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Browse > Media Type > Short Stories

80 articles

The Service Flags (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Evils of racism, Heroism—real and perceived, Individual versus society, Loss of innocence, Self-reliance
  • Widely available

Short story by Bill Hosokawa about the first days of resettlement of a young mother and her nine-year-old son. Helen Yamano and her son Jamie arrive in an unspecified city, and she hangs two flags, one for her brother who had been killed, presumably as an Military Intelligence Service linguist, and one for her husband, who is serving in Europe in the 442nd. Her first days on the job are difficult, as one of her co-workers makes trouble for her. Jamie is called a "Jap" by one of the boys on his first day of school. Helen tells him that like his father, he needs to fight to be accepted, and the next day he does.

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Alice and the Bear (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 7-8, Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Companionship as salvation, Desire to escape, Growing up – pain or pleasure, Power of the past
  • Widely available

Short story by Kiyoshi Parker about an old woman whose trip to a Little Tokyo store with her great-granddaughter brings back memories of her camp experience. Alice Miyamoto visits Little Tokyo in Los Angeles for the first time in thirty years with her family. After lunch, her daughter suggests they go visit the Go For Broke Monument. But on the way, her four-year-old great-granddaughter drags her into a store and picks up a stuffed Totoro toy. Alice is immediately reminded of a stuffed bear she had as a child of about the same age that was her constant companion when she was in an unspecified concentration camp.

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Case History (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Overcoming – fear, weakness, vice, Patriotism – positive side or complications, Evils of racism
  • Widely available

Short story about a young Nisei couple settling in "Centreville," a fictional small town in California, after World War II. John and Mary Mori arrive and open a flower market in town. But despite John's military service and the couple's good deeds, the face anti-Japanese harassment before a series of events begin to turn the tide. Author Bradford Smith tells the story using fictitious newspaper articles, letters, and personal testimony.

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Children of Topaz (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 7-8, Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Companionship as salvation, Isolation, Nature as beauty
  • Widely available

A snowfall at Topaz brings children out of the barracks to engage in snowball fights and snowman building. They recall friends back home and wish their non-Japanese American friends can join them in play. The very short story by Toshio Mori—dubbed "A Sketch"—appeared in the Pacific Citizen newspaper in 1945.

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Floating Home (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 7-8, Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Facing reality, Growing up – pain or pleasure, Reunion, Working class struggles
  • Widely available

Short story about a family returning to Little Tokyo from Rohwer. When fourteen-year-old Mari returns home with her parents, she expects to go to their old house, but is dismayed when they go to a run down residential hotel instead. Her father explains to her that they had rented the house they had lived in before the war, and they it was now being rented to someone else. Mari decides to walk to the house to take a last look. She finds an African American girl about her age on the swing in front. Initially suspicious, the girl becomes friendlier when Mari tells her why she and her family had to leave and invites her inside.

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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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"Iwao-chan!" (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Memoir
  • Everlasting love, Motherhood
  • No availability

Short story by Yachiyo Uehara about a Nisei woman's bond with her deceased Issei mother in the years after the war. As the story begins, Yachiyo is on a plane from New York to San Francisco around 1950 with her two-year-old son Andy, the first time since the war years that she would be returning to her hometown. She will be moving there, initially staying with her Issei father. She is saddened that Andy will never meet her mother, whom she last saw in 1944 when she left Heart Mountain for New York and who subsequently died after they returned to San Francisco. She is relieved that her father, who dislikes children, tolerates Andy and even seems to like him. But she is also concerned about the dangerous stairs leading to the small house. She finds that despite her death two years prior, her mother's presence permeates the house. One ...

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Kai's Mother (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Immigrant experience, Motherhood, Will to survive, Wisdom of experience
  • Available

Short story by Gretel Ehrlich told in the first person voice of an Issei woman as she rides the train back to California from Heart Mountain at war's end. The characters in the story were introduced in Ehrlich's earlier novel Heart Mountain.

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Kubota (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Memoir
  • Power of silence, Wisdom of experience
  • Available

Short story/essay centering on the author's maternal grandfather, whom everyone called by his last name, Kubota. A Kibei from Hawai'i, Kubota had graduated high school in Hiroshima before returning to become a successful shopkeeper and community leader—as well as an avid fisherman—on Ō'ahu's North Shore prior to the war. Arrested by the FBI on the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Kubota was one of the relatively fortunate ones, having been taken to Honolulu for questioning, but released after just a few days. Years later, Kubota lives with the author's family in Gardena, California, and repeatedly tells the teenager his World War II story, urging him not to forget it and to be his chronicler. The author is puzzled to find that other Japanese Americans not only didn't care to hear this story but were very reluctant to talk about their wartime exclusion and incarceration. After his grandfather's death, ...

