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Browse > Media Type > Short Stories

80 articles

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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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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Mary Osaka, I Love You (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Adult
  • Everlasting love, Immigrant experience, Nationalism – complications
  • Widely available

Short story by acclaimed writer John Fante about the love between a Filipino American immigrant man and a Nisei woman that takes place in Los Angeles as World War II breaks out. A part of Fante's intended novel on Filipino Americans, it was first published in Good Housekeeping magazine in October 1942.

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You Who Are 25 (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Circle of life, Power of the past, Role of men
  • No availability

Short story by Ted Tajima that recounts the arduous birth of a boy in a concentration camp and which contemplates that young man's fate in the very different world of twenty-five years later. Despite the title, the story is written in a third-person voice and does not directly address the young people it is about. Tajima, a high school teacher and frequent contributor to the Rafu Shimpo holiday edition, published the story in the 1967 issue.

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Pleasure of Plain Rice (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Memoir
  • Desire to escape, Self-awareness, Working class struggles
  • Limited availability

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 …

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Topaz Mosaic (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Communication—verbal and nonverbal, Family—blessing or curse, Optimism—power or folly, Reunion
  • Widely available

Three vignettes by Toshio Mori centering on a family in Topaz and the furlough visit of their Nisei soldier son. In the first, an Issei father struggles to write a letter to his son Sam in English. In the second, Sam stops in Salt Lake City to buy presents for his family before visiting them in Topaz the next day, recalling the friend (presumably in Topaz) who was convinced he was a "sucker" for volunteering. In the last, Sam is greeted warmly by his family and learns that a sister has left camp for New York and a brother is also joining the army.

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Home Is the Expatriate (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Disillusionment and dreams, Pride and downfall
  • Widely available

Short story by Larry Tajiri about a Nisei strandee just returned from Japan after a decade there. Joe Suzuki was a Nisei in Los Angeles who graduated high school in the mid 1930s. Unwilling to take the types of jobs available to Nisei at that time—primarily agricultural and/or manual labor type jobs—he first tried Hollywood, then went to Japan, as did many other Nisei at that time. He landed a white-collar job at a Japanese firm, but it proved to be a dead end job, and, as a Nisei, he drew suspicion from the police. He attempted to return to the U.S. in November 1941, but his ship turned around midway as war broke out, and he was stuck in Japan during the war. He returns embittered, his mother having died in an American concentration camp, and his father having resettled in Chicago .

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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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O Furo (The Bath) (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Beauty of simplicity, Fulfillment, Nature as beauty
  • Available

Short story by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston about an elderly woman in an unspecified American concentration camp during the World War II. Yuki, a seventy-three year old widow, lives with her grandson, Dixon, a separate barracks room away from the rest of the family. When the falling snow reminds her of Japan, she prevails on Dixon to help her build a Japanese style furo , which they accomplish using scrap lumber and a discarded metal drum. Sitting in the tub, she reflects contentedly on her life.

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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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Am I a Traitor? (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Memoir
  • Facing reality, Nationalism – complications, Patriotism – positive side or complications
  • Available

Essay by Issei socialist journalist Shigeki Oka (1878–1959) focusing on his decision to aid the Allies and oppose the Japanese militarist regime during World War II. Oka begins by describing the situation prior to the war, where Japanese American leaders dismissed the possibility of war between the U.S. and Japan. While preparing a translation of Hitler's anti-Japanese writings to be distributed in Japan, the attack on Pearl Harbor occurs. Oka sends a telegram to President Roosevelt offering his services and expresses the desire that Japan lose the war as quickly as possible so that its militarist regime would be brought down; these actions lead to members of the Japanese American community branding him a traitor. He later volunteers to go to India despite his advanced age to write and distribute propaganda for the U.S. After the war, the Japanese community continues to shun him despite the fact that the events …

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Changes (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Change versus tradition, Communication – verbal and nonverbal, Lost honor, Role of men
  • Available

Short story by Marnie Mueller set in an unspecified Japanese American concentration camp. As the story begins, Toru Horokawa, an Issei man, sits outside his barrack thinking about returning to Japan. He flashes back to the time of the exclusion, two years prior, as he and his wife disagree about the selling of their possessions to bargain seekers. He then recalls his recent clashes with his Nisei son, his only child, who has announced that he will be joining the army.

