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Browse > Theme > Role of women

30 articles

A Bridge Between Us (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Fiction
  • Coming of age, Role of women
  • Widely available

Critically acclaimed 1995 novel by Julie Shigekuni that is both a multi-generational family saga about a Japanese American family in San Francisco and a coming-of-age novel centered on a fifth-generation Japanese American woman growing up in a four generation household. The story—which includes the family's incarceration at Heart Mountain —is told from the perspectives of four women of different generations who live together in the family home in San Francisco.

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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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And Then a Rainbow (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Memoir
  • Evils of racism, Role of women, Will to survive, Working class struggles
  • Limited availability

Memoir by a Nisei woman who renounces her citizenship at Tule Lake and lives in Japan for thirteen years before returning to the U.S.

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The Ito Sisters (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Documentary
  • Evils of racism, Family – blessing or curse, Immigrant experience, Role of women
  • No availability

Documentary on three Nisei sisters from Central California who lived to see their beiju (88th birthday) celebration, exploring their lives to the end of World War II.

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Words, Weavings and Songs (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Documentary
  • Role of women, Expression through art, Power of the past
  • Widely available

2002 documentary film profiling three Nisei women who drew on their experiences as teenagers in American concentration camps to pursue different types of creative expression both in camp and afterwards. The three artists featured are writer, playwright, and painter Wakako Yamauchi , weaver Momo Nagano , and singer Mary Nomura . A project of the Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center at the Japanese American National Museum , Words, Weavings & Songs was produced and directed by John Esaki and was funded in part by a grant from the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program .

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Hyakunen no monogatari (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Drama
  • Love and sacrifice, Role of women
  • Available

Japanese television drama—whose English title is 100 Years —that follows the fortunes of four generations of women over the course of the twentieth century. The three-part drama first aired in Japan on TBS on August 28 to 30, 2000, and was subsequently shown on Japanese language TV stations in the United States. The first segment begins in 1920 and ends in the late 1930s, the second begins in 1949 and covers the early postwar years, and the third takes place in 2000. Each segment stars Nanako Matsushima, who plays Aya Togura, born in 1901 in the first segment, her daughter in the second, and her great-granddaughter in the third. The second segment includes two major Japanese American characters, both of whom were incarcerated in American concentration camps.

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Issei: The First Generation (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Documentary
  • Role of women, Wisdom of experience
  • Available

Documentary film featuring interviews with Issei who speak in Japanese about their lives. Filmed in 1983 and shown on television in the San Francisco Bay area in 1984, the film remained largely unseen for the next thirty years until it was restored and reissued in 2013. It remains one of the only films to feature Issei voices on the wartime removal and incarceration and on Japanese American history in general.

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The Magic of Ordinary Days (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Drama, Romance
  • Beauty of simplicity, Love and sacrifice, Role of women
  • Available

Made-for-television movie under the Hallmark Hall of Fame banner about the arranged marriage of an educated urban woman carrying an illegitimate child and a kindly farmer. The film includes a subplot about a friendship between the woman and two Japanese American sisters from Amache who are among the farmworkers.

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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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A Girl Like You (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Coming of age, Evils of racism, Family – blessing or curse, Importance of community, Motherhood, Quest for discovery, Role of women
  • Available

Coming-of-age novel by Maureen Lindley that takes place largely in Manzanar and whose protagonist is a mixed-race Sansei girl.

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My Name Is Yoshiko (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 7-8, Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Memoir
  • Names – power and significance, Optimism – power or folly, Role of women, Working class struggles
  • Available

Memoir of an ordinary Nisei woman that includes her wartime incarceration in American concentration camps. Yoshiko Kawaguchi (born in 1921) was the eldest daughter in a farm family in Downey, California. After attending sewing school, World War II hits and the family ends up in the horse stalls of Santa Anita , then in the Rohwer , Arkansas, concentration camp. Resettling in Michigan, she eventually gets a job at a fancy restaurant. She meets and marries a Nisei from Kaua'i and settles in Chicago, where her sisters and parents also eventually settle. Her husband becomes a mail carrier, and they adopt a girl. Later, they move to back to Downey and retire in Kaua'i.

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After the Bloom (book)

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

Novel by Japanese Canadian author Leslie Shimotakahara about the sudden disappearance of a Nisei woman in Toronto and her Sansei daughter's search for her and her own past.

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Ruth Asawa: Of Forms and Growth (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Documentary
  • Expression through art, Nature as beauty, Role of women
  • Available

Documentary profile of Nisei artist Ruth Asawa produced and directed by Robert Snyder. Of Forms and Growth includes footage of Asawa at home, in her garden and at work, and features the artist talking about her artistic influences and techniques. In particular, she highlights the influence of artists Joseph Albers and Buckminster Fuller, and the film includes footage of Asawa and Fuller. She goes on to talk about the various media she has worked with, including ink and oil paintings, wire and paper sculptures, and sculptures made from baker's clay. The film also explores Asawa's community work, particularly in establishing art programs in schools as well as a community arts festival. Photographer Imogen Cunningham talks about photographing Asawa and her family and about Asawa's marriage to Albert Lanier. Asawa's early life—including her wartime incarceration—is covered only briefly, and her later work that is influenced by Japanese American history is not …

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Nurse of Manzanar: A Japanese American's World War II Journey (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Non Fiction, Memoir
  • Displacement, Facing reality, Importance of community, Overcoming - fear, weakness, vice, Role of women
  • Available

Edited diary of Toshiko Eto Nakamura (1910–94), a nurse who volunteered to work at the hospital in Manzanar during World War II.

