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A Star Is Something to Steer By (short story)

Creators: Mataileen Larkin Ramsdell


Short story by Mataileen Larkin Ramsdell about the contentious but affectionate relationship between a white high school teacher in Rohwer and an intelligent but cynical student. A young teacher from Wisconsin, Eve Erickson is immediately drawn to Joe Moriyama, the smallest boy in 11th grade homeroom class, who is constantly challenging her by pointing out the contradictions between the American creed and the treatment of Japanese Americans. In one instance, he tells her about a girl in her class who had her family farm registered in her name to get around the alien land law , but who now found herself the target of an escheat case upon the death of her father. Over time Joe and Eve come to like and respect each other. When Nisei are deemed eligible for the draft in 1944, Joe and other boys in her class are drafted, but he is uncharacteristically silent. He later comes to tell her that he is going to resist the draft and go to prison. Eve is eventually able to convince him otherwise, and he goes on to join the 442nd Regimental Combat Team . The story begins and ends with Joe's funeral back in Rohwer after his death in combat.

Ramsdell, who had been a teacher and counselor at Rohwer, first published the story in the literary journal the Antioch Review in 1946. Shortly after its publication, Bill Hosokawa devoted one of his Pacific Citizen columns to the story, writing that "Mrs. Ramsdell has caught one facet of center life with a degree of understanding rarely if ever excelled." The story was reprinted in the Gidra , a Los Angeles Asian American newspaper, in 1971. [1]

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

Might also like " When the World Winds Down " by Sharon Hashimoto; " Some Lines for a Younger Brother... " by Sue Kunitomi Embrey; " Changes " by Marnie Mueller

Footnotes

  1. Allan W. Austin, From Concentration Camps to Campus: Japanese American Students and World War II (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004), 131, 133; Bill Hosokawa, "How Joe Moriyama Changed His Mind," Pacific Citizen , June 8, 1946, 5, accessed on Jan. 12, 2018 at http://ddr.densho.org/ddr-pc-18-23/ .
Media Details
DATABOX BOOKS TEMPLATE "rg/databox-Articles.html"
Author Mataileen Larkin Ramsdell
Publication Date 1946
For More Information

For More Information

Ramsdell, Mataileen Larkin. "A Star Is Something to Steer By." Antioch Review 6.1 (Mar. 1946): 78-98. Reprinted in Gidra , Nov. 1971 , 16–20.

Hosokawa, Bill. " From the Frying Pan: How Joe Moriyama Changed His Mind ." Pacific Citizen , June 8, 1946, 5.