Book Reviews

A “consequential” collection of JA history

THE UNSUNG GREAT: STORIES OF EXTRAORDINARY JAPANESE AMERICANS By Greg Robinson (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2020, 294 pp., $29.95, paperback) This is the second of two outstanding books by eminent historian and journalist Greg Robinson consisting primarily of his “The Great Unknown and the Unknown Great” columns in the San Francisco-based Nichi Bei Weekly. […]

Nobuko Miyamoto’s riveting stories — on and off the stage

NOT YO’ BUTTERFLY: MY LONG SONG OF RELOCATION, RACE, LOVE AND REVOLUTION By Nobuko Miyamoto (Oakland, Calif.: University of California Press, 2021, 344 pp., $29.95, paperback) Playful, provocative, never boring — that sums up Nobuko Miyamoto and her memoir, “Not Yo’ Butterfly.” From a young age, Miyamoto showed promise as a dancer, winning a scholarship […]

Remembering a Tacoma, Wash. JA community hub

BECOMING NISEI: JAPANESE AMERICAN URBAN LIVES IN PREWAR TACOMA By Lisa M. Hoffman and Mary L. Hanneman; Co-published with University of Washington Libraries  (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2020, 312 pp., $29.95, paperback) “(Becoming Nisei) is about a place, now gone, but returned to you through the voices of people who lived there.”  — Gregory Masao Tanbara, Foreword, “Becoming Nisei” Written by two professors from the University of Washington Tacoma, “Becoming Nisei” is the result of close to two decades of work, bilingual archival research, […]

Minding and mining the gaps of one family’s trauma

FORCED OUT: A NIKKEI WOMAN’S SEARCH FOR A HOME IN AMERICA By Judy Y. Kawamoto (Louisville, Colo.: University Press of Colorado, 2020, 202 pp., $29.95, hardcover) I immensely enjoyed and was greatly enlightened by Sansei psychotherapist Judy Kawamoto’s singular book. I would classify its genre as a meditative memoir. As she succinctly notes, “psychotherapy is […]

A wonderful introduction to Japanese cuisine and more

JAPAN EATS! AN EXPLORER’S GUIDE TO JAPANESE FOOD By Betty Reynolds (North Clarendon, Vt.: Tuttle Publishing, 2020, 72 pp., $12.99, hard cover) As travelers to Japan know, eating out can be an adventure. You need to know what you’re ordering, how to order it, and how to eat it properly. “Japan Eats! An Explorer’s Guide to Japanese Food” is the guide to help you navigate your way through the pleasures and pitfalls of dining in […]

A glimpse into Japan’s past

TONO MONOGATARI By Shigeru Mizuki, translated by Zack Davisson (Montreal: Drawn and Quarterly, 2021, 256 pp., $24.95, paperback) Known for his ghost stories, Shigeru Mizuki is in his element with “Tono Monogatari.” Focusing solely on a collection of short stories collected from the Tono region of Iwate Prefecture, Drawn & Quarterly’s latest translated work by the late manga artist is a master’s homage to his roots. Mizuki amassed an eclectic oeuvre […]

Unknown discoveries written by Japanese Angel Island immigrants come to light

VOICES OF ANGEL ISLAND: INSCRIPTIONS AND IMMIGRANT POETRY, 1910-1945 By Charles Egan (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020, 342 pp., $108 hard cover / $86.40 ebook) The Chinese poetry carved in the walls of the former U.S. immigration station on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay is known by visitors and scholars, and played a large […]

Visit Japan with Neko the Cat!

JAPAN POP-UP BOOK By Sam Ita (North Clarendon, Vt.: Tuttle Publishing, 2021, 12 pp., $22.99, hard cover) “Japan Pop-Up Book” is the follow-up to Sam Ita’s “Tokyo Pop-Up Book.” It chronicles the adventures of Chico and his cat Neko. Chico is a young hapa teen who lives with his relatives in Japan. In this book, Neko the Cat stows away on a bullet train and leads Chico to several of […]

Book on Heart Mountain football team achieves brilliance

THE EAGLES OF HEART MOUNTAIN: A TRUE STORY OF FOOTBALL, INCARCERATION, AND RESISTANCE IN WORLD WAR II AMERICA By Bradford Pearson (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2021, 400 pp., $28, hard cover) For a number of years I have been working on a sports and society book treating the social and cultural transformation of Southern California in the early Cold War period through the lens of prep football as epitomized by a Dec. 14, 1956, California Interscholastic Federation championship game between Downey High School […]

A digestible telling of familiar snippets of JA WWII history

FACING THE MOUNTAIN: A TRUE STORY OF JAPANESE AMERICAN HEROES IN WORLD WAR II By Daniel James Brown (New York: Viking Books, 2021, 560 pp., $30, hard cover)  Daniel James Brown’s “Facing the Mountain: A True Story of Japanese American Heroes in World War II” recounts the narrative of the Japanese American wartime experience by focusing on the individual histories of Gordon Hirabayashi, Katsugo “Kats” Miho, Fred Shiosaki and Rudy Tokiwa. Hirabayashi famously contested Executive Order 9066 in the courts, […]

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