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The Legend of Miss Sasagawara (short story)

Creators: Hisaye Yamamoto

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 in a literary journal that seems to reveal the difficulties she faced as the daughter of a man seeking to reach a state of Nirvana.

The only published story by Yamamoto set in a World War II concentration camp, "The Legend of Miss Sasagawara" was one of her first to be published, appearing in the Kenyon Review , one of the country's most notable literary magazines, in 1950. In a 1987 interview, Yamamoto told Charles L. Crow that the story was based on a real person she had known at Poston . Though she had invented the fact that Miss Sasagawara was a poet, she later found out that her real life model had also written and published poetry prior to the war. The woman later passed away in a Los Angeles facility at age 58. [1] The story has since appeared in several anthologies and has been the subject of much scholarship centering on the psychological impact of the incarceration on Japanese Americans, on gossip in the camps, on Yamamoto's use of silence and submerged narratives, and on the experience of women in the camps, among other topics.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

Might also like " My Friend Suki " by Vera Arvey; " The Brothers Murata " by Toshio Mori; " The Sensei " by Wakako Yamauchi

Anthologies Including the Story

Amerasia Journal 3.2 (1976): 10–22.

Blicksilver, Edith. The Ethnic American Woman: Problems, Protests, Lifestyle . Dubuque, Iowa: Kendal/Hunt, 1978. 199–208.

Mirikitani, Janice, et al., eds. Ayumi: A Japanese American Anthology . San Francisco: Japanese American Anthology Committee, 1980. 161–71.

Yamamoto, Hisaye. Seventeen Syllables and Other Stories . Introduction by King-Kok Cheung. Latham, N.Y.: Kitchen Table Women of Color Press, 1988. 20–33.

Chan, Jeffrey Paul, Frank Chin, Lawson Fusao Inada, and Shawn Wong, eds. The Big Aiiieeeee!: An Anthology of Chinese American and Japanese American Literature . New York: Meridian, 1991. 339–52.

Rico, Barbara Roche, and Sandra Mano, compilers. American Mosaic: Multicultural Readings in Context . Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1995. 324–35.

Agosín, Marjorie, ed. A Map of Hope: Women's Writings on Human Rights: An International Literary Anthology . New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1999.

Inada, Lawson Fusao, ed. Only What We Could Carry: The Japanese American Internment Experience . Preface by Patricia Wakida. Afterword by William Hohri. Berkeley, Calif.: Heydey Books, 2000. 237–51.

Wu, Jean Yu-wen Shen, and Min Song, eds. Asian American Studies: A Reader . New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2000. 124–34.

Skerrett, Joseph T. Literature, Race, and Ethnicity: Contesting American Identities . New York: Longman, 2002.

Critical Analysis of Story

Cheung, King-Kok. Articulate Silences: Hisaye Yamamoto, Maxine Hong Kingston, Joy Kogawa . Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1993.

———. "Thrice Muted Tale: Interplay of Art and Politics in Hisaye Yamamoto's 'The Legend of Miss Sasagawara.'" MELUS 17.3 (1991-92): 109-25.

Chiu, Monica. "Japanese American Internment, National Pathology, and Intra-Racial Strife in Hisaye Yamamoto's 'The Legend of Miss Sasagawara.'" Notes on Contemporary Literature 39.2 (March 2009): 8–10.

Elliott, Matthew. "Sins of Omission: Hisaye Yamamoto's Vision of History." MELUS 34.1 (Spring 2009): 47–68.

Ghymn, Esther Mikyung. Images of Asian American Women by Asian American Writers . New York: Peter Lang, 1995.

Hebbar, Reshmi J. "Disorderly Thinking, Model Conduct: Ethnic Heroine Construction in Twentieth-Century African and Asian American Women's Fiction." Ph.D. dissertation, Emory University, 2002.

McDonald, Dorothy Ritsuko, and Katharine Newman. "Relocation and Dislocation: The Writings of Hisaye Yamamoto and Wakako Yamauchi." MELUS 7.3 (Fall 1980): 116-25.

Nishimura, Amy. "From Priestesses and Disciplines to Witches and Traitors: Internment of Japanese Women at Honouliuli and Narratives of 'Madwomen.'" Social Process in Hawai'i (2014): 199–216.

Pagni, Michelle Marie. "The Anatomy of an Anthology: How Society, Institutions and Politics Empower the Canon." Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Riverside, 1994.

Polster, Karen Lynnette. "Imagined Countries: Nationalism and Ethnicity in Twentieth-Century American Immigration Literature." Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Riverside, 2000.

Richardson, Susan Starr Bleyler. "Author and Audience Across Cultural Margins: Narrative Transactions Between Ethnic Writers and Outsider Readers." Ph.D. dissertation, The Ohio State University, 1994.

Rodríguez, Barbara. Autobiographical Inscriptions: Form, Personhood, and the American Woman Writer of Color . New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Shepard, M. Scott. "Daughters, Tricksters, and Ugly-Ducklings: Coming-of-Age Narratives of Japanese American Women Writers." Ph.D. dissertation, Bowling Green State University, 1997.

Simpson, Caroline Chung. An Absent Presence: Japanese Americans in Postwar American Culture, 1945-1960 . Durham: Duke University Press, 2001.

Yook, Sung Hee. "The Poetics of Trauma Narratives and Asian American Women Writers." Ph.D. dissertation, City University of New York, 2009.


  1. Charles L. Crow, "A MELUS Interview: Hisaye Yamamoto,” MELUS 14.1 (Spring 1987): 79–80.
Media Details
Author Hisaye Yamamoto
Publication Date 1950
For More Information

For More Information

Yamamoto, Hisaye. "The Legend of Miss Sasagawara." Kenyon Review 12.1 (1950): 99–115.