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Browse > Genre > Fiction

42 articles

The Man with the Bulging Pockets (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Fulfillment, Greed as downfall, Optimism – power or folly, Wisdom of experience
  • Widely available

Short story by Toshio Mori centering on an old man at Tanforan who becomes enormously popular with children by passing out a seemingly limitless supply of candy to them on his daily walks around the camp. His actions and popularity inspire jealousy in another old man, who also begins passing out candy, while spreading bad stories about the first old man. The story originally appeared in the 1944 holiday edition of The Pacific Citizen and was republished in Mori's 1979 short story collection The Chauvinist and Other Stories and in slightly different from, as a part of his 1978 novel Woman from Hiroshima.

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The Travelers (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Desire to escape, Optimism – power or folly, Power of silence
  • Widely available

Short story by Toshio Mori centering on two groups of inmates as they leave Topaz. One group of nine are those leaving the camp permanently to "resettle" in areas outside the restricted area of the West Coast; the other group consists of those who are visiting town briefly to shop or to see off relatives before returning to the camp. Those leaving for good includes a soldier leaving for the battlefront and being seen off by his mother, as well as those leaving for jobs in cities such as New York and Chicago. As the resettlers exchange information about their destinations, the soldier is drawn to an attractive young woman heading to Chicago, but does not speak to her. After the train leaves, a white family offers a ride to town to the mother of the soldier. "The Travelers" originally appeared in the Topaz literary publication All Aboard in 1944 ...

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When Your Body Has Been Rolled in Thorns (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Evils of racism, Facing reality, Loss of innocence, Will to survive
  • Widely available

Short story by Ferris Takahashi about a Japanese American family leaving a concentration camp to return to their old home in Los Angeles. Told from the perspective of a college educated Nisei husband and father of two young children, the story begins as they gather up their possessions and prepare to leave the camp. Yosh, a friend who had returned earlier and was able to reestablish his business, greets them at the train station. When they return to their home, they find it trashed and vandalized, with all the furniture gone. They also learn that the Buddhist temple in which they had stored other possessions had burned down. Yosh and his family offer to put them up until they can fix their house. Returning to look more closely at the house after dinner, the man and his Issei mother find racist graffiti. His mother assures him that they will rebound.

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Blood Hina (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Adult
  • Fiction, Mystery
  • Family – blessing or curse, Hazards of passing judgment, Heroism – real and perceived, Love and sacrifice
  • Widely available

The fourth book in the Mas Arai Mysteries series by Naomi Hirahara finds the Kibei gardener coming to the aid of his best friend, Haruo Mukai, whose impending wedding is interrupted by accusations of theft and by his sudden disappearance.

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Manzanar Rites (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction, History
  • Coming of age, Evils of racism, Rights - individual or societal, Vulnerability of the strong
  • Limited availability

Coming of age novel by William Hohri about two teenage boys from West Los Angeles who end up at Manzanar with their families.

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A Question of Loyalty/The Betrayed (play)

  • Plays
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Limited availability

Play authored by Nisei playwright Hiroshi Kashiwagi set in Tule Lake and centered on the dilemmas brought on by the loyalty questionnaire. The main characters are Tak Fujimoto, a country boy loosely based on the playwright, and Grace Tamura, a sophisticated city girl from Seattle, who fall in love in the concentration camp. But they are divided by the loyalty questions and go their separate ways. The play's second act is set forty years later, when Grace, a widowed redress activist from Chicago, visits Tak, a divorced farmer in Fresno, prior to a camp reunion.

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Time of Decay (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Desire to escape, Family—blessing or curse, Loneliness as destructive force, Losing hope
  • Widely available

Short story by Ferris Takahashi of an Issei woman whose family puts her in a cold nursing home against her will at the end of her life. Told from the perspective of the woman, she recalls her forced removal and incarceration in unspecified concentration camps and other episodes in her life.

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Home Again (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Character - destruction and building up, Displacement, Evils of racism
  • Available

A 1955 novel authored by a former War Relocation Authority (WRA) official that tells the epic story of one Japanese American family from California, covering their prewar travails, their wartime incarceration, and their return to California after the war. The book was heavily promoted particularly within the Japanese American community and widely reviewed.

