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 […]

Seeking happily ever after in Little Tokyo

FROM LITTLE TOKYO WITH LOVE By Sarah Kuhn (Toronto, Ontario: Viking Books for Young Readers, 2021, 432 pp., $24.99, hard cover) A clever, funny, romp of a story that is “not a fairytale” begins: “Once upon a time, a beautiful princess lived in the magical kingdom of Los Angeles. Always alone, she belonged to no one — and no one belonged to her. She dreamed of one day finding someone who shared her passions, […]

A classic collection of Japanese folk tales

FOLK TALES FROM JAPAN: FABLES, MYTHS, AND FAIRY TALES FOR CHILDREN By Florence Sakade, illustrated by Yoshio Hayashi (North Clarendon, Vt.: Tuttle Publishing, 2020, 80 pp., $14.99, hard cover) “Folk Tales From Japan,” compiled by Florence Sakade, is a delightful collection of stories that has been enchanting children for more than 60 years. Previously published as “More Japanese Children’s Favorite Stories,” it is part of a series “created to share the folktales and legends most beloved by children in the East with […]

Nisei murder mystery enthralls readers

CLARK AND DIVISION  By Naomi Hirahara (Westminster, Md.: Soho Press, 2021, 312 pp., $27.95, hard cover)  From the first few pages of the new Naomi Hirahara historic mystery “Clark and Division,” I am immediately drawn into the story of the young Nisei woman, Aki Ito. The descriptive narrative with rich historic details and the strong […]

Groundbreaking biography of Nisei social justice advocate siblings

NISEI RADICALS: THE FEMINIST POETICS AND TRANSFORMATIVE MINISTRY OF MITSUYE YAMADA AND MICHAEL YASUTAKE By Diane C. Fujino (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2020, 272 pp., $29.95, paperback)  In “Nisei Radicals: The Feminist Poetics and Transformative Ministry of Mitsuye Yamada and Michael Yasutake” Diane Fujino has set herself the formidable task of writing a joint […]

Mazie Hirono’s journey from underdog to advocate for underserved populations

HEART OF FIRE: AN IMMIGRANT DAUGHTER’S STORY By Mazie K. Hirono (New York: Viking Books, 2021, 416 pp., $28, hardcover) Sen. Mazie K. Hirono is a badass.  Hirono vaulted to national consciousness when she became an outspoken critic of the Trump administration, which she deemed a threat to democracy. She challenged such policies as family separation of asylum-seeking immigrants, the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, among […]

Graphic novel documents acts of resistance

WE HEREBY REFUSE: JAPANESE AMERICAN RESISTANCE TO WARTIME INCARCERATION By Frank Abe and Tamiko Nimura, illustrated by Ross Ishikawa and Matt Sasaki (Seattle: Chin Music Press/Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, 2021, 160 pp., $19.95, paperback) The graphic novel, “We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American Resistance to Wartime Incarceration,” focuses on the real life experiences of Jim Akutsu, a Minidoka War Relocation Authority camp draft resister; Mitsuye Endo, a Topaz (Central Utah) WRA inmate who challenged the incarceration through a habeas corpus petition; and Hiroshi Kashiwagi, a Tule Lake […]

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. In reviewing for the NBW the first book, “The Great Unknown: Japanese American Sketches,” published by the University Press […]

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) Contributor  “(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 […]

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