Out of the Frying Pan: Reflections of a Japanese American (book)
Creators: Bill Hosokawa
Book cover. Courtesy of University Press of Colorado
View in the Densho Encyclopedia
A prominent journalist reflects on his life and career, including the difficult years during World War II during which he and his family were incarcerated because of their Japanese ancestry.
Bill Hosokawa begins his memoir by recounting his childhood in Seattle, his pursuit of journalism as a career through majoring in the subject at University of Washington, and his decision to take a job in Singapore in 1938 because he could not find employment with an American newspaper due to racial discrimination. He returned to the U.S. in October 1941.
While he was a university student he had worked with Jimmie Sakamoto 's Japanese American Courier newspaper, and when Pearl Harbor was attacked Hosokawa was among the community leaders Sakamoto gathered to create the Emergency Defense Council, which Hosokawa describes as an organization that facilitated communication between the Japanese American community and the government. This group continued to play this role even after residents were taken to Puyallup Assembly Center (formally known as "Camp Harmony"). His chapters on the war years are detailed, and describe the difficulties his family faced as they prepared for removal, his appearance before a grand jury to determine whether or not he could be charged with actual crimes, and the unpleasant conditions he and his family faced at Puyallup. Unlike most Seattle Japanese Americans, Hosokawa, his wife, and young son were sent to Heart Mountain in Wyoming, a decision Hosokawa attributes to the government wanting to separate him from the community because they believed he was fomenting discontent. Most Seattle residents were sent to Minidoka in south-central Idaho.
Hosokawa devotes most of his discussion of his time in Heart Mountain to his role in establishing the Sentinel , the Heart Mountain newspaper, including the logistical challenges involved, editorial policy, and key controversies the newspaper addressed. He recounts that through the influence of Dillon S. Myer , the second director of the War Relocation Authority , he was offered a position as copyeditor with the Register of Des Moines, Iowa, and he and his family left Heart Mountain in October 1943. In addition to recounting his own experiences, Hosokawa also discusses the four Nisei who challenged the constitutionality of the treatment of Japanese Americans before the Supreme Court. The second half of the work is a collection of columns Hosokawa wrote for The Denver Post , where he spent most of his career, as well as the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) newspaper, Pacific Citizen , and other papers.
Bill Hosokawa (1915-2007) was a prominent journalist and author whose support of the JACL's activities during World War II—in which he himself also participated—has prompted controversy within the Japanese American community. In addition to a long and successful career with the Denver Post , he also authored several books about Japanese Americans and journalism, including Nisei: The Quiet Americans .
In the brief aside Hosokawa makes to describe the four cases where the constitutionality of the wartime treatment of Japanese Americans was argued before the Supreme Court, there are several errors that while brief, are significant. First, when he summarizes the reconsideration of these coram nobis cases in the 1980s, he names Peter Irons as the person who made the crucial discovery of evidence proving the U.S. government illegally used race as the justification for the Exclusion Order. In fact, Aiko Herzig , working as a researcher for the redress movement, was the one who discovered these documents in the National Archives.
Hosokawa's recounting of his own experiences and role working with the JACL during World War II has come under some criticism. A useful summary appears in Asian American Autobiographers: A Bio-bibliographical Critical Sourcebook . 
- Guiyou Huang, editor, Asian American Autobiographers: A Bio-bibliographical Critical Sourcebook (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001), 121-24.