At least the Aiiieeeee! Boys have published books with their names on them. There’s no mistaking your reading a book by Chin, Chan, Inada or Wong. Stepping into a book by one of us is like stepping into my private Men’s room. You don’t have that book by Chin expecting to read about Britney, or Madonna, or Lisa Liu bragging about knowing nothing of Chinese children’s stories. True! The men’s room with my name on it, is in a White house. True the books come from White pockets. I’m grateful to be published. My ego bows to White generosity. But I’m bothered by the fact I’ve chosen to be a writer, of a people that have no publishers, no theaters...
A people has theater, and critics. Sessue Hayakawa took a job at “Toda” a Japanese theater company in Los Angeles, Little Tokyo run by a man named Toda. A people has magazines, movie stars, heroes, and Zippo lighters for making fire. No record of Toda. No reviews of Toda’s shows. THE LAST OF THE LINE, a William Ince film about Indians becoming drunks in the cities starring Sessue Hayakawa as a son of a chief that goes to the city and the worst happens. Hayakawa writes of being discovered by Ince at a performance of the HURRICANE at the Toda theater.
The Yellow magazine has yellow critics. Critics that know as much us, as we know about ourselves. We read each other and knew enough to detect a fake Chan, a fake Wong, a fake Inada a fake me. We were all you needed to know as long as we were the only AA writers.
Then Kingston said she learned THE BALLLAD OF MULAN as a child listening to her mother. Neither Chan, Inada, or Wong had said anything about Chinese or Japanese stories of our childhoods. Did we have childhoods?
If we call ourselves Chinese, or Japanese, as we do, and call ourselves American as we do, we should know the literary world of our people, we should know Chinese children’s stories and the national myth, in China’s case, the heroic tradition, the first novel of the Ming dynasty, ROMANCE OF THE THREE KINGDOMS, the expansion of THE BALLAD OF MULAN into a rather bloodthirsty five hour play ending with taking off her armor and emerging a luminous woman), the novels THE WATER MARGIN, MONKEY, and GENERAL YUE FEI, to match our knowledge of white culture and children’s literature.
These are the heroes of yesterday’s history and today’s comic books that define China, as King Arthur defines England, Washington defines The United States of America, Fidel defines the Cuban Revolution.
At least have enough of the stories to not be faked by Kingston’s keeping secret from her readers that Mulan was not really tattooed. The Chinese mothers fuming over Maxine writing that Mulan was tattooed by her parents used to be normal in Chinatowns. Parents give birth to perfect children. Unmarked skin. Uncut hair. Tattoos are the mark of a criminal. Why would parents want to mark their child a criminal?
You saw Shawn Wong in WHAT’S WRONG WITH FRANK CHIN? say that Kingston had gotten me, meaning my writing, perfectly. That she had rewritten the “Chinatown Dreamgirl” scene from CHICKENCOOP into her WOMAN WARRIOR and had me “down to a tee,” meaning my “style” not my misogynist “content.”
She characterizes her mother dancing through her childhood chanting the rhymes of THE BALLAD OF MULAN . By characterizing her childhood, she had made every Chinese-American …at least every Chinese –American writer responsible for the literature of the Chinese childhood. Specifically, to answer the question: Is Kingston’s Far Mulan real? Thirty five years ago nobody yellow could answer. In 2008, you can read the reviews of WWWFC? and see that nobody Yellow can answer that question today. A Kingston-like voice reads that she took the tattoos off of Yue Fei’s back, went back in time to 550 AD and put them Far Mulan, because it was the feminist thing to do, and no one Yellow notices. Kingston gave the interview in 1986 to Kay Bonnetti. Pres Bill Clinton gives her his Humanities Medal in 1997, making her mutilated Far Mulan the official US telling of the Chinese children’s story and history. The first intrusion of a head of state into the folklore, history, and literature of another culture. As much as the US hated Nazi Germany, the government never endorsed a rewrite of RUMPELSTILSKIN.
Usually the imitator is forgotten or at best becomes Rich Little in Vegas and the original given a lifetime of steak dinners and free booze. But ChineseAmericans and AAmericans are different.
That’s why the AIIIEEEEE! boys need Yellow critics. It’s not up to Chin, Chan, Inada and Wong to speak in defense of their own work. It’s up to the people. It’s up to the people to claim their heroes. When they claim their heroes they make their writers reputation. The people sing the song we wrote about the heroes. The people cheer the operas we wrote about their heroes. The people commissioned an artist to sculpt a bust, a statue, paint a portrait, perform an inspired work and donate the statue, the portrait, the work inspired by the hero, to the people’s park, or people’s museum, or shopping center.
Until then we are hitching a ride in the white man’s pocket.
There is no great writer without a great people. Art elevates the people. And the people elevate their art. If AAwriters are that great AA’s should have heroes with names that cross every yellow’s lips every day.
