A historical survey of Asian Americans in the Heartland

ASIAN AMERICANS IN MICHIGAN: VOICES FROM THE MIDWEST Edited by Sook Wilkinson and Victor Jew (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2015, 384 pp., $34.95, paperback) In 2009, I published an article about Japanese Americans in the Interior West, a field earlier pioneered by two Arizona State University doctoral students, Eric Walz and Andrew Russell. So […]

Compassion abounds in intimate journey

GENTLY TO NAGASAKI By Joy Kogawa (Halfmoon Bay, B.C.: Caitlin Press Inc., 2016, 214 pp., $25.95 CAD, paper) “Gently to Nagasaki” is filled with honesty, fragility and deep questioning of opposing forces and ironic encounters that bring writer Joy Kogawa to unravel her truth. Before the memoir begins, Kogawa calls upon the Goddess of Mercy, […]

An entertaining and insightful exploration of humanity

KILLING AND DYING By Adrian Tomine (New York: Drawn & Quarterly, 2016, 121 pp., $22.95, hard cover) “Killing and Dying,” the latest collection of short graphic stories from Adrian Tomine, is sad, thoughtful and funny. It’s full of memorable characters and situations that reveal uncommon insight about the human condition and human relationships. Plus, it’s […]

Groundbreaking fieldwork a guidebook to Nikkei journey of (further) discovery

REDEFINING JAPANESENESS: JAPANESE AMERICANS IN THE ANCESTRAL HOMELAND By Jane H. Yamashiro (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2017, 224 pp., $27.95, paperback) In spite of being involved in researching and writing about Japanese American history for 45 years, I have only been to Japan once, and then for but a week in the Tokyo-Yokohama […]

Mixed-race JA woman documents first trip to Japan

Diary of a Tokyo Teen: A Japanese-American Girl Travels to the Land of Trendy Fashion, High-Tech Toilets and Maid Cafes Written and illustrated by Christine Mari Inzer (North Clarendon, Vt.: Tuttle Publishing, $14.99, paperback) For people with immigrant ancestry, the experience of returning to one’s motherland is all too familiar. While its exciting to reunite […]

The amazing life of Isao Fujimoto

BOUNCING BACK: COMMUNITY, RESILIENCE & CURIOSITY By Isao Fujimoto (Sacramento, Calif.: I Street Press, 2017, 77 pp., $9, digital) It is sometimes hard to believe Isao Fujimoto’s lifetime of experiences. He was born the eldest son of farmers living in Washington state’s Yakima Valley. Throughout his life, he has been a student, a teacher and […]

‘Historical portrait’ adeptly conveys Nikkei’s lifestory

BEND WITH THE WIND: THE LIFE, FAMILY, AND WRITINGS OF GRACE ETO SHIBATA Edited by Naomi Shibata (San Jose: Shibata Family Limited Partnership, 2014, 242 pp., $19.95, paperback) One of my favorite songs by country singer Hank Williams, Jr. — whose political and social philosophy I revile — is “Family Tradition.” The book under review […]

Hack your life

THE LITTLE BOOK OF LIFE HACKS: How to Make Your Life Happier, Healthier, and More Beautiful By Yumi Sakugawa (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 208 pp., $19.99, paperback) Whether we admit it or not, our lives could always use a tune-up; from our style choices to our cooking habits, there’s something that we can (and […]

Playing hostess to a foreign culture

TURNING JAPANESE: A GRAPHIC MEMOIR Written and illustrated by MariNaomi  (Minneapolis, Minn.: 2dcloud, 2016, 228 pp., $24.95, hard cover) MariNaomi shares her own journey of self-discovery of her ethnic roots in “Turning Japanese.” Raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, she illustrates her time spent as a hostess in a restaurant and bar in San […]

Secret ingredient to spice up drama

IT’S NOT LIKE IT’S A SECRET By Misa Sugiura (New York: HarperCollins, 2017, 400 pp., $17.99, hard cover) Secrets are hard to discuss in the open, especially when layered deep in teenage drama. For Sana Kiyohara,  those secrets come in the form of her sexual orientation, her suspicion of her father having a mistress and […]

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