Pleasure of Plain Rice (short story)
Creators: Hisaye Yamamoto Desoto
Essay/story by Hisaye Yamamoto on racial identity that focuses on her month-long stint as a domestic in Springfield, Massachusetts, during World War II. She begins the piece by noting various white Americans she knows who have changed their ethnic-sounding last names to less ethnic sounding ones, noting the futility of her doing such a thing as a Japanese American, citing the mass incarceration during World War II. Anxious to leave Poston , where she and her family ended up, she and two of her younger brothers are allowed to leave for Massachusetts in the summer of 1944. While her fifteen-year-old brother Yuke is placed in a summer camp in the Berkshires, the War Relocation Authority office in Boston assigns her and her seventeen-year-old brother Jemo to become domestic servants for a wealthy widow in Springfield. Both initially dislike the stern and formal family and the job duties that had to be completed in different uniforms. Though mostly familiar with Japanese dishes, the narrator nonetheless finds herself cooking Western-style food for the family. When finally asked to make a Japanese meal for guests, she is appalled to find the guests dousing their rice with soy sauce. After a month, the three are called back to Poston by their father after hearing of the death of her other brother, John, in Italy as a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team .
A renowned short story writer today, Yamamoto Desoto was a frequent contributor to the Rafu Shimpo holiday edition, where "Pleasure of Plain Rice" first appeared in 1960. It is one of the few pieces from that time period by a Nisei to directly address the incarceration and camps—even referring to them as "concentration camps." It was reprinted in Southwest: A Contemporary Anthology in 1977.