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The Old Man on Crutches (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Companionship as salvation, Power of words, Wisdom of experience
  • Limited availability

Short story by Setsuko Nagata about the title character whom the narrator meets while serving as a waitress at a Tanforan Assembly Center mess hall. The man, named Mr. Mine, takes a liking to the narrator and shares Chinese poetry with her. When they move to the Topaz, Utah, concentration camp, he visits her on occasion, but when he requests repatriation, he moves to Tule Lake. The narrator hears that he eventually did return to his native Kumamoto, Japan.

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Homecoming (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Love and sacrifice, Motherhood, Wisdom of experience
  • Widely available

Short story by Toshio Mori about an Issei woman's first visit with her son Mamoru after he has been severely wounded in combat as a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. "Homecoming" takes the form of a story told in the woman's first person voice to her grandchildren. It is one of several stories by Mori featuring the same woman published in the Pacific Citizen between 1949 and 1952 that later became the basis of his novel Woman from Hiroshima, published in 1978. The first half of the story is about her efforts to see her son after being allowed to leave Topaz to return to the West Coast. She is at first dismayed to learn that he has been moved to a military hospital in Auburn, California, known to be a hotbed of anti-Japanese racism. Arriving in Auburn, they see numerous anti-Japanese signs and are unable to find ...

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Heiji (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Female roles, Injustice, Power of the past
  • No availability

Short story by Jeff Tsuyoshi Matsuda about a disheveled elderly Nisei widower who goes to a empty field in his Westchester, California, neighborhood every day for reasons that no one can figure out. In slowly revealing the reason for his quest, Heiji Taguma's wartime family history is revealed. His family had farmed twenty acres in the area before the war, but lost their crops and their farm in the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. Heiji's father Masu was among the Issei arrested by the FBI and was taken to the Bismarck, North Dakota internment camp, eventually rejoining his family at Manzanar. But he returned a broken man: while Heiji resettled in Chicago, he refused to leave Manzanar and died there just after the end of the war. Heiji's odd ritual seemed to have been triggered by the death of his wife Keiko, who had once cooked ...

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Sayonara Slam (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Adult
  • Fiction, Mystery
  • Power of silence, Power of the past, Family – blessing or curse
  • Widely available

The sixth book in Naomi Hirahara's Mas Arai Mysteries series finds the Kibei gardener caught up in unraveling the mysterious death of a Japanese journalist covering the World Baseball Classic in Los Angeles. As in the other books in the series, Mas's Hiroshima hibakusha past and the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans play key roles in the plot.

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A Bridge Between Us (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Coming of age, Role of women
  • Widely available

Critically acclaimed 1995 novel by Julie Shigekuni that is both a multi-generational family saga about a Japanese American family in San Francisco and a coming-of-age novel centered on a fifth-generation Japanese American woman growing up in a four generation household. The story—which includes the family's incarceration at Heart Mountain—is told from the perspectives of four women of different generations who live together in the family home in San Francisco.

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Slant-Eyed Americans (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Facing darkness, Losing hope
  • Available

Short story by Toshio Mori set in the days after the Pearl Harbor attack. A young Nisei man's plans to take his mother to town that day are dashed by the outbreak of war. The next day, business at the flower market is slow, and the Japanese American merchants wonder about their future. Tom, a Nisei gardener friend, doesn't report to work out of despair over the war; the narrator and his family cheer him up. Later, the narrator's brother Kazuo, who is in the army, arrives home for a five-day furlough. At the end of his visit, the family sees him off, pondering the uncertainty of what is to come.

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California Generation (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Coming of age, Identity crisis
  • Limited availability

Popular 1970 novel by Jacqueline Briskin that follows a group of students from the class of 1960 at fictitious California High—one of them a Sansei born in Topaz—through the touchstone events of the turbulent decade. Though a first novel, California Generation was widely promoted and launched Briskin's career as a best-selling novelist.

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The Legend of Miss Sasagawara (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Female roles, Hazards of passing judgment, Individual versus society, Losing hope
  • Widely available

Short story by Hisaye Yamamoto that takes place in an Arizona concentration camp during World War II and centers on the odd activities of one woman in the camp, as described by a college age female fellow inmate. Mari Sasagawara, a former ballet dancer, arrives with her Buddhist priest father upon transfer from another camp and soon becomes the subject of much gossip by other camp inmates for her regal bearing and aloofness. After being absent from the camp for a few months—taken to an institution in Phoenix—she returns a changed woman, friendly and sociable, even organizing and teaching a dance troupe of young girls. But after the narrator leaves the camp to attend school in Philadelphia, her friend tells her that Miss Sasagawara's malaise had returned and that she was taken out of the camp again. The story ends with the narrator finding a poem by Miss Sasagawara published ...

