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"Iwao-chan!" (short story)

Creators: Yachiyo Uehara


Short story by Yachiyo Uehara about a Nisei woman's bond with her deceased Issei mother in the years after the war. As the story begins, Yachiyo is on a plane from New York to San Francisco around 1950 with her two-year-old son Andy, the first time since the war years that she would be returning to her hometown. She will be moving there, initially staying with her Issei father. She is saddened that Andy will never meet her mother, whom she last saw in 1944 when she left Heart Mountain for New York and who subsequently died after they returned to San Francisco. She is relieved that her father, who dislikes children, tolerates Andy and even seems to like him. But she is also concerned about the dangerous stairs leading to the small house. She finds that despite her death two years prior, her mother's presence permeates the house. One day, while Yachiyo is fetching a first-aid kit after her father cuts his hand, she hears her mother's voice calling out Andy's Japanese name, "Iwao-chan." She hurries outside to find Andy reaching perilously for a favorite blanket hanging from a branch over the stairs. After grabbing him before he can fall, she learns from her father that her mother had fallen in the same spot just prior to her death.

Author Yachiyo Okubo Uehara (1916–99) was born in Tokyo and arrived in San Francisco at age eight. During World War II, she and her family were forcibly removed from their homes and sent first to the Pomona Assembly Center , then to the Heart Mountain, Wyoming, concentration camp. She and her husband, Kenji Sumi, left Heart Mountain for New York in May of 1944 to join a younger sister. She later returned to San Francisco in 1950, as does the protagonist in the story. She began writing short stories while in her sixties in answer to her son wanting to know more about her life history and published a string of autobiographical stories in the 1980s. "Iwao-chan!" won the 1993 James Clavell American-Japanese Literary Award.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

Might also like " Unfinished Message " by Toshio Mori; " The Summer of '43 " by Noboru Endow; " One With the Angels " by Yachiyo Uehara

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Author Yachiyo Uehara
Publication Date 1993
For More Information

For More Information

Uehara, Yachiyo. "Iwao-chan!." Rafu Shimpo , Dec. 18, 1993, B14–15, B34.