The Great Unknown and the Unknown Great

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Unmasking the complexities of documenting queer Nikkei sexuality and history

This week’s column marks the 12th entry in the annual series on queer Japanese American history that I have undertaken to mark LGBT Pride Month. Previous entries have shed light on the nature of sexuality within Japanese communities, the rise and decline of homophobia, past gay activists and community debates over LGBT civil rights. This […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Sueo and Ikuo Serisawa’s lifelong dedication to the arts

In my Jan. 1, 2018 Nichi Bei Weekly article on prewar Nisei films, I discussed the 1935 film “Nisei Parade,” produced by the brothers Ikuo and Sueo Serisawa. Publication of the article has brought on the question of what happened afterward to the young filmmakers, notably to Sueo Serisawa. In fact, Serisawa’s work on the […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Cinematic 20th century Nikkei

In recent times, diverse Japanese American directors have made their mark on the silver screen, including Cary Joji Fukunaga, Karyn Kusama, Gregg Araki, Lane Nishikawa, and Destin Daniel Cretton. While their productions have drawn from all sorts of material, some filmmakers have piloted Nikkei community stories. For example, Emiko Omori’s “Hot Summer Winds,” Desmond Nakano’s […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: A behind-the-scenes glimpse at a historian’s work documenting JA stories

One of the burdens of my work as a historian of Japanese Americans is the continuing sense of time passing. I have a continuing need to find people before they move out of reach, due to death or disability. Now, I realize that, on one level, I have less ground for complaint than most. After […]

Recognizing Japanese American lesbians’ activism, then and now

The season for gay pride is upon us. This year, there is extra cause for celebration with the selection of professor Amy Sueyoshi, a community activist and leading historian of queer Asian Americans, as a grand marshal of the San Francisco Pride parade. In addition to Sueyoshi’s own considerable qualities, the choice is gratifying on […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Biracial MIS veteran Clarke Kawakami’s multifaceted legacy

Clarke Hiroshi Kawakami, a man who made his mark in many different fields, was born in Momence, Ill. in 1909. His mother was Mildred Clarke, a white American, and his father was the well-known Issei author and journalist Kiyoshi Karl Kawakami. Kiyoshi Kawakami was born in Yonezawa, Japan in the 1870s (most early sources claim […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: The JACL’s historic support for marriage equality

Ever since I have been writing my Nichi Bei column “The Great Unknown and the Unknown Great” in 2007, I have devoted an annual column to studying the history of Japanese American sexuality, and in particular in-group attitudes toward homosexuality and the presence of gays and lesbians. I am proud to continue that tradition with […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Regan v. King and the origins of the Black-Nisei alliance

The 1942-1943 federal court case Regan v. King, which arose out of a lawsuit by the American Legion and the Native Sons of the Golden West to disenfranchise American citizens of Japanese origin, marks a landmark in legal struggles for civil rights. Not only did the court’s decision reaffirm the principle of birthright citizenship of […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: Statements on homosexuality in JA press helps trace public’s opinion

As devoted readers of Nichi Bei may already be aware, I maintain an annual tradition. Each June, in honor of LGBT History Month, I devote an column of “The Great Unknown” to revealing the Queer history of Japanese Americans. Past columns have dealt with topics such as homosocial intimacy among the Issei; the development of […]

THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT: The incarceration of Indonesians in the United States: An untold story

Editor’s Note: This is the first part of a series. Some time ago, I was reading back issues of the Pacific Citizen, the national Japanese American Citizens League newspaper, and I came across a special issue from 1967 that marked the 25th anniversary of Executive Order 9066. There I found a memoir by Edison Uno, […]

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