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Browse > Media Type > Short Stories

80 articles

Home in the West (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Evils of racism, Individual versus society, Injustice, Loss of innocence, Totalitarianism
  • Widely available

Short story recounting the return to California by Hirosho Yugi and his wife after their incarceration at Heart Mountain . His initial happiness is dulled when a group of neighbors try to force him out, first by burning down a shed and throwing rocks through windows, then by the burning down of their house. The day after their house is torched, they receive a telegram informing them of the death of their son in combat in Italy.

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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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A Piece of Cake (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Female roles, Importance of community, Role of women
  • Limited availability

Short story by Yachiyo Uehara that recalls friendships made while in a concentration camp. In the 1980s, a Nisei woman named Fumi is making a roast when she notices a story about a Heart Mountain reunion in the newspaper. The article triggers memories of her two years at Heart Mountain forty years prior, in particular her work as a waitress in the Block 17 mess hall. A city girl from San Francisco, she is at first treated as an outsider by fellow workers who mostly hailed from rural areas. But through her hard work and skill in the Japanese language, she wins them over, in particular the group's de facto leader, Mrs. Shirota. The story climaxes with a visit to the Shirotas' family barrack, where Mrs. Shirota has secured the rare treat of a manju (rice and sweet bean pastry) that the chefs had managed to concoct. Fumi is particularly …

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Alice and the Bear (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 7-8, Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Companionship as salvation, Desire to escape, Growing up – pain or pleasure, Power of the past
  • Widely available

Short story by Kiyoshi Parker about an old woman whose trip to a Little Tokyo store with her great-granddaughter brings back memories of her camp experience. Alice Miyamoto visits Little Tokyo in Los Angeles for the first time in thirty years with her family. After lunch, her daughter suggests they go visit the Go For Broke Monument . But on the way, her four-year-old great-granddaughter drags her into a store and picks up a stuffed Totoro toy. Alice is immediately reminded of a stuffed bear she had as a child of about the same age that was her constant companion when she was in an unspecified concentration camp.

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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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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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Uncle Yozo (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 7-8, Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Memoir
  • Disillusionment and dreams, Importance of community, Optimism – power or folly
  • No availability

Comical story by Ted Tajima about an Issei man at an unspecified concentration camp who enlivens the first Christmas in camp by elaborately playing Santa. A regular contributor of stories to the Rafu Shimpo holiday edition, Tajima taught at Alhambra High for 35 years and led their acclaimed journalism program.

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Snapshot, 1944 (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Power of silence, Power of the past, Wisdom of experience
  • Limited availability

Short story by David Mas Masumoto told in the first person voice of a Sansei young adult reflecting on the meaning of an old snapshot of his father's family taken at Gila River in 1944. The occasion is the funeral of his Uncle George, killed as an American soldier in the war . In the photo, the narrator's grandfather holds a flag and his grandmother holds a picture of George, while his father and aunts and uncles stand uneasily to the side. The narrator writes in turn about the postwar fates of his grandfather, who died before he was born; his grandmother, who lives with the family, but suffers from dementia; and his father, who struggled to buy a farm after the war and now grows raisins and other crops on eighty acres. Each in his her own way remains as silent to the narrator as in the photograph.

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The Service Flags (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Evils of racism, Heroism—real and perceived, Individual versus society, Loss of innocence, Self-reliance
  • Widely available

Short story by Bill Hosokawa about the first days of resettlement of a young mother and her nine-year-old son. Helen Yamano and her son Jamie arrive in an unspecified city, and she hangs two flags, one for her brother who had been killed, presumably as an Military Intelligence Service linguist, and one for her husband, who is serving in Europe in the 442nd . Her first days on the job are difficult, as one of her co-workers makes trouble for her. Jamie is called a "Jap" by one of the boys on his first day of school. Helen tells him that like his father, he needs to fight to be accepted, and the next day he does.

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The Legacy of a Cemetery (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Memoir
  • Reunion, Wisdom of experience
  • Limited availability

First person reflections on a trip back to his hometown of Los Angeles by a man who had settled in New Jersey after leaving the Jerome , Arkansas, concentration camps some thirty years earlier. A visit to Evergreen Cemetery east of downtown Los Angeles brings back memories of his forced removal in 1942, remembrances of Nisei soldiers he knew who are buried there, and memories of his deceased family members.

