The historical story of the Japanese American incarceration during World War II is still not well-known in mainstream American culture and literature. When it comes to books, there are only a handful that are based on JAs’ wartime experience. The 1994 novel Snow Falling on Cedars is the most familiar to non-JA audiences (in large part because of the 1999 Oscar-nominated Hollywood film version).
Now, we can add to this short list The Little Exile by Jeanette Arakawa, a first-time author who couches her memoir in a fictionalized novel.
The fiction framing serves the story well, and gives Arakawa the creative freedom of shaping the narrative and dialogue for a sweeping, epic look at her family’s history that starts in pre-war San Francisco and ends as her family returns to the Bay Area after the war, upon leaving the Rohwer concentration camp in Arkansas. Yet, that history is told in exquisite vignettes, as if she’s savoring one memory at a time, turning them over like a Rubik’s Cube in her mind and then lining up the colors before moving on to the next memory.
That may be because Arakawa, who was a child when she and her family were incarcerated, didn’t start out planning to write a book about her experience.
She had been writing, but not fiction. “I was pretty good with grammar and I could write essays. I never wrote for pleasure, so to speak.”
Her introduction to writing about being Japanese American came for a contest. “(The) Hokubei Mainichi (newspaper) had a essay contest. I saw a car that had no license plate but said ‘Pearl Harbor survivor,’ and I had a reaction and ducked under the dashboard.” So she explored her feelings about Dec. 7, 1941.
“I wrote this thing and called it ‘Pearl Harbor Survivor’ and in the process of writing it I added the background of the camp experience. That was like the first time something I wrote was published. I think I won second place or something.”
After her husband retired, the couple began traveling. “I started writing stories about our trips. I would pass them out to my friends. So I thought I would polish up my writing skills.”
She lives near Stanford so she signed up for a continuing ed program for writing skills. “The instructor wanted us to write something about an unusual life experience. I wrote something about camps.”
“The instructor asked, ‘did this really happen?’”
The writing teacher’s parents were professors, and he had gone to school in Little Rock, Arkansas, the state where Arakawa’s family was imprisoned during WWII. But this was the first time he had heard about camps. “He got so upset and said ‘you have to write this in a book,’” he counseled. “That was like 15 years ago.”
“I never faced discrimination in the neighborhood of recent immigrants where I was born. Further, by birthright, I have always thought of myself an American, just like most of my friends who were also born of immigrant parents. (This was demonstrated when I tried to correct my taunters in my new neighborhood. (Page 40 in the book.) I didn’t feel I wasn’t American, I felt that others didn’t regard me as such.
“That started with our move out of our immigrant neighborhood and reinforced by the treatment we received during the war. I believe my work with textbooks was fueled by my strong sense of identity, although severely challenged by internment, to ultimately prevail as an adult.”
Arakawa recounts the years in concentration camps, but unlike other books about the JA experience, she continues the story into the year she spent in Denver, before her family decided to return to the West Coast.
“We stopped in St. Louis on the way to Denver,” Arakawa says. “It was a shock to no longer see nothing but Asian faces. It was like we had come to a foreign country or something.”
As an adult, she became part of the Bay Area’s JA community, and was asked to speak to schools about her experiences.
In the late ’60s and ’70s she was elected to the position of Palo Alto PTA Council Human Relations Chair, and organized a task force for evaluating textbooks for a diverse perspective. She co-authored a handbook on evaluating books for multicultural content.
“One of reasons we aren’t seen as Americans is because we don’t appear in textbooks,” she says. “Our committee went to Sacramento and we had this clause added to the education code that all books be evaluated for multicultural perspective.”
That perspective — being open to all people — drives the narrative of Little Exile.
And, makes it a terrific addition to the JA library.
AARP is proud to announce the winners of its 2nd Asian American and Pacific Islander Community Hero Awards that were created to acknowledge the hard-working staff and volunteers of non-profit organizations serving AAPIs age 50-plus.
We received 61 nominations from around the country including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, and Washington, DC.
The stellar submissions included executive directors, staff, and volunteers who work in healthcare, housing, social services, education, and media. Ten finalists were selected by AARP; the winners were chosen by AARP AAPI Facebook visitors.
These three AARP Asian American and Pacific Islander Community Hero Award winners and their organizations will each receive a $1,000 cash prize:
Dilafroz Nargis Ahmed
Desi Senior Center Director
Glen Oaks, N.Y.
Dilafroz Nargis Ahmed has helped new immigrants in the Bangladeshi community in Queens, New York for three decades. At Desi senior center India Home, Ahmed works to improve the quality of life of vulnerable South Asian seniors in a culturally appropriate environment. Since 2014, Ahmed has strived to make India Home a comfortable place for immigrant seniors to come together, adjust to living in a new country, and build community. Ahmed also helps Bangladeshi older adults access services and find jobs.