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Makapuu Bay (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Disillusionment and dreams, Facing reality, Lost love, Names – power and significance, Reunion
  • Widely available

Short story by Wakako Yamauchi about a divorced middle-aged Japanese American writer who goes to a literary conference in Honolulu where she runs into an old boyfriend from the war years. In flashback, we learn that Sachiko—nicknamed "Pinky" while incarcerated in Poston with her father—had met Mitch Ochiai at the camp swimming hole, where she asked him to teach her to swim. They become a couple and continue to see each other when she resettles in Chicago while he attends the Military Intelligence Service Language School in Minnesota. But her father's illness—and eventual death—forces her to return to Poston, while Mitch heads off to war, and they lose touch. Sachiko ends up marrying Joe Noda, her block manager, and settling in Los Angeles. Though Sachiko is divorced and Mitch has never married, a rekindling of the romance in Hawai'i is not to be.

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Mackerel Sky (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Memoir
  • Communication – verbal and nonverbal, Immigrant experience, Will to survive, Working class struggles
  • No availability

Short story by Jeff Matsuda in which a young Sansei man recalls various stories about his Issei grandfather: visiting him and his grandmother when he was a child; recreating the old man talking about his youth in Japan and his early years as a laborer in the U.S.; and visiting him with his mother when he was in college, and his grandfather was a nearly deaf old man. In the process, the narrator recalls his grandfather's internment: as a fisherman on Terminal Island, he was arrested a week after Pearl Harbor and sent to Bismarck and then to an unspecified camp in New Mexico, while the rest of his immediate family spent the war years in Japan.

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Mitsugi's Christmas (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Family – blessing or curse, Forgiveness, Love and sacrifice, Optimism – power or folly
  • No availability

Short story by Jennifer "Emiko" Kuida about Mitsugi Yamamoto, an elderly widower at the Keiro Retirement Home in Los Angeles who waits to hear from his busy lawyer daughter and his grandchildren on Christmas Day. Julia, a younger Yonsei volunteer nurse, keeps him company sometimes and listens to his stories of the past, particularly his time at Seabrook Farms, New Jersey, where he and his wife Sumi moved after leaving Manzanar.

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Otoko (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Disillusionment and dreams, Growing up – pain or pleasure, Immigrant experience, Loss of innocence, Role of men, Vulnerability of the meek
  • Widely available

Short story by Wakako Yamauchi centering on a Nisei brother and sister who recall their father and their family's prewar and wartime hardships while listening to Japanese folksongs. On the longest day of the year one summer, Kiyo visits his sister, the narrator, bringing a record of Japanese children's songs. The act of listening to the songs triggers memories of their early years. Once relatively prosperous, their fortunes turn dire quickly when their father loses his job. He becomes a tenant farmer, but can't make enough to support the family. Kiyo recalls a time when he went with his father to visit a friend, Kiyo thinks, to ask to borrow money. The narrator recalls working as a "school girl" with a white family for a few months, returning to find her family living in a tent, her little sister's teeth rotting, and her father suffering from a stomach ailment. Later, ...

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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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Rosebud (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Desire to escape, Names – power and significance, Role of women, Social mobility
  • Available

Short story by Wakako Yamauchi that traces the friendship and rivalry between the narrator and another Japanese American girl/woman from childhood in the 1930s through the incarceration period to old age. In the section that takes place at Poston, the narrator works for the Poston Chronicle while Marion is prohibited from working by her overprotective mother until she suffers a nervous breakdown. Later, Marion marries a prominent non-Japanese American economist and largely lives her life outside the ethnic community.

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Some Lines for a Younger Brother... (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Memoir
  • Death – inevitable or tragedy, Disillusionment and dreams, Growing up – pain or pleasure
  • Limited availability

First person recollection of the author's younger brother centering on the impact the World War II incarceration had on him. The youngest of eight children, Tets was doted on by his older siblings, but devastated when his father died when he was eight. A few years later, he had become a demoralized teenager in Manzanar who began skipping high school classes upon his return to Los Angeles after the war. Joining the army to see the world, he is almost at the end of his hitch when the Korean War breaks out. Sent into combat, he is killed in action. Years later, the author recalls attending the first Manzanar Pilgrimage and seeing the image of Tets as a child once again.