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Gambling Den (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Coming of age, Disillusionment and dreams, Immigrant experience, Loss of innocence, Role of women, Temptation and destruction
  • No availability

Short story by Akemi Kikumura about a Japanese American family in Lodi, California, on the eve of World War II. Told in the first person voice of fifteen-year-old Peggy Tanaka, the story begins with the Tanaka family's fateful purchase of a restaurant in 1941. The restaurant soon becomes a success as migrant workers are drawn to both Mrs. Tanaka's cooking and the beauty of Ann, Peggy's eighteen-year-old sister. Mr. Tanaka's decision to open a gambling den in back further adds to profits, despite Mrs. Tanaka's disapproval and the necessary kick-backs to a corrupt local policeman. But the Tanakas' lives are soon to be complicated by Ann's romance with a young man of burakumin (Japanese outcaste) origin, a conniving neighbor, and the impending roundup of Japanese Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

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Uncle Yozo (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 7-8, Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Memoir
  • Disillusionment and dreams, Importance of community, Optimism – power or folly
  • No availability

Comical story by Ted Tajima about an Issei man at an unspecified concentration camp who enlivens the first Christmas in camp by elaborately playing Santa. A regular contributor of stories to the Rafu Shimpo holiday edition, Tajima taught at Alhambra High for 35 years and led their acclaimed journalism program.

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Death Rides the Rails to Poston (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Mystery
  • Power and corruption, Quest for discovery
  • Widely available

Short story murder mystery by Hisaye Yamamoto that takes place on the train taking forcibly removed Japanese Americans to the Poston , Arizona, concentration camp. Death Rides the Rails to Poston first appeared in serialized form in the Poston Chronicle newspaper in 1943.

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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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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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An Abandoned Pot of Rice (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Memoir
  • Displacement, Immigrant experience, Importance of community, Progress – real or illusion
  • No availability

Short essay by Hisaye Yamamoto DeSoto about the Kumamoto-mura community near Oceanside, California, where her family lived just prior to World War II. The pleasant reminiscences of life there are tempered by recollections of the chaos after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the events leading up to the forced removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast. The title of the story comes from the narrator's recollection of making a pot of rice intending to make rice balls on the day of their forced departure, but forgetting about it, leaving the full pot behind. Years later, she returns to the site of the community, which subsequently became a large military base which for a time housed tens of thousands of Southeast Asian refugees. Noting the similarities with the concentration camps she and her family were in, she observes that this group was the third group of Asians to …

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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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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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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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Starting from Loomis (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Memoir
  • Coming of age, Evils of racism, Family – blessing or curse, Injustice
  • Widely available

Autobiographical short story by Hiroshi Kashiwagi that traces his life from his childhood on farms in the Loomis, California, area, his family's forced removal and incarceration at the Marysville Assembly Center (which Kashiwagi refers to as "Arboga," an alternative name) and Tule Lake , and his decision to answer "no-no" to the loyalty questionnaire both out of anger and protest and in alignment with the rest of his family. While describing the difficult conditions of concentration camp life, the narrator—who was two years out of high school at the time—takes his first tentative steps in the world of theater and literature while in camp. His father's absence from the family from prior to the war due to tuberculosis looms large. Written from the perspective of an old man looking back at his youth, the story ends with the lifelong ramifications of his wartime incarceration and his "no-no boy" status.

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A Star Is Something to Steer By (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Coming of age, Convention and rebellion, Losing hope
  • Widely available

Short story by Mataileen Larkin Ramsdell about the contentious but affectionate relationship between a white high school teacher in Rohwer and an intelligent but cynical student. A young teacher from Wisconsin, Eve Erickson is immediately drawn to Joe Moriyama, the smallest boy in 11th grade homeroom class, who is constantly challenging her by pointing out the contradictions between the American creed and the treatment of Japanese Americans. In one instance, he tells her about a girl in her class who had her family farm registered in her name to get around the alien land law , but who now found herself the target of an escheat case upon the death of her father. Over time Joe and Eve come to like and respect each other. When Nisei are deemed eligible for the draft in 1944, Joe and other boys in her class are drafted, but he is uncharacteristically silent. He …

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Give Us This Day (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Patriotism—positive side or complications, Progress—real or illusion
  • Widely available

Short story by Henry H. Ebihara that presents a hopeful portrait of an Issei couple a year after resettlement . Mr. Sakamoto returns on a winter night from his night shift job at a factory to find his wife waiting for him with a hot meal. They discuss their good fortune, their son in the Military Intelligence Service in Burma, and their leaving the concentration camp with their children a year earlier.

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Snapshot, 1944 (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Power of silence, Power of the past, Wisdom of experience
  • Limited availability

Short story by David Mas Masumoto told in the first person voice of a Sansei young adult reflecting on the meaning of an old snapshot of his father's family taken at Gila River in 1944. The occasion is the funeral of his Uncle George, killed as an American soldier in the war . In the photo, the narrator's grandfather holds a flag and his grandmother holds a picture of George, while his father and aunts and uncles stand uneasily to the side. The narrator writes in turn about the postwar fates of his grandfather, who died before he was born; his grandmother, who lives with the family, but suffers from dementia; and his father, who struggled to buy a farm after the war and now grows raisins and other crops on eighty acres. Each in his her own way remains as silent to the narrator as in the photograph.

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