(Photo by Jacques-Jean Tiziou/www.jjtiziou.net)
South East Asian Mutual Assistance Associations Coalition
Shongchai Hang has been dedicated to serving Southeast Asian refugee and immigrant elders for more than 30 years. For the past 11 years, Hang has worked as SEAMAAC’s Lao Outreach Worker to help diverse low-income communities in Philadelphia. At weekly Elders Gatherings, he plays an integral role in building bridges between elders from diverse communities. He helps community members to see their own leadership potential, by recruiting and supporting Lao elders to serve on SEAMAAC’s Elders Council. Hang also helps seniors apply for social services and navigate the health care system. Hang’s ability to speak Lao, Hmong, Thai, and English allows him to serve a diverse groups of seniors.
Founder and President Emeritus
Pan-American Concerned Citizens Action League (PACCAL)
Jersey City, N.J.
Linda Mayo has served the local Filipino & Asian American community for more than 30 years. In 1992, Mayo found PACCAL, the first organization in Jersey City to address the health and human service needs of Filipinos and other Asians with a focus on senior citizen and veterans programs. It holds the distinction of being the only Asian Provider Agency recognized by the Hudson County Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Office on Aging. PACCAL is a multi-service organization that organizes social and recreational activities for seniors, assists seniors and veterans apply successfully for affordable housing, coordinates citizenship and voter registrations, helps victims of domestic violence, and holds education, art and cultural workshops.
“Congratulations to Dilafroz, Shongchai, Sharon, and Linda for their exemplary contributions and dedication to our seniors,” said Daphne Kwok, AARP Vice President of Multicultural Leadership, Asian American and Pacific Islander Audience Strategy. “They are unsung heroes who every day are improving the lives of seniors and their families. They devote their time, talents, and passion to making a difference not only to the elders and their families but to the greater community. AARP commends all of our 2017 Heroes and all of those who were nominated for inspiring each and every one of us.”
Congratulations once again to our 2017 AAPI Heroes, and to their organizations!
Congratulations to the Finalists in AARP’s 2nd Annual AAPI Hero Awards Contest! We wanted to hear about the hard-working staff and volunteers who bring their passion and energy to non-profit organizations that serve AAPIs who are 50-plus. We were looking for the people who are the heart and soul of their organizations, not just the founders, CEOs and executive directors.
We received 61 nominations, and the judges were impressed by every nominee. After much deliberation, we chose 10 outstanding finalists and have posted them on a Facebook photo gallery, where YOU can vote and decide on our winners.
We will award three Heroes from these finalists with $1,000 for them and another $1,000 for each of their non-profit organizations!
Here’s how it works: You’ll be able to cast your vote for your favorite finalist. Read their biographies and the descriptions of their non-profit organizations. And then vote with your “Likes,” “Shares” and “Comments” for the Finalists you think deserve to be named our three Heroes.
Each Like will count as one point, each Share will count as two, and Comments will count for three points.
If you know people who are not on Facebook who want to cast a vote, they can email firstname.lastname@example.org to vote for their favorite Hero. (NOTE: Each email vote will only be counted once, and please do not vote both on Facebook and with an email.)
Deadline for voting is Friday, July 14, 11:59 pm ET. The finalists with the top three scores will be named Heroes.
This year’s AAPI Hero Finalists and their organizations are: Dilafroz Nargis Ahmed, India Home, Inc., Glen Oaks, NY; Adrienne Dillard, Kula no na Po’e Hawaii, Honolulu, HI; Shongchai Hang, South East Asian Mutual Assistance Associations Coalition, Inc., Philadelphia, PA; Sharon Hartz, Korean American Association of Greater Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA; Hyeyoung Kim, Center for Pan Asian Community Services, Atlanta, GA;
Linda Mayo, Pan-American Concerned Citizens Action League Inc. (PACCAL), Jersey City, NJ; Jane Ka’alakahikina Pang, Pacific Islander Health Partnership, Santa Ana, CA; Nor-Oghan Mimi Saito, Asian Pacific Development Center, Aurora, CO; Tracy Wu, Chinese Community Center, Houston, TX; and Dale Yamada, Asian Community Center of Sacramento Valley, Sacramento, CA.
You can read each finalist’s biographies and learn about their organizations on the Facebook photo gallery. Congratulations and good luck to them all!
