Nisei Writers Explore the ‘Aftershock’ of War


MAKING HOME FROM WAR: Stories of Japanese American Exile and Resettlement

MAKING HOME FROM WAR: Stories of Japanese American Exile and Resettlement
Edited by Brian Komei Dempster
(Berkeley, Calif.: Heyday Books, 2010, 224 pp., $18.95, paperback)

MAKING HOME FROM WAR: Stories of Japanese American Exile and Resettlement

“Making Home From War” captures the “odyssey of Japanese American resettlement” through the stories of 13 writers exploring their personal and collective experiences returning and recreating home in the aftermath of World War II.

The product of several years of writing, revising, reflection and inter-generational collaboration, the anthology is a compilation of narratives developed in a Nisei writing group hosted by the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, and taught by the book’s editor, poet and University of San Francisco Professor Brian Komei Dempster. The publication of “Making Home From War” follows the group’s award-winning first collection of writings, “From Our Side of the Fence: Growing Up in America’s Concentration Camps.” Thereby, this chorus of dedicated writers makes their latest contribution to the ever-expanding archive related to Japanese Americans and the Pacific War.

The collection includes writings by Florence Ohmura Dobashi, Kiku Hori Funabiki, Sato Hashizume, Fumi Manabe Hayashi, Naoko Yoshimura Ito, Florence Miho Nakamura (with Kristen Langewisch Marchetti), Ruth Y. Okimoto, Yoshito Wayne Osaki (with Sally Noda Osaki), Toru Saito, Daisy Uyeda Satoda, Harumi Serata, and Michi Tashiro; these writers and Nisei elders explore what editor Dempster describes as the “ongoing process” of rebuilding their lives after the traumas and injustices endured in America’s wartime camps following the outbreak of World War. II.

As Dempster states in his introduction, the authors of “Making Home From War” “collectively … explore — on geographical, psychological, and metaphysical levels — how resettlement displaced their families, fractured their concepts of home, and reshaped their identities.”

The collection contains stories of migrant people struggling to survive and adapt to unfamiliar and uncomfortable conditions, create community from connections both old and new, but ultimately forge new paths in their lives in the aftermath of the war. Also noteworthy are the lesson plans and templates for students and former prisoners of the camps interested in writing their own resettlement stories.

But as Dempster describes it, the collected narratives also resonate with something more universal, “speaking in honor of any culture that is oppressed and colonized, changed by war, and forced to remake itself from destruction.” The book will be of interest to all who are committed to confronting the legacies of militarism in the Pacific and beyond as well as understanding the power of storytelling to help us find our way home in the wake of tragedy.

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