The heroes and the writers are in the market for a people we call ours. A people with publishers. A people with critics. A people with readers. If we have all that, I’m proud to say that the single most mentioned name in 20th century AsianAmerica was Mike Masaru Masaoka. And I’d like see JapaneseAmerica prove itself a people by mounting an opera telling his place in JA history. And in writing, music, and JapaneseAmerican voice the opera taking charge of JapaneseAmerican history.
I can imagine MOSES MASAOKA with Randy Kim with his trademark acting rubber likeness of Masaoka’s large lips and cheeks and a wig of Masaoka’s wavy hair as Mike Masaoka. Glasses. His Masaoka looks like Charlton Heston wearing glasses. And his Shakespearean voice. A little W.C. Field’s twang and he’s Masaoka at his most Moses.
Randy Kim as he was called before the N.Y. Shakespeare in the Park production of Pericles and his name bulked up to Randall Duk Kim, was the increasingly celebrated Yellow actor in New York from around 1970 on till the end of the century. He had done a couple of Steve Tesich’s plays, and couple of mine at the American Place Theater and Shakespeare’s PERICLES at Joe Papp’s Shakespeare in the park.
Famous for his voice, his Shaksepeare in Missouri, Randy shook his head at ever doing a movie or tv because “they’re a director’s media. The live theatre is the actor’s medium.” And he was an actor. He knows theatre history. The history of Shaespeare. The history of Shakespearean actors. He believes he is the reincarnation of Edwin Booth, the actor brother of Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth.
Imagine him as Masaoka, in MOSES MASAOKA. Kim’s Masaoka and Clyde Kusatsu as Bill Hosokawa. What did the JapaneseAmerica make of the apparent split between Sakamoto and Hosokawa? And what did they make of Hosokawa becoming Boswell to Moses Mike’s Dr. Johnson, from Heart Mounntain on to his death. It has to come from a JapaneseAmerican mind, a JapaneseAmerican writer. Perhaps a diabolical JapaneseAmerican writer could write the opera where Masaoka says, to Bill Hodsokawa, “Himmler sent pictures reports of Treblinka to American Intelligence and my friend and mentor senator Elbert Thomas, of Utah to my sight.”
“You’re not saying….”
“These are things I can’t talk about.”
A diabolical part JapaneseAmerican writer?
, Sen Elbert Thomas (played by George Washington), for advice.
“Because of December 7th, your future in politics is over. Read these.” The Senator might be written by the diabolical JapaneseAmerican as handing Masaoka State Dept files on what happened in Treblinka and Sobibor in 1939. “Taking over the JACL might be your only chance at eventually earning enough American trust to run for office.”
“I hoped to run for President of the United States in my lifetime.”
“Don’t worry White Americans are not the Nazis.”
“No, that’s not why…”
“If you were to lead the JACL with an official secret understanding with the government, like Jacob Gens, you realize that you would be as hated as he was by his own people.”
“A secret understanding?”
“Jacob Gens was the President of the Judenradt of Vilna Ghetto Lithuania. An organization similar to the JACL. ”
“The Field Executive of the JACL would secretly be, in reality, American?”
“The Judenradt posed as activists for Jewish civil rights in a Nazi ghetto.”
“A secret American, a secret agent, a secret G-Man,” Masaoka says.
“A secret American!” Bill Hosokawa says.
The Senator says, “ He gathered the names of those wanting to fight for their rights against the Nazis, and,” he snaps his fingers, “He turned them in. Unlike Gens, your Nazis are going to win this war.”
Bill Hosokawa points in the air, but says nothing.
The Senator continues, “Your organization will continue to exist under the wartime mandate: to drive the race to extinction.”
“The sociologists call it ‘assimilation,’” Masaoka says.
Bill says “assimilation” simultaneous with Mike’s story.
The good Senator says, “You would be leading your people to a better world.”
“I would lead my people to a better world, a better America!”
“Yes! You would be the Prophet that saved your people the wrath of the white race by voluntarily going extinct.”
“I would, wouldn’t I? I’d be Moses!”
“Mike, listen to me, Mike. I agree with you 100%,” Bill Hosokawa says. “But you can’t talk this way today.”
“But Greenwood, Oklahoma. I didn’t want the JACL mistaken for the NAACP,” Masaoka says.
“America’s changed what it says,” Hosokawa says.
“They burned Greenwood to the ground!”
“No one’s said they’ve changed what they believe.”
See Masaoka through Hosokawa’s admiring eyes to convince Randall Duk Kim that Masaoka is a role worthy of being explored by great actor’s great acting. The trick is to convince him he was chosen for his acting, and he was, and no one thinks for minute, not for a second that Randy’s anything like the thoroughly traitorous Masaoka.
Give a taste of Masaoksa:
Some of my friends and some who are not my friends, also call me Moses. Moses Masaoka. They say that like the Biblical prophet, I have led my people on a long journey through the wilderness of discrimination and travail. They say that I have led them within sight of the promised land justice for all and social and economic equality in our native America, but that we will not reach it within my lifetime.