Helen Zia, photo by Jason Jem (courtesy of Helen Zia)
On the night of June 19, 1982, 27-year-old Vincent Chin was celebrating his bachelor’s party with friends in a Detroit strip club. He got into an altercation with two white men, and both groups were thrown out. The two men tracked down Chin with the help of a third man and brutally beat him with a baseball bat.
Their reason? They had been laid off from their auto industry jobs and blamed Japanese cars, which were at the time overtaking American models in popularity. They thought Chin was Japanese. He was Chinese American.
Vincent Chin was left in a coma and died four days later, on June 23 — a few days before his scheduled wedding. The two men from the club (one of them was the killer while the other held Chin) were charged with second-degree murder but the charge was reduced to manslaughter and neither served any jail time. They were ordered to three years probation and to pay $3,000 in fines.
A young Asian American journalist, Helen Zia, reported on the murder, then led the efforts to bring federal civil rights charges against the men. In the end, the accused murderers settled a civil suit out of court. Ronald Ebens, the man who beat Chin, was ordered to pay $1.5 million, but Chin’s estate has never received any payment.
It was national news when it happened, but it’s faded from memory for most people. Today, if the tragedy of Vincent Chin’s death is remembered, it’s in part because of the reporting and subsequent writings of Helen Zia, whose book Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People, published in 2000, chronicled the rallying of the AAPI community in the wake of Chin’s murder and also the rise of the community’s consciousness through subsequent racial tensions across the US.
This week Zia, who now lives in San Francisco and is the executor of Chin’s estate (his mother Lily Chin died in 2002), is returning to Detroit for a commemoration of Vincent Chin’s death.
In an interview, Zia, who’s since written a book with Wen Ho Lee, the scientist at Los Alamos who was wrongfully accused of espionage for China, and served as executive editor of Ms. Magazine from 1989-1992, is typically modest about the impact of Asian American Dreams.
When asked how she feels about the book being a gateway for a generation of young AAPIs’ social justice activism, she says softly, “I don’t think that’s for me to say. I feel like I was part of a generation of Asian Americans coming of age of our community.
“We were part of a group that had a critical mass of numbers and saw the voice we could have together,” she adds. “I was able to write about that and chronicle that.”
Helen Zia speaking at a Vincent Chin rally (courtesy of Helen Zia)
Chin’s murder was one spark for the community’s coalescing, but it wasn’t the sole inspiration for the book, she says. “It was definitely part of a whole feeling that I had, that our stories were not being told. The way I imagined it was that little balloons would pop up occasionally involving an Asian American then it would pop and disappear. We were blips. It was striking that we were not considered newsworthy at all, that we weren’t part of the community.”
“Vincent Chin was one of many stories and I saw it from the street level,” she says. “I had to tell it just to get it out myself, it was so distressing.”
Thanks in part to Zia’s efforts, there’s more awareness of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have a bigger presence in the media today. “There are more Asian Americans in the news occasionally. We should be now — we’re approaching 6% of the American population. But much of the news looks at Asian Americans as invaders still, untrustworthy….”
She acknowledges that Chin’s legacy today is a wider awareness of hate crimes. “The case opened up civil rights law, broadened it to cover immigrants. I credit that debate and decision to lead to where we are now, with hate crimes laws. I can’t even count the number of organizations now that are watchdogs for hate crimes.”
“Vincent Chin was killed in a national climate of extreme rhetoric against Japanese or anyone who happened to look Japanese,” she notes. “But his death led to the expansion of the justice coalition to include Asian Americans. To say we are all human beings and deserve to be treated with full human dignity.”
Have you ever asked yourself these questions, “What’s the best mobile app to use or the best device to purchase for achieving your everyday goals?” “How can I use technology to stay connected to family and friends, search for jobs,manage my homes, care for loved ones and learn a new skill?” Most of us have. To help with answers, AARP is hosting a free Online Technology Fair, Thursday, June 8 from 1PM to 6PM EST. You can register now to learn about the latest technologies for your daily life without feeling overwhelmed.
The fair will focus on utilizing technology to prioritize and simplify your life, finding work and connecting caregivers to loved ones, fellow caregivers and find local resources. You will find interactive videos and games, plus live webinars and video chats featuring industry experts. You can get your questions answered by representatives from about two dozen non-profit organizations and government agencies that include American Institute for Cancer Research, Consumer Technology Association, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Volunteer Match and Next Avenue, to name a few.
By now, we probably all use technology to achieve and engage in most of our life activities. Through the use of our smart phones, computers, and now smart cars and smart homes, there is always something new being created to make our lives simpler. To hear more about this and others, representatives from AARP Driver Safety will discuss the latest in smart vehicle technologies, and AARP Fraud Watch Network will discuss how to stay safe online. In addition, Dean Reistad of HelloTech will talk about how to simplify your life by using smart home automation, and author Jason Rich will discuss how companion robots, technology-controlled pill boxes, and other gadgets can enhance your life.