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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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Why is Preparing Fish a Political Act? (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Documentary, Biography
  • Convention and rebellion, Loss of innocence, Power of silence, Power of words, Role of women, Self-awareness
  • Available

Short documentary film by Russell Leong that profiles Sansei poet Janice Mirikitani . Mirikitani reads several of her poems (from the collections Awake in the River and Shedding Silence ) and talks about her grandmother's resourcefulness; her rejection of her Asian heritage as a young college student and her first husband and daughter; the impact of the Asian American Movement; and her involvement with Gilde Memorial Church and her second husband Cecil Williams. In the final segment of the film, Mirikitani talks about the impact of the Japanese American incarceration on her family and on the community as a whole and reads the poem "We, the Dangerous."

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Dusty Exile: Looking Back at Japanese Relocation during World War II (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Memoir
  • Evils of racism, Role of women, Progress – real or illusion
  • Available

Memoir of the forced removal and incarceration and its aftermath by a sympathetic white schoolteacher at Poston .

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Silver Like Dust (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Memoir
  • Evils of racism, Family – blessing or curse, Power of the past, Role of women
  • Widely available

Memoir published in 2011 centering on the author's grandmother, who slowly tells the author the story of her life and incarceration at Heart Mountain , over the course of several visits with the author. Her grandmother's detailed narrative from the perspective of a young woman of twenty when the war breaks out—the happy childhood in Los Angeles, the shock of war and forced removal, meeting her husband at the Pomona Assembly Center , marrying in camp, and having her first child there, before resettling in Seabrook Farms , New Jersey—is contrasted with the author's vastly different life as a contemporary young woman of roughly the same age when she begins the project. Having grown up in Pennsylvania, apart from her grandmother in Florida, the visits also allow the two women to really get to know each other for the first time. The book includes various brief historical snippets that provide …

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Fumiko Hayashida: The Woman Behind the Symbol (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Documentary
  • Injustice, Role of women, Power of the past
  • Available

A 2009 short documentary film about Fumiko Hayashida, a pregnant mother of two who was one of 227 members of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American community who were forced from their homes in March 1942. Hayashida—or at least her image—became immortalized in a photograph taken of her holding her young daughter. First appearing the Seattle Post-Intelligencer , the photograph became one of the iconic images of the roundup. Providing both a biographical portrait of Hayashida and telling the larger story of Bainbridge Island, the film also shows the then 97-year-old Hayashida revisiting the site of the former Minidoka concentration camp in Idaho.

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We the People: A Story of Internment in America (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Memoir
  • Evils of racism, Importance of community, Overcoming – fear, weakness, vice, Patriotism – positive side or complications, Role of women
  • Available

Memoir of Florin, California-based Nisei educator and activist Mary Tsukamoto co-authored by Elizabeth Pinkerton and published in 1987 when Tsukamoto was seventy-two. Though the book covers her entire life, well over half of it focuses on her and her family's wartime confinement, their resettlement in the Midwest, and eventual return to California.

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Mitsuye and Nellie: Asian American Poets (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Documentary
  • Expression through art, Female roles, Power of words, Role of women
  • Available

One of the earliest documentaries to broach the topic of Japanese American wartime incarceration, Mitsuye and Nellie profiles Asian American poets Mitsuye Yamada and Nellie Wong, showing them reading their poetry, meeting their family and visiting the Minidoka and Angel Island sites.

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Garden of Stones (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Role of women, Motherhood, Temporary nature of physical beauty, Power of the past, Facing darkness
  • Widely available

Popular novel by Sophie Littlefield centering on three generations of Japanese American women whose lives are dramatically shaped by the wartime incarceration of the elder two at Manzanar .

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Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 3-5, Grades 7-8
  • Grades 3-5
  • Children's, Historical Fiction
  • Coming of age, Displacement, Evils of racism, Role of women
  • Widely available

Children's novel aimed at ages 8 to 11 by Sandra Dallas centering on the wartime incarceration experience of the Itano family at the Tallgrass, Colorado, camp, featuring as its protagonist twelve year old Tomi Itano. The book is a sequel of sorts to Dallas' adult novel, Tallgrass (2007).

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Gambling Den (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Coming of age, Disillusionment and dreams, Immigrant experience, Loss of innocence, Role of women, Temptation and destruction
  • No availability

Short story by Akemi Kikumura about a Japanese American family in Lodi, California, on the eve of World War II. Told in the first person voice of fifteen-year-old Peggy Tanaka, the story begins with the Tanaka family's fateful purchase of a restaurant in 1941. The restaurant soon becomes a success as migrant workers are drawn to both Mrs. Tanaka's cooking and the beauty of Ann, Peggy's eighteen-year-old sister. Mr. Tanaka's decision to open a gambling den in back further adds to profits, despite Mrs. Tanaka's disapproval and the necessary kick-backs to a corrupt local policeman. But the Tanakas' lives are soon to be complicated by Ann's romance with a young man of burakumin (Japanese outcaste) origin, a conniving neighbor, and the impending roundup of Japanese Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

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Out of Infamy: Michi Nishiura Weglyn (film)

  • Films and Video
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Documentary
  • Injustice, Role of women
  • Available

Documentary film profile of Michi Nishiura Weglyn , a Nisei former costume designer and Gila River inmate who wrote the landmark history of the Japanese American exclusion and incarceration, Years of Infamy . The seventeen-minute film, written, produced and directed by Nancy Kapitanoff and Sharon Yamato, includes footage of The Perry Como Show , which Weglyn designed for and also served as a recurring on camera character on, as well as interviews with Weglyn and those who knew her. The film and an associated website were funded in part by grants from the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program . Out of Infamy was screened at several film festivals and community events and won a special jury mention at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival.

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