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Gasa-Gasa Girl (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Adult
  • Fiction, Mystery
  • Family – blessing or curse, Greed as downfall, Power of the past
  • Widely available

The second mystery novel in Naomi Hirahara's "Mas Arai Mysteries" series, Gasa-Gasa Girl finds the Kibei crime solver in New York where he reconciles with his estranged daughter and unravels the mysterious death of a wealthy Nisei businessman.

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My Mother's Music (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Power of the past, Power of silence, Role of women
  • Limited availability

Short story by Lydia Yuri Minatoya told from the perspective of a Sansei woman recalling her Kibei mother's various stories—and silences—about the family history. The narrator's mother recalls her Issei mother's banishment from the family after she had an affair with a Filipino immigrant patron of the family-run pool hall and how she never saw her mother again. The mother also recalls her own arranged marriage while in Heart Mountain, but can recall little—or is unwilling to talk about—details of her and her family's wartime incarceration. My Mother's Music appeared in the fifth volume of the Fusion series published by the Asian American Studies Department at San Francisco State University. Minatoya later published a memoir titled Talking to High Monks in the Snow: An Asian-American Odyssey (1989)—which includes "My Mother's Music" as its first chapter—as well as a novel, The Strangeness of Beauty (2001).

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Nurse (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Communication – verbal and nonverbal, Hazards of passing judgment
  • Available

Short story by Masaharu Hane centering on an Issei man on a train in the Southwest during World War II. Spotting a Nisei young woman fellow passenger—one of the few "Japanese" on the train—sitting next to a white soldier, the narrator passes time on the trip by conjuring various unlikely scenarios that explain her travel circumstances, before learning the rather mundane truth. Originally published in a Poston Japanese language literary publication, "Nurse" was included in the 1991 literary anthology The Big Aiiieeeee!

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A Letter (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Communication – verbal and nonverbal, Facing darkness, Isolation, Power of words
  • Limited availability

Short story by Sasabune Sasaki about a group of Issei internees at an unspecified internment camp in the first days of their detention. Though the men write letters to their families, few have received any letters in return, due to, they believe, delays caused by censorship of the letters and their being moved from camp to camp. One day, the narrator sees a letter in its envelope tacked on a bulletin board at the camp post office and copies it down. It is an anonymously authored letter by a Nisei in English that expresses concern and support for the internees. When the narrator reads it to a group of internees, they are greatly moved.

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City in the Sun (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Displacement, Evils of racism
  • Limited availability

1946 novel by Karon Kehoe that represented the first full-length work of adult fiction to dramatize Japanese American confinement.

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The Black Dress (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Companionship as salvation, Overcoming – fear, weakness, vice, Progress – real or illusion
  • Limited availability

Short story about a young woman who has recently left Heart Mountain to resettle in New York City in 1945. Invited to a party by co-workers at a silk screen shop, she decides to buy a new dress for the party. At the department store, she impulsively asks the friendly young female sales clerks to join her for dinner that night. Though she immediately regrets asking, the evening leads to an unexpected revelation.

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Reunion (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Lost love, Rebirth, Reunion
  • No availability

Short story by Hisaye Yamamoto centering on a Nisei man named Tak who attends a pilgrimage to Poston, where he had been incarcerated during the war. The story begins with his noticing a striking woman at the reunion dressed in buckskin; he wonders if she is Native American. A visit to the memorial at the site conjures memories of his family's wartime experience: removed from Los Angeles, they left Poston to resettle in Chicago; his older sister had left earlier on her own to study nursing in Cleveland. He went to high school in Chicago and to college back in Los Angeles, eventually marrying and raising three daughters. But after his wife's death just a year prior, he found himself alone. On the bus ride home, he is surprised to find the buckskin woman on the same bus. She sits across the aisle from him, and he overhears her talking ...

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21st Century Manzanar (book)

  • Books
  • Adult
  • Fiction
  • Evils of racism, Importance of community, Overcoming – fear, weakness, vice, Will to survive
  • Available

Novel by Perry Miyake that imagines an early 21st century roundup of Japanese Americans and how Sansei and Yonsei would react to it.

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Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire (book)

  • Books
  • Adult
  • Fiction
  • Coming of age, Dangers of ignorance, Power of silence, Power of the past
  • Widely available

First novel by acclaimed poet and memoirist David Mura that explores the impact of wartime incarceration—and the silences about it—on a Japanese American family in Chicago after World War II.

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