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Browse > Theme > Family – blessing or curse

49 articles

Beacon Hill Boys (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 7-8, Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Grades 7-8
  • Young Adult, Historical Fiction
  • Coming of age, Convention and rebellion, Family – blessing or curse, Growing up – pain or pleasure, Identity crisis, Power of tradition
  • Available

Novel for young adults by Ken Mochizuki about a Sansei teenager's quest for identity and meaning in 1972 Seattle.

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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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Memories of Pop (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Family – blessing or curse, Forgiveness
  • No availability

Short story by Jiro Saito about a young college dropout Sansei returning home to San Diego for the funeral of his estranged father. Written in the first person voice of Mas Mayeda, it is set in around 1960. As the story begins, Mas gets a call from his sister Rose informing him of their father's death. Disowned by his father after dropping out of UC Berkeley's engineering program to become a writer, Mas had not seen the family in three years. Upon his return, Rose tells him that their father, though stubborn, indicated that he wanted Mas to return. Before the funeral, Mas sees old family photos that tell their story: his parents' wedding in 1927 (his Issei father married a Nisei woman from San Diego); a successful farm; his father becoming a community leader; his father's subsequent arrest after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the family's removal and ...

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Old Man River (play)

  • Plays
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Family – blessing or curse, Power of the past, Power of silence, Quest for discovery
  • Available

One-woman play about the playwright's search for the truth about her actor father's life story. Jerry Fujikawa was a successful Nisei actor after World War II who worked steadily in character roles in movies and television and who did well enough to own a home and put three children through college. But after his death in 1983, playwright and performer Cynthia Gates Fujikawa found a picture of her father with a woman who is not her mother and a little girl who looks like her, but is not. Old Man River documents her search for her father's history, in which his wartime incarceration at Manzanar and stint in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team play a key role.

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The Japanese Lover (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Everlasting love, Evils of racism, Circle of life, Family – blessing or curse, Immigrant experience
  • Widely available

Novel by best-selling Chilean American novelist Isabel Allende, the title character of which is a Nisei man whose story of wartime incarceration is woven into the narrative.

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The Sakai Family of Bainbridge Island (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Documentary
  • Family – blessing or curse, Importance of community, Necessity of work, Reunion, Role of women
  • Limited availability

Documentary film on the Sakai family, longtime residents of Bainbridge Island, Washington, based primarily on an interview with Kazuko "Kay" Sakei Nakao.

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An American Christmas (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Family – blessing or curse, Immigrant experience, Motherhood, Working class struggles
  • Available

Short story by Alice Nash centering on an elderly Issei woman in contemporary New York. As she struggles to carry a bag of rice home to her apartment, she reflects on her arrival in New York with her late husband after leaving the concentration camp and the kind Yamaguchi family who put them up while refusing to take money from them. They eventually opened a cleaning shop that helped pay for their only son's college education. A successful businessman in California, the son takes her on a trip every year, but largely keeps her away from her grandchildren due to his white wife's discomfort with her. When she gets back to her apartment, the family of the building's supervisor, the Gonzalez family, invites her to their home to help decorate their Christmas tree.

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Farewell to Manzanar (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Drama, History
  • Evils of racism, Family – blessing or curse, Growing up – pain or pleasure, Injustice, Patriotism – positive side or complications, Power of the past
  • Available

Made-for-television movie about a Japanese American family in Manzanar during World War II. Based on the book of the same name by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston, Farewell to Manzanar aired nationally on NBC stations on March 11, 1976, and remains one of the few mainstream dramatic films centered on the Japanese American concentration camp experience.

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The Floating World (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Coming of age, Family – blessing or curse, Female roles, Working class struggles, Growing up – pain or pleasure
  • Widely available

Acclaimed coming-of-age novel largely set on the road centering on Olivia Osaka and her itinerant family in the 1950s.

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Painting the Rainbow (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 3-5, Grades 7-8, Grades 9-12
  • Grades 3-5, Grades 7-8
  • Children's, Historical Fiction
  • Family – blessing or curse, Coming of age, Communication – verbal and nonverbal, Growing up – pain or pleasure
  • Widely available

Coming-of-age novel for young readers about two thirteen-year old cousins at a New England family summer retreat in 1965 who grapple with both their changing relationship and with the discovery of family secrets stemming from the World War II period that tangentially involve the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans.

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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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Why She Left Us (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Family – blessing or curse, Motherhood, Power of the past, Role of women
  • Widely available

A 1999 novel by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto that follows the Okada family from the 1920s to the 1990s and includes their incarceration at the Santa Anita Assembly Center and Amache as well as the experiences of two Nisei who serve in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The novel is structured as a series of vignettes told from the points of view of four characters. Why She Left Us was honored with an American Book Award in 2000.

