Mary Osaka, I Love You (short story)
Creators: John Fante
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.
As the story begins, it is December 1941 and Mingo Mateo, a 29-year-old Filipino immigrant dishwasher at the Yokohama Cafe in Los Angeles and Mary Osaka, the Nisei daughter of the cafe's proprietor, have fallen in love. When Mingo announces his love and his intention to marry Mary, the cook, Vincente Toletano, a fellow Filipino American, is angered that Mingo wants to marry a "Japanese girl" and quits on the spot in protest. When Mary's father, Segu Osaka, finds out, he hits the roof and threatens to call the police. Mingo runs off, later encountering Vincente and two friends at the Bataan Poolhall. Representing the Filipino Federated Brotherhood, they discuss Mingo's situation. While one, an ex-boxer, wants to punch Mingo, the other, a lawyer and community leader, vouches for Mingo and Mary's status as Americans and argues that discrimination against them would be wrong, giving blessing to the wedding and convincing the others. The ex-boxer even offers his car to Mingo to take Mary off to Las Vegas to get married. After a failed last ditch effort by Vincente to break up the romance by introducing Mingo to a Chinese American woman, Mingo and Mary arrange to meet later that night and do get married the next day, December 7. On their way back to Los Angeles, they learn of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Upon their return, Segu is agitated, but resigned to their marriage. He asks for Mingo's forgiveness for the Japanese attack and urges him to volunteer for the army to fight for America.
John Fante (1909–83), grew up in Colorado, the son of an Italian immigrant father and a second-generation Italian American mother, but migrated to California in 1930 to pursue a writing career. He supported himself by working as a laborer on the docks, in canneries, and as a restaurant busboy, often working alongside Mexican, Filipino, and Japanese Americans. He published his first story in 1932 in the American Mercury while still a busboy and over the next decade published many other short stories in that and other publications, as well as two novels. Nearly all of his fiction was autobiographical and featured a young Italian American man who aspired to write while navigating tensions over family dynamics, religion, and sex. He also became part of a group of left-leaning and pro-immigrant writers in Los Angeles that included Carey McWilliams, William Saroyan, Louis Adamic, and Carlos Bulosan. He later became a successful Hollywood screenwriter, scripting ten produced movies between 1940 and 1966 which brought a comfortable income that supported his family that came to include a wife and four children. The 1980s saw a resurgence of interest in Fante's early fiction, much of which was republished or brought to print for the first time. "Mary Osaka" appears in the 2000 anthology of Fante's short stories, The Big Hunger . 
Starting in the 1930s, Fante sought to write a novel about the Filipino American experience, having gotten to know many in his labors. The goal became more concrete after he met the Filipino American writer Carlos Bulosan in 1939, who introduced him to many people in the Filipino American community, and he even unsuccessfully sought a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship to study in the Philippines. Fante published the intended first chapter of the novel as the story "Helen, Thy Beauty Is To Me" in the Saturday Evening Post in 1941. Mary Osaka was intended to be its conclusion. According to historian Joseph A. Bernardo, "the story generated much acclaim and inspired more offers from publishers to sponsor his novel." However, Fante never did complete the project and dropped it mid-decade as his screenwriting career heated up. 
The Pacific Citizen printed an enthusiastic article about the story that summarizes its plot, noting that "Fante has lived in Los Angeles and known many Nisei there." 
- David Fine, "John Fante (8 April 1909–8 May 1983)", in American Short-Story Writers Since World War II , edited by Patrick Meanor, Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 130 (Detroit: Gale, 1993), 156–62; Matthew M. Briones, Jim and Jap Crow: A Cultural History of 1940s Interracial America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012), 96–97.
- Information on Fante's Filipino American project comes from Joseph A. Bernardo, "From 'Little Brown Brothers' to 'Forgotten Asian Americans': Race, Space, and Empire in Filipino Los Angeles" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Washington, 2014); quote from page 120; and Stephen Cooper's "Editor's Note" from The Big Hunger: Stories, 1932–1959 (Santa Rosa, Calif.: Black Sparrow Press, 2000), 312–14. What was to be the novel's second chapter appears in The Big Hunger as "Bus Ride."
- Pacific Citizen , Oct. 8, 1942, 4, accessed on Jan. 12, 2018 at http://ddr.densho.org/ddr-pc-14-18/ .
|Publication Date||October 1942|
For More Information
Fante, John "Mary Osaka, I Love You." Good Housekeeping , Oct. 1942, 40–41, 167–78. Reprinted in Rafu Shimpo , Dec. 21, 1982, 6+; John Fante, The Big Hunger: Stories, 1932–1959 , edited by Stephen Cooper (Santa Rosa, Calif.: Black Sparrow Press, 2000): 175–204.
Bernardo, Joseph A. "From 'Little Brown Brothers' to 'Forgotten Asian Americans': Race, Space, and Empire in Filipino Los Angeles." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Washington, 2014.
Briones, Matthew M. Jim and Jap Crow: A Cultural History of 1940s Interracial America . Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012.
Varzally, Allison. "Romantic Crossings: Making Love, Family, and Non-Whiteness in California, 1925–1950." Journal of American Ethnic History 23.1 (Fall 2003): 3–54.
———. Making a Non-White America: Californians Coloring Outside Ethnic Lines, 1925–1955 . Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.