Masaoka is larger than the life of the obvious craven self-interested slob Masaoka is, but Masaoka character of Shakespearean dimensions, because of the 110,000 Nisei that followed and trusted him. He led them to the promised camps. Can you blame him for not going in?
The US Gov’t gives Masaoka a people to lead, and right away, he betrays them. For their own good, Hosokawa says. The Japanese characteristic timidity, he explains. Once Masaoka has JA into camp, he betrays his people again by aksing they be drafted from camp. For his third betrayal he refuses JACL support to court cases to test the constitutionality of the Army’s orders, and turns against Yasui and Hirabayashi’s challenges. Next he joins the WRA in a questionnaire designed to trick the men into volunteering for the Army from camp. It fails. While he’s in the Headquarters of the 442nd in Europe, the JACL supports the gov reinstate the draft in all of its papers around the ten camps, and the gov reinstates the draft in 1944.
The JACL’s being FBI finks was the worst kept secret in in camp. After camp the fink rap kept the whiff of gov’t control swirling about everything the JACL did. As if to emphasize the point, Masaoka became successful as the JACL’s first Washington lobbyist. For years "The Japanese American Story," a Japanese American history by Bud Fukei, Minneapolis: Dillon Press. 1976 pp iv-xvii.
With Mike Masaoka guest writing the chapter titled "Why the Japanese Americans Cooperated," and Bill Hosokawa’s NISEI : THE QUIET AMERICANS , Boswell adoring Dr. Johnson were the first and for a long time the only Japanese American in the trade books. Being editors of respected papers. Fukei of the Seattle Times, Hosokawa of the Denver Post made them anonymous readers publishers use. But being Nisei readers of Nisei books compromised their anonymity.
He shepherded his people into extinction without a whimper without a sigh. He died a fat and happy quisling.
The Portland JACL brought me to town in 1979 to fulfill a promise I’d made to Dr. Jim Tsujimura, ophthomologist and Nat’l Pres (they love that title) of the JACL, in the plush soft leather of his new black Continental Mark V.
He wanted a Day of Remembrance to pair up with the Day he’d seen celebrated in Seattle over the last Thanksgiving Day weekend. Seattle had never done anything like it before and neither had Portland.
Both Portland and Seattle were the main feeders of the concentration camp at Minidoka, Idaho and Tule Lake. Califorinia. The fits of activism that took over a day in Seattle and Portland occurred because a number of Japanese Americans had read NO-NO BOY by John Okada. The combining of groups and individuals for the cause of redress, smacked of the combining of outlawed talented men and women to fight for their China against the Imperial gov on the inside, and the horsemen invaders from the outside.
In doing literary research into what makes John Okada’s NO-NO BOY great we had stumbled on the real history of Japanese from the newspapers of Okada’s hometown of Seattle into the camps. I handled the paper, the tools of the libraries to research to verify the facts, to separate fiction from fact. For a limited time we had access to the people, to everybody he knew, everybody real in his book, combined and created by John Okada. The greatness of NO-NO BOY does not rest on how well he imitates the favorite writer of the moment, or triple tongues the tropes pleasingly, alone, but on how well he manipulates the facts to his purposes. Whatever those purposes are. I don’t know what those purposes are, but I know they weren’t the same very plain purposes as the JACL. To aggrandize their wartime leader Mike Masaru Masaoka as the savior of the race! All the JACL publicity piped to bigshots was designed to make Masaoka famous.
Famous for leading the JA to volunteer for camp in 42, famous for being Volunteer No. 1 in 1943, famous for lying about themselves, their leader Mike Masaoka and the 442nd freeing the JAs’ from camp in 45.
Okada leads the reader to Akutsu to the editorials of James Omura, that encouraged the JA’s resisting the draft in the ten camps to stand on the Constitution. The vigilant Yasui who understood “Stand on the Constitution” as code for the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee stand on resisting the draft from camp and blew the whistle on Omura.
It was Omura’s journalism, his dissemination of the news from Heart Mountain in the Denver ROCKY SHIMPO to reach Noboru Taguma at Amache. Min Yasui interviewed Taguma for the FBI as he awaited trial for resisting the draft. Noboru’s son Kenji learns his laugh-all-the-time father was one of a group of Amache resisters who referred to themselves as Amache Indians and he turns his life in a new direction toward journalism. He is the editor of the San Francisco Nichi Bei. News of Amache reached Heart Mountain through the pages of the ROCKY. I learned of the existence of the organized resistance at Heart Mt from the front page of the ROCKY.
The discovery of the Heart Mountain Resistance, is the inevitable effect of reading John Okada’s NO-NO BOY, a novel, a fiction set in a real Minidoka and a real Seattle that reaches a climax at a real “Club Oriental” known in the world as the Wah Mee Club in