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Kubota (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Memoir
  • Power of silence, Wisdom of experience
  • Available

Short story/essay centering on the author's maternal grandfather, whom everyone called by his last name, Kubota. A Kibei from Hawai'i, Kubota had graduated high school in Hiroshima before returning to become a successful shopkeeper and community leader—as well as an avid fisherman—on Ō'ahu's North Shore prior to the war. Arrested by the FBI on the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Kubota was one of the relatively fortunate ones, having been taken to Honolulu for questioning, but released after just a few days. Years later, Kubota lives with the author's family in Gardena, California, and repeatedly tells the teenager his World War II story, urging him not to forget it and to be his chronicler. The author is puzzled to find that other Japanese Americans not only didn't care to hear this story but were very reluctant to talk about their wartime exclusion and incarceration. After his grandfather's death, …

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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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O Furo (The Bath) (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Beauty of simplicity, Fulfillment, Nature as beauty
  • Available

Short story by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston about an elderly woman in an unspecified American concentration camp during the World War II. Yuki, a seventy-three year old widow, lives with her grandson, Dixon, a separate barracks room away from the rest of the family. When the falling snow reminds her of Japan, she prevails on Dixon to help her build a Japanese style furo , which they accomplish using scrap lumber and a discarded metal drum. Sitting in the tub, she reflects contentedly on her life.

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Time of Decay (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Desire to escape, Family—blessing or curse, Loneliness as destructive force, Losing hope
  • Widely available

Short story by Ferris Takahashi of an Issei woman whose family puts her in a cold nursing home against her will at the end of her life. Told from the perspective of the woman, she recalls her forced removal and incarceration in unspecified concentration camps and other episodes in her life.

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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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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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Otoko (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Disillusionment and dreams, Growing up – pain or pleasure, Immigrant experience, Loss of innocence, Role of men, Vulnerability of the meek
  • Widely available

Short story by Wakako Yamauchi centering on a Nisei brother and sister who recall their father and their family's prewar and wartime hardships while listening to Japanese folksongs. On the longest day of the year one summer, Kiyo visits his sister, the narrator, bringing a record of Japanese children's songs. The act of listening to the songs triggers memories of their early years. Once relatively prosperous, their fortunes turn dire quickly when their father loses his job. He becomes a tenant farmer, but can't make enough to support the family. Kiyo recalls a time when he went with his father to visit a friend, Kiyo thinks, to ask to borrow money. The narrator recalls working as a "school girl" with a white family for a few months, returning to find her family living in a tent, her little sister's teeth rotting, and her father suffering from a stomach ailment. Later, …

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An Abandoned Pot of Rice (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Memoir
  • Displacement, Immigrant experience, Importance of community, Progress – real or illusion
  • No availability

Short essay by Hisaye Yamamoto DeSoto about the Kumamoto-mura community near Oceanside, California, where her family lived just prior to World War II. The pleasant reminiscences of life there are tempered by recollections of the chaos after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the events leading up to the forced removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast. The title of the story comes from the narrator's recollection of making a pot of rice intending to make rice balls on the day of their forced departure, but forgetting about it, leaving the full pot behind. Years later, she returns to the site of the community, which subsequently became a large military base which for a time housed tens of thousands of Southeast Asian refugees. Noting the similarities with the concentration camps she and her family were in, she observes that this group was the third group of Asians to …

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Mackerel Sky (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Memoir
  • Communication – verbal and nonverbal, Immigrant experience, Will to survive, Working class struggles
  • No availability

Short story by Jeff Matsuda in which a young Sansei man recalls various stories about his Issei grandfather: visiting him and his grandmother when he was a child; recreating the old man talking about his youth in Japan and his early years as a laborer in the U.S.; and visiting him with his mother when he was in college, and his grandfather was a nearly deaf old man. In the process, the narrator recalls his grandfather's internment: as a fisherman on Terminal Island , he was arrested a week after Pearl Harbor and sent to Bismarck and then to an unspecified camp in New Mexico, while the rest of his immediate family spent the war years in Japan.

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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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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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Sushi (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 7-8, Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Loss of innocence, Power of the past, Coming of age
  • Limited availability

Short story by Rei Noguchi about a young Japanese American girl who learns about the wartime incarceration from an Issei woman neighbor. It is a cold New Year's Eve in Dover, New Jersey, and Maya Okano has been dispatched by her parents to return a plate to a woman they call Grandmother Okamoto. The older woman, who is making sushi for New Year's, is happy to see the girl and serves her tea. Maya tells Grandmother Okamoto that she doesn't like sushi or Japanese food in general, preferring "American" food. Grandmother Okamoto sends Maya into the bedroom to fetch a can of nori from the dresser; when she does, she sees a little shrine on the dresser and the photograph of a young man in military uniform in front of barracks. When Maya asks, Grandmother Okamoto tells her about her son, who was killed fighting (presumably in the 442nd Regimental …

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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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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 …

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The Day After Today (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Facing reality, Losing hope
  • Widely available

Very short story by Toshio Mori (called "A Sketch") about an Issei man at Topaz who worries about what will happen to him and his wife when they are forced to leave the camp, since they have no children to help support them. He envies neighbors who have resettled children they can stay with in the Midwest and East. Published in the Pacific Citizen in February of 1945, the story captured the anxiety many Japanese Americans felt with news that the concentration camps would be closing by the end of the year.

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