Book Reviews

Academic calls for Latinx and Asian Americans to transform the nation

GIVING FORM TO AN ASIAN AND LATINX AMERICA By Long Le-Khac (Redwood City, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2020, 264 pp., $28, paperback) Since 2000, the Asian American population in the United States has grown to nearly 20 million. At this rate, according to the Pew Research Center, by 2055, Asian Americans will be the largest […]

Ambitious, emotionally raw novel on camp

WE ARE NOT FREE By Traci Chee (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020, 400 pp., $17.99, hardcover) Yonsei author Traci Chee’s ambitious new novel, “We Are Not Free,” weaves 13 devastating stories of San Francisco Japantown Nisei reeling in the aftermath of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Immediate, personal and pulsing with drama, the book takes […]

Inmates’ historical narratives for the layperson

REMEMBERING OUR GRANDFATHERS’ EXILE: US IMPRISONMENT OF HAWAI‘I’S JAPANESE IN WORLD WAR II By Gail Y. Okawa (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2020, 272 pp., $26, paperback) Back in 1980, very little had been written about the World War II imprisonment experience of more than 5,500 Japanese American aliens (Issei) within the hodgepodge of 24 […]

Systemic racism, generational trauma and familial conflicts collide

MASS MURDER IN CALIFORNIA’S EMPTY QUARTER: A TALE OF TRIBAL TREACHERY AT THE CEDARVILLE RANCHERIA By Ray A. March (Lincoln, Neb.: University of Nebraska Press, 2020, 240 pp., $27.95, hard cover) Some in the Nikkei community have wondered why the Tule Lake Committee is feuding with an Indigenous tribe. Some have commented that it looks […]

Miyuki’s lesson in mindfulness

Thank You, Miyuki Written by Roxane Marie Galliez, illustrated by Seng Soun Ratanavanh (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2020, 32 pp., $17.95, hard cover) “Thank You, Miyuki” is the third story in a series about ebullient Miyuki and her kind, caring grandfather. In this tale, Miyuki sees her grandpa doing tai chi and seated meditation. […]

A history book for our times

America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States By Erika Lee (New York: Basic Books, 2019, 432 pp., $32, hard cover) Erika Lee’s new book, “America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States,” is one that speaks to our times. Well-respected among academics, Lee is among the foundational historians […]

Picture book about a beloved S.F. artist and arts activist

A Life Made by Hand: The Story of Ruth Asawa Written and illustrated by Andrea D’Aquino (Hudson, N.Y.: 2019, 40 pp., $17.95, hard cover) Andrea D’Aquino, artist and author, introduces young children to Ruth Asawa, a San Francisco institution. The author focuses on the influences that shaped and inspired Asawa’s unique artistry. It begins with […]

A visionary’s life intertwined with art

Everything She Touched: The Life of Ruth Asawa By Marilyn Chase (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2020, 224 pp., $29.95, hard cover) Ruth Aiko Asawa, one of the most original and prolific artists of the American 20th century, left behind a stunning legacy when she died at age 87 in 2013. “Everything She Touched: The Life […]

A ‘dissatisfied’ artist’s life

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist By Adrian Tomine (Montreal: Drawn and Quarterly, 2020, 168 pp., $29.95, hard cover) Cartoonist Adrian Tomine started writing, drawing and self-publishing his mini-comic, “Optic Nerve,” when he was still a teenager. Despite the odds, this fourth-generation Japanese American (his parents, who divorced when he was 2, are retired professor […]

The ABCs of cooking California-style Japanese food

Japanese Cookbook for Beginners: Classic and Modern Recipes Made Easy By Azusa Oda (Emeryville, Calif.: Rockridge Press, 2020, 146 pp., $16.99, paperback) With “Japanese Cookbook for Beginners: Classic and Modern Recipes Made Easy,” genius home cook and designer Azusa Oda has embraced the traditional Japanese flavors and dishes that she grew up with and recalibrated […]

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