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The Japanese in America (book)

Creators: Noel L. Leathers

Overview book for children on the history of Japanese Americans from the 1860s to the 1990s. First published in 1967 as one of the first books for children on Japanese Americans, it saw revised versions in 1974 and 1991.

The 1967 version of the book consisted of six chapters, the first three mostly focusing on the prewar years and the next two on the World War II years—equally on the forced removal and incarceration and on Japanese American military service—with the last on Japanese Americans in Hawai'i. The second and last chapters include lengthy sections on successful Japanese Americans, ranging from artists, athletes, and scholars to political leaders. The core of the 1991 version is the same as earlier versions but arranged somewhat differently, consisting of just four chapters: "Japanese Immigration to America," "An American Way of Life" (on Japanese American communities, occupations, and picture brides), "Prejudice and War," and "Contributions to American Life." The third chapter, which is much longer than the others, covers everything from the anti-Japanese Movement to the events of World War II, and going all the way to the Redress Movement . The final chapter consists of an expanded version of the profiles of successful Japanese Americans from a variety of fields. The book is illustrated with photographs. The Japanese in America is part of the "In America Series," all of which focus on specific American ethnic groups.

Author Noel L. Leathers (1923–2013) was an academic historian who taught mostly at the Universities of Toledo and Akron. A native of Ohio, he was a Marine interpreter in the Pacific during World War II and an FBI agent in Los Angeles and Washington, DC, and a high school history teacher after the war before turning to academia.

For the most part, the 1991 version of The Japanese in America is historically accurate, containing only minor errors. These include a claim that the Japanese American population in Hawai'i was 48 percent in 1920 (page 19; the actual figure was 42 percent); that Japanese language newspapers before the war were "mostly based in California" (22; two of the largest were in Honolulu and there were also significant papers in New York, Seattle, Portland, Denver, and Salt Lake City); that the "California legislature enacted an even stricter Alien Land Law in 1920" (28; that stricter land law was a ballot initiative voted on directly by California voters); and that Japanese Americans were forced out "with less than 48 hours' notice" (33–34; only those removed from Terminal Island received such short notice; others were given about a week). The text also refers to Japanese Americans from Hawai'i as "Hawaiians," a term that is now correctly only used to refer to those of native Hawaiian ancestry. Two photo caption contain more serious errors. A photograph of President Ronald Reagan signing the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 into law refers to Japanese Americans such as Daniel Inouye and Norman Mineta as "Japanese legislators" (47), and a picture of the Santa Anita racetrack claims "served as a temporary school for interned Japanese-Americans schoolchildren" without mentioning that that school was inside a prison camp (60).

A 1975 annotated bibliography gives the 1967 edition a rating of 6 out of 10, citing it as promoting "the 'success' element of the 'Oriental' stereotype." [1]

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

Might also like The Invisible Thread by Yoshiko Uchida; Journey to Topaz by Yoshiko Uchida; Fred Korematsu Speaks Up by Laura Atkins and Stan Yogi


  1. A Bibliography of Asian and Asian American Books for Elementary School Youngsters , Washington Office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Olympia, January, 1975, 34.
Media Details
Author Noel L. Leathers
Pages 72 (1967 version)/64 (1991 version)
Publication Date 1967