Nuanced snippets from Nisei Hiroshi Kashiwagi’s life


Starting from Loomis and Other Stories

Starting from Loomis and Other Stories
Starting from Loomis and Other Stories

Starting from Loomis and Other Stories
By Hiroshi Kashiwagi, edited by Tim Yamamura (Boulder, Colo.: University Press of Colorado, as part of The George and Sakaye Aratani Nikkei in the Americas Series, 2013, 186 pp., $21.95, paper)

Hiroshi Kashiwagi has never been an “inside-the-box” sort of writer, playwright, poet or performer, and his memoir is no different.

“Starting from Loomis and Other Stories” reads like a stream of consciousness account of Kashiwagi’s life. It is written in a non-linear format, with each section strong enough to stand on its own, which is a testament to Kashiwagi’s literary acumen.

Kashiwagi shares snippets of his life, such as growing up on a farm, dealing with his father’s tuberculosis, confronting racism at a drug store, living in a United States concentration camp and landing a job as a librarian after World War II.

His writing style is conversational and easy to read, but readers beware. Once in a while, Kashiwagi packs a sucker-punch in his understated narrative, letting readers know that what is unsaid is just as powerful as what he has imparted.

For example, Kashiwagi writes about Charlie, who used to come around to see his mother while his father was away. At one point, Charlie upsets Kashiwagi’s mother, and Kashiwagi describes him as a “wicked man.” What is unspoken but implied in that simple phrase are all sorts of sexual innuendos.

Although the book’s publicity highlights Kashiwagi’s status as a “no-no” during World War II, it is refreshing to see that Kashiwagi didn’t merely pass himself off as a “no-no” but had the courage to share his innermost thoughts on why he took the next step and became a renunciant, someone who renounced his U.S. citizenship from inside a U.S. concentration camp.

Kashiwagi’s memoir, along with Minoru Kiyota’s “Beyond Loyalty: The Story of a Kibei,” are two well-written books on the experiences of a World War II renunciant. The publication of these books are perhaps an indication that the Nikkei community has evolved enough to be able to discuss renunciation and its ramifications.

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