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The Red Tricycle (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Evils of racism, Injustice, Optimism – power or folly
  • Available

The scene as a Nikkei family—a mother with her two daughters and four-year-old son Tommy—make the last preparations at their farmhouse before a truck comes to take them to the train station that will deliver them to a concentration camp. Their spirits are temporarily buoyed by a unexpected kind act by one of the soldiers who comes for them.

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The Brothers Murata (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Family – blessing or curse, Nationalism – complications, Rights - individual or societal, Role of men
  • Available

Novella by Toshio Mori about two brothers in Topaz who clash over the issue of military service. Likely written in Topaz, it was first published in the 2000 Mori anthology Unfinished Message: Selected Works of Toshio Mori.

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Sundown in Topaz (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Losing hope, Self-preservation
  • Limited availability

Short story about an Issei man in Topaz during the time of the loyalty questionnaire. Shojiro Mikawa, a grandfather from Hiroshima, is incarcerated in Topaz with his family. His close friend, Tanimoto, is among those in the camp who is organizing resistance to the questionnaire. He attends a meeting led by Tanimoto that advocates refusing to answer the questionnaire. However an informant at the meeting has reported to the camp administration the names of all who attended. Called before the camp director, Mikawa is ordered to tell what he knows about the organization of the meeting or else be sent to Tule Lake and thus separated from his family.

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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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Unfinished Message (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Memoir
  • Communication – verbal and nonverbal, Motherhood
  • Available

Seemingly autobiographical story by Toshio Mori about his mother and brother. The story begins in 1945 in Topaz, where the author's mother can't sleep one night because of anxiety about her son, who is serving in Europe. She later finds out that he was wounded in battle that night. Later, they arrange for his transfer to a hospital in the U.S, deciding on one near the family home in California. When they leave camp and return home, she is able to visit him at the hospital. However, she later dies in her sleep before her son is released. After her death, the author and his brother hear tapping on the window of the room in which she died, which they interpret as her message to them. Written by Mori in 1947, the story was first published in his 1979 short story collection, The Chauvinist and Other Stories and reprinted in ...

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The Legacy of a Cemetery (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Memoir
  • Reunion, Wisdom of experience
  • Limited availability

First person reflections on a trip back to his hometown of Los Angeles by a man who had settled in New Jersey after leaving the Jerome, Arkansas, concentration camps some thirty years earlier. A visit to Evergreen Cemetery east of downtown Los Angeles brings back memories of his forced removal in 1942, remembrances of Nisei soldiers he knew who are buried there, and memories of his deceased family members.

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The Loom (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Adult
  • Fiction
  • Communication – verbal and nonverbal, Facing darkness, Loneliness as destructive force, Motherhood, Power of silence
  • Widely available

Short story by R. A. Sasaki that portrays the life of a Nisei woman looking both backwards and forwards after the death of one of her daughters. Born and raised in San Francisco where her family ran a boarding house, the unnamed woman graduated from the University of California before being incarcerated with her family in Tanforan and Topaz during World War II. Returning to San Francisco after the war having married a Kibei man she had known from before the war, she has four daughters while her husband works in the flower industry. Devoted to her daughters, she is at a loss as they leave the house to pursue their own lives and after one dies in a mountain climbing accident. Her daughters' efforts to bring her out of her torpor are largely unsuccessful until one gives her a loom, through which she is able to express the feelings ...

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Welcome Home! (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Evils of racism, Injustice, Totalitarianism
  • Widely available

Short story that contrasts the reception of two returning soldiers to their homes after serving overseas. Two soldiers meet on a train and talk about what they look forward to upon returning home. The first, presumably white, gets off the train to a warm welcome by parents, a girlfriend and the family pet. The second, a Japanese American has no one waiting for him, since his family is still incarcerated in an Arizona concentration camp. He is ignored or greeted coldly by the locals in his hometown and when he gets to his family home, finds that it has been vandalized and painted with racist epithets. Authored by Sgt. Len Zinberg, Welcome Home! was first published in Yank, a weekly magazine published by the U.S. Army and reprinted in the Pacific Citizen in 1945.

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Roar of Silence (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Communication—verbal and nonverbal, Power of silence, Wisdom of experience
  • Widely available

While watching a young boy play in a puddle, an elderly Nisei recalls his Issei father. Forced to start over again in his sixties in Chicago after having lost his farm during the mass roundup and incarceration, he also found his role as family leader usurped by his eldest son, who had been a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Despite these setbacks, the narrator recalls the lessons his father had silently transmitted to him.

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