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Browse > Media Type > Short Stories

80 articles

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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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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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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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 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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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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One with the Angels (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Death – inevitable or tragedy, Facing darkness, Loss of innocence, Power of the past
  • Limited availability

Short story by Yachiyo Uehara about a young woman's death shortly after leaving the concentration camps. The story begins in the present when Saye sees an editorial cartoon in a Japanese American newspaper that laments the fact that the $20,000 reparations payments advocated by the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) would be too late for many former inmates. She then recalls her younger sister Yoko's story and how even a fraction of that money might have changed its course. Imprisoned in Heart Mountain with her family, Yoko leaves for New York City in 1944 and soon finds a good job and a nice apartment. The widowed Saye and her young son soon join Yoko and have a joyous reunion and initially enjoy their new life. But a demanding job and active social life—including an ill-fated lover affair—drain Yoko, and she is soon diagnosed with tuberculosis, which ...

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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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The Flower Girls (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Heartbreak of betrayal, Loss of innocence, Optimism – power or folly, Progress – real or illusion
  • Available

Short story by Lawson Fusao Inada. Two girls named Cherry and Rose—dubbed the "flower girls" by their teacher—become best friends as first and second graders in Portland, Oregon, just prior to World War II. They play at each other's houses after school and explore each other's neighborhood, though both agree that Cherry's—the Japantown area known as Shita Machi—is more interesting. But the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor drives a wedge between them, and Cherry and her family are soon sent away. While the girls exchange a few letters, they soon lose touch. Switching to the present, the narrator writes about a new Cherry and Rose, who meet to play in the Japanese garden of a Portland park.

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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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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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When the World Winds Down (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Isolation, Lost love
  • Limited availability

Short story by Sharon Hashimoto about a watch repairman who fixes a gold watch brought in by a young man who reminds him of his late brother. Fred Fujita is one of the last remaining Nisei businessmen in the old Japanese section of Seattle. Agreeing to fix the gold watch at the end of one day, he decides to work on it at home, observing that his late wife would have objected to his doing so. While working on the watch, he recalls his brother Jimmy—the night at Heart Mountain when the seventeen-year-old Jimmy tells him he is going to enlist, trying to talk him out of it, and receiving word that he is missing in action.

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Join Me in Laughter (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Motherhood, Optimism—power of folly, Wisdom of experience
  • Widely available

A grandmother tells her grandchildren about the meaning of life, while recalling episodes related to her confinement and return from Topaz. Apparently the same character as in the story "The Remembered Days," published a year earlier, she recalls her adult children leaving Topaz behind to move on with their lives, acts of both prejudice and kindness upon her return to California, and the end of the war, while encouraging an optimistic attitude towards life.

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And There Are Stories, There Are Stories (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Memoir
  • Coming of age, Coming of age, Power of the past, Self – inner and outer
  • Available

Prose poem memoir by Momoko Iko that traces her family's journey out of the concentration camps and her subsequent upbringing away from Japanese American communities on the West Coast. She begins with her birth in 1940 to Issei parents, her fleeting recollections of her family's incarceration, and life after the war, first in Philadelphia, then Chicago. Various stories centering on racism, racial identity, interracial relations, and the legacy of the camps in the 1950s and 1960s follow, tracing the narrator's journey to becoming a writer.

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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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Both Alike in Dignity (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Evils of racism, Reunion, War – glory, necessity, pain, tragedy, Wisdom of experience
  • Widely available

Short story by Chester Sakamoto about an elderly Holocaust survivor who mistakenly gets off the bus in Little Tokyo, where he meets an elderly Nisei man. One Sunday, on his weekly visit to a friend in Pasadena, Mr. Muncznik gets off the bus too early and ends up in Little Tokyo. Sitting to get his bearings, he finds himself next to a statue of a Japanese man. Friendly Mr. Sata stops and explains that it is a statue of Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat who risked his career and safety to help thousands of Jews escape Lithuania during the war. Conversation ensues about each man's wartime experience—Mr. Sata had lived in Little Tokyo before the war and had been sent with his family to Heart Mountain—revealing a startling coincidence.

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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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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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Doka B-100 (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Character – destruction, building up, Family – blessing or curse, Importance of community, Overcoming – fear, weakness, vice, Working class struggles
  • Widely available

Short story by Ernest Nagamatsu on the difficult adjustment to civilian life of a group of World War II veterans. Written in the first person voice of an ex-GI named Hamamoto in 1954, "Doka B-100" coveys both Hamamoto's alienation and the welcoming embrace of Little Tokyo Los Angeles. Estranged from his domineering father because of the way he left the service (despite serving heroically in the 442nd, he quit before his time was up) and his choice of social work as an occupation, Hamamoto's wife had decided to go back to her family in Chicago with their daughter to get away from the arguments. Finding a small apartment in Little Tokyo and a part time job in a diner, he finds a niche in starting to counsel the veterans who would gather in a Little Tokyo pool hall. That work eventually leads to a paying job with the Veterans Administration. ...

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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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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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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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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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Nasakenai (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Evils of racism, Facing reality, Will to survive, Working class struggles
  • Limited availability

Short story about an Issei couple in the San Francisco Bay area in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Both work as servants—the husband as a gardener and the wife as a maid—for prominent white families in a wealthy adjacent community and support three children at home, with a son in the army. After the attack, the husband goes to work and is assured by his employer that she will not fire him despite community pressure to do so. But the wife, who has worked for the family of a prominent lawyer for over a decade, is fired, since the lawyer represents a farming organization that supports anti-Japanese actions. An Issei gardener who works for the same family is also fired. Afterwards, the wife visits briefly with the family of the gardener and goes home to work on her garden, vowing that things will be okay.

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Shirley Temple, Hotcha-cha (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Displacement, Heartbreak of betrayal, Isolation, Wisdom of experience
  • Available

Short story by Wakako Yamauchi about a Nisei strandee couple and their difficulties both in wartime Japan and in the resettlement era U.S. Told in the first-person voice of Mie, the story begins in 1939 when Mie is seventeen. As was the case for a sizable minority of Nisei youth, she had been sent to Japan for her education, having arrived there three years prior. She attends a boarding school and spends holidays with the Kodamas, a wealthy childless couple who are family friends. On a holiday, she meets Jobo Endo, a fellow Nisei, who is in Japan attending college. Courtship ensues. Recognizing the difficulties they would face in Japan as the war heats up, Jobo suggests that Mie ask the Kodamas for money to return to the U.S. However, the Kodamas had hoped to marry off Mie to a grand nephew. Though they consent to Jobo and Mie getting ...

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