Using technology to find a job is now common practice. If you are job hunting you are probably using one or more online job boards. For this event, AARP work & jobs expert Kerry Hannon, Tom Ogletree of General Assembly, and other knowledgeable staff will talk about how to better use technology to boost your skills, stand out in your field or transition into a new career. You will also learn about how the AARP Job Board and the AARP’s Employer Pledge Program can help you find relevant jobs for your skills and experiences. They will share information about AARP’s job seeking resources that range from how to prepare your resume to preparing for the interview. You’ll even learn more about teleworking – from how to find a job that allows you to work from home, to how you can stay connected as you work from home.
Now that caregiving has now stepped into the world of technology, apps and gadgets can help you stay connected to your loved one as well as a network of other caregivers. We know caregiving takes a village to provide relief, moral support and help with identifying needed resources. Attend to hear about AARP’s Caregiving Resource Center and Caregivers in the Community (CINC) app that will help you prepare to care and connect to local resources and fellow caregivers.
Register now for the AARP’s free Online Technology Fair and participate from the comfort of your home or office. Take advantage of the myriad of tools and resources offered and discover surprising tricks and shortcuts that can help you from dawn to dusk. Can’t make the live event? Register and you can view the event on demand.
AARP helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for and equips Americans 50 and older to live their best lives. Discover all the ways AARP can help you, your family and your community at AARP.
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Have you thought about turning your passion and something that serves others into an opportunity that could pay the bills? Perhaps you sold lemonade, made homemade desserts or sold candy when you were a kid. At that time, you were probably nurturing your entrepreneurial spirit. Many small-business owners will agree that when you’re passionate about what you do, it does not feel like work; you’re just doing what you were placed on this earth to do.
On Tuesday, April 18, at 7 p.m. ET, AARP will host From Passion to Profit, which will explore the journeys of three inspiring owners of Alan Michaels Design, Woofies, and the NailSaloon. All three took a leap of faith and left the corporate world to pursue their passions, ultimately reaping a nice profit. This panel of entrepreneurs will be moderated by renowned musician, Marcus Johnson, owner of FLO Wine and a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) award winner. The SBA will also discuss available resources for entreprenuers. REGISTER NOW to hear these inspiring stories from the entrepreneurs who created these businesses:
Alan Michaels Design. After returning from a trip to Kowloon, China, where he was introduced to clothing and tailoring, and eventually leaving his day job of overseeing a minority business program with the NFL, fashion aficionado Michael Humphrey decided to “chase” his passion to become a full-time men’s custom clothier and shoe designer. In 2005, he launched Alan Michaels Designs, located in Ashburn, VA, to not only sell menswear but educate men on identifying their personal sartorial style. Humphrey, who’s always had a desire to “stand-out and be seen,” helps men, through his fashion passion, build their self-confidence. Working in an industry that’s largely underrepresented by minorities, particularly African Americans, he networks through Custom Tailors and Designers Association (CTDA) to influence men of color who have an appetite and interest in the industry.
Woofies. Inspired by their passion and love for dogs, business owners Amy Reed and Leslie Barron left their corporate careers to establish a pet-sitting and dog-walking service. Being pet owners themselves, they knew firsthand the need to make sure their pets were in the best hands at all times when they were away from home or while traveling. As a result, Reed and Barron were frequently called upon to help care for others pets while the owners were away. Due to a high volume of demand, in 2004 they made the leap, and the business grew in a short seven years. Woofies, now includes Pet Taxi, Overnight Care, Bed and Biscuit and mobile grooming services.
NailSaloon. Rated one of the best nail salons on this side of the Mississippi and located in the Georgetown section of Washington, DC, two friends ditched their corporate jobs to open a nail salon. After discussions over a cocktail and writing down ideas on napkins and envelopes, the NailSaloon was born. They envisioned what the shop would look like and the customer experience. They knew they wanted a place where friends, new and old, could talk and relax. They also donate 3% of their daily profit to charity. Andrea Vieira and Claudia Diamante are having a great time helping their customers feel special.
Want to hear more about how each of these owners got started? REGISTER NOW! Can’t attend this webinar? Register and a link will be sent to you when the webinar is complete.
Thinking of starting a business? Check out www.aarp.org/startabusiness to see if starting a business is right for you.
AARP helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for and equips Americans 50 and older to live their best lives. Discover all the ways AARP can help you, your family and your community and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.
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