—cases where non-Japanese Americans stepped in to watch over farms and other property left behind, ensuring their evicted friends and neighbors would have something to return to at the war’s end.
Imagine being told you had a week to pack up all your belongings. You can bring all the bedding, clothing, and toiletries you can carry, but you better find a way to store or sell just about everything else. Homes, cars, boats? Bargain them off for fractions of their worth, or find a friend and hope they keep things safe. Your family business? Liquidate your inventory in a panic sale. Crops and farmland? Sell or lease your land, and forget about seeing the profits from that harvest you’ve been toiling for all year.
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