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Browse > Media Type > Short Stories

80 articles

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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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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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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Las Vegas Charley (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Disillusionment and dreams, Temptation and destruction, Vulnerability of the meek, Working class struggles
  • Widely available

Short story by Hisaye Yamamoto about an Issei man named Kazuyuki Matsumoto, who works as a dishwasher at a Las Vegas restaurant while gambling away his wages. In flashback, we learn of his life story: boyhood in Kumamoto prefecture, then migration to the U.S. where he becomes a successful farmer in Santa Maria, California, and is soon joined by a "picture bride" wife, Haru and two sons. But Haru's death in childbirth after the birth of their second son changes Kazuyuki's life decisively. He sends the two boys to live with his mother in Japan and becomes a migrant laborer. At first, he sends regular remittances home, but he soon picks up a gambling habit and the payments gradually come to an end. He later brings his Kibei sons back to the U.S., where they start a new farming venture in Orange County, California, this one less successful. Then comes …

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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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The Shoyu Kid (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Coming of age, Growing up – pain or pleasure, Illusion of power, Loss of innocence, Vulnerability of the meek
  • Widely available

Short story by Lonny Kaneko set in Minidoka centering on three boys who chase and bully a fourth boy, in the process unearthing his molestation by a camp guard. The Seattle-based author had been incarcerated at Minidoka as a child. The Shoyu Kid was originally published in Amerasia Journal in 1976.

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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 Session at Tak's Place (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Adult
  • Communication – verbal and nonverbal, Companionship as salvation, Importance of community, Optimism – power or folly
  • Widely available

Short story by Manzen (Tom Arima) about four old Nisei men discussing the future of the Japanese American community and the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL). Tak, a 65-year-old retiree, wakes up one morning with an uneasy feeling after a late night JACL meeting the previous evening. His close friend Nobe, a JACL lifer, drops by to talk about the meeting, and they are soon joined by two more friends, Joe and Mits. The four talk about the role they and the JACL should take in the implementation of the recently passed Civil Liberties Act of 1988 , what to make of a recent JACL resolution to investigate the organization's actions regarding the so-called " No-No Boys ," and the role of the JACL. After a spirited discussion, Tak feels much better and is grateful for the men's friendship.

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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 Broken Lines of Age (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Communication – verbal and nonverbal, Desire to escape, Power of the past
  • Widely available

Short story by Jimmy Tokeshi about an Issei grandfather who takes his nineteen-year-old granddaughter on an impromptu pilgrimage to Manzanar on Christmas Eve decades after his wartime incarceration there.

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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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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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The Remembered Days (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Motherhood, Wisdom of experience
  • Widely available

A grandmother tells her grandchildren about her exclusion and confinement. Told in the first person voice of the grandmother, the story is divided into three sections: (1) recalling the train ride from Tanforan to Topaz ; (2) a rumination of the absurdity of the camp being dubbed the "Jewel of the Desert"; and (3) her remembrances of hearing of her son Yoshio's death while serving with the 442nd .

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The Day After Today (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Facing reality, Losing hope
  • Widely available

Very short story by Toshio Mori (called "A Sketch") about an Issei man at Topaz who worries about what will happen to him and his wife when they are forced to leave the camp, since they have no children to help support them. He envies neighbors who have resettled children they can stay with in the Midwest and East. Published in the Pacific Citizen in February of 1945, the story captured the anxiety many Japanese Americans felt with news that the concentration camps would be closing by the end of the year.

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Masao and the Bronze Nightingale (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Expression through art, Lost love, Working class struggles
  • Widely available

Short story by Rubén "Funkahuatl" Guevara about a Nisei zoot suiter and saxophone player in East Los Angeles before and after World War II. Masao Matsui and his buddies Lil' Joe Casillas and Isamu Imoto grow up in Boyle Heights playing jazz and dressing in elaborate zoot suits prior to the war. Masao dreams of leading a band one day. His dreams are interrupted by World War II and his forced incarceration at Manzanar. He passes time playing jazz records and plays in the Jive Bombers in camp. After the war, he returns to Little Tokyo and works as a janitor, while soaking up the local jazz scene that sprang up there as part of "Bronzeville," the African American settlement that formed during the war. Then, one night at a club, he meets a dazzling singer who called herself the Bronze Nightingale, and his life is turned upside down.

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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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A Piece of Cake (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Female roles, Importance of community, Role of women
  • Limited availability

Short story by Yachiyo Uehara that recalls friendships made while in a concentration camp. In the 1980s, a Nisei woman named Fumi is making a roast when she notices a story about a Heart Mountain reunion in the newspaper. The article triggers memories of her two years at Heart Mountain forty years prior, in particular her work as a waitress in the Block 17 mess hall. A city girl from San Francisco, she is at first treated as an outsider by fellow workers who mostly hailed from rural areas. But through her hard work and skill in the Japanese language, she wins them over, in particular the group's de facto leader, Mrs. Shirota. The story climaxes with a visit to the Shirotas' family barrack, where Mrs. Shirota has secured the rare treat of a manju (rice and sweet bean pastry) that the chefs had managed to concoct. Fumi is particularly …

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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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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 …

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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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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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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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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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Drops of Water (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Capitalism – effect on the individual, Immigrant experience, Individual versus society, Working class struggles
  • Widely available

Short story by Ferris Takahashi. A presumably young Sansei social worker and a colleague discuss the case of an elderly Issei homeless man who seems to want to remain homeless. Sections written from the perspective of the Issei man reveal his life as a laborer first on Hawai'i sugar plantations , then in the continental U.S. and the impact of his wartime incarceration and the razing of the residential hotel he once lived in.

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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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