May 5, 2010

“The first generation was, you might say, narrow-minded…The second generation didn’t marry out. But when it came to third generation and fourth, they had more freedom.” –Takashi Matsui

To examine Japanese American history is to encounter generalizations about generations. Familiar characterizations emerge from the family stories of Densho interviewees: tradition-bound Issei, bicultural Nisei, and integrated Sansei. Marriage stories follow the same route: Having established a foothold in the United States, Issei fathers brought back brides from the home country. Upon leaving camp for military service, college, or careers, Nisei sons and daughters married other Nisei sons and daughters. After Nikkei communities dispersed in the 1950s and 1960s, growing numbers of Sansei and Yonsei grandchildren married other Asian Americans, Caucasians, and occasionally African Americans or other ethnicities. And now we have Shin-Issei narratives–new families bound to the old country. All of which raises the question, is Japanese American identity being developed or diluted?

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