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"Wase Time!": A Teen's Memoir of Gila River Internment Camp (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 7-8, Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Memoir
  • Family – blessing or curse, Importance of community, Role of men
  • Limited availability

First person memoir by Kenneth A. Tashiro of his and his family's forced removal and incarceration at the Gila River, Arizona, concentration camp. After a brief introduction that introduces Tashiro's family, the story begins on Pearl Harbor day when Kenneth—nicknamed "Iggy"—hears about the start of the war after exiting an Abbott and Costello movie. He and his family move from Los Angeles to Del Rey in an attempt to avoid incarceration, but they are eventually removed from Sanger to Gila in August of 1942. His father, Kenji Tashiro, is a journalist, who becomes the editor of the camp newspaper, before leaving to join the army at age 37. His mother, eight months pregnant at the time of the removal, stays behind for a time, rejoining the family later with the baby girl. Twelve when he entered the camp, Tashiro's perspective is purely that of an active teenager, so there is ...

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Come See the Paradise (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Drama, History, Romance
  • Everlasting love, Family – blessing or curse, Overcoming – fear, weakness, vice
  • Widely available

The content in this article is still under development. A completed version will appear soon!

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No-No Boy (play)

  • Plays
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Convention and rebellion, Family – blessing or curse, Heroism – real and perceived, Individual versus society, Role of men
  • No availability

2010 play by Ken Narasaki based on John Okada's classic 1957 novel. While the play largely followed the plot of the novel, the decision to change the ending to a "happy" one proved controversial.

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Act of Faith: The Rev. Emery Andrews Story (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Documentary
  • Circle of life, Family – blessing or curse, Heroism – real and perceived, Love and sacrifice
  • Widely available

Documentary film on Rev. Emery Andrews, a Baptist priest who went beyond the call of duty to aid Japanese Americans from Seattle incarcerated at the Minidoka, Idaho, concentration camp.

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Family Gathering (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Documentary
  • Family – blessing or curse, Power of the past, Quest for discovery, Self-awareness
  • Available

Documentary film by Lise Yasui that chronicles her exploration of her family's hidden history—especially that of her paternal grandfather, Masuo Yasui—through interviews and family home movies and photographs. One of the most acclaimed films about the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans, Family Gathering was nominated for an Academy Award in 1988.

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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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No-No Boy (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Convention and rebellion, Family – blessing or curse, Heroism – real and perceived, Individual versus society, Patriotism – positive side or complications
  • Widely available

In 1956, Nisei writer John Okada wrote No-No Boy, a novel that explored the predicament of a Japanese American World War II conscientious objector, having served time in prison for refusing to serve in the military, who returns home only to face the consequences of his decision. Upon arriving in his former neighborhood, he is met with hostility and despair. He discovers that his mother delusionally believes that Japan has won the war, and his younger brother—ashamed of Ichiro's decision to refuse the draft—abruptly quits high school to join the army himself. In the course of the novel, Ichiro's inner conflict grows to reflect the racial tension and residual anguish following the war and his individual guilt represents the conflict of the country at large.

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Sideways: Memoir of a Misfit (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Memoir
  • Coming of age, Convention and rebellion, Family – blessing or curse, Overcoming – fear, weakness, vice
  • Available

Memoir of a young Nisei woman who was born in the Minidoka, Idaho, concentration camp. The story focuses on her often strained relationships with her parents, grandparents, and eight siblings in 1950s Chicago.

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Seki-nin (Duty Bound) (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Convention and rebellion, Displacement, Facing darkness, Family – blessing or curse, Power of tradition
  • Available

Novel by George Nakagawa about a Nisei stranded in Japan during World War II.

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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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Who's Going to Pay for These Donuts, Anyway? (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Documentary
  • Family – blessing or curse, Power of the past, Wisdom of experience
  • Available

Experimental documentary film by Janice Tanaka that centers on her finding and reuniting with a father and an uncle—one diagnosed as mentally ill and the other conventionally successful—neither of whom she had seen since childhood.

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When You're Smiling: The Deadly Legacy of Internment (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Documentary
  • Family – blessing or curse, Growing up – pain or pleasure, Identity crisis, Power of the past
  • Available

Autobiographical film by Janice D. Tanaka about growing up Sansei in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s amidst parental silence about their wartime incarceration. It was one of several films about aspects of the incarceration funded by the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund.

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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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