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And Then a Rainbow (book)


Memoir by a Nisei woman who renounces her citizenship at Tule Lake and lives in Japan for thirteen years before returning to the U.S.

Satoru Kubota—later dubbed "Mildred" by a teacher—was born in Vacaville, California, in 1914, the eldest of three surviving girls, to Issei parents from Yamanashi Prefecture. She and her sisters Mary Kaname and Rose Tayuru grew up in Chico, California, then in Palos Verdes, California, where their father farmed. Mildred graduates from San Pedro High School in 1933 and goes on to Long Beach Junior College, supporting herself as a housegirl. She eventually gets a job at the White Star Soda Works in Little Tokyo and marries a handsome Kibei man named Toshio Shimonishi in 1938. They have a daughter in 1939 and son in 1940 and purchase a retail produce market in Santa Monica in September 1941.

As with many other Japanese Americans, their lives are torn apart by World War II. Mildred's father is arrested and held at the Terminal Island detention camp , then sent on to the Bismarck, North Dakota internment camp . Toshio and Mildred's produce market is deemed to be in a strategic location due to its proximity to a Lockheed plant, and they are forced to abandon it. They are incarcerated first at the Santa Anita Assembly Center , then at Heart Mountain . Embittered by his incarceration and business losses, Toshio decides to answer "no-no" on the loyalty questionnaire ; though she wants to answer "yes-yes," Mili reluctantly answers "no-no" as well so as to keep the family—which comes to include two more children born in the concentration camps—together. Transferred to Tule Lake, they are among the Nisei who renounce their U.S. citizenship, and they leave for Japan in December 1945 with Mili's parents.

Settling with Toshio's family in Takasu, five miles outside of Hiroshima, they experience the devastation of a defeated Japan where they are resented as Americans. She describes selling off their possessions and doing back breaking labor to survive, even as a fifth child is born. Nine years in, Toshio lands a job as a translator, which eases their financial burdens; Mili later finds a job at a U.S. Naval base in Iwakuni and is eventually able to regain her citizenship. She decides to return to California with three of the children, settling in Long Beach in 1958. The other two children join them soon after. She supports the children while working as a stenographer. Toshio passes away in Japan in 1963, never returning to the U.S. She goes on to describe her and her children's experiences in 1960s California and her second marriage to an affable navy veteran in 1974.

And Then a Rainbow was published in 1990 by Fithian Press, Santa Barbara, California.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

Might also like: Betrayed Trust: The Story of a Deported Issei and His American-Born Family During World War II by Motomu Akashi; Dear Miye: Letters Home from Japan, 1939-1946 by Mary Kimoto Tomita; In Defense of Justice: Joseph Kurihara and the Japanese American Struggle for Equality by Eileen H. Tamura

Media Details
Author Mili Shimonishi-Lamb
Pages 178
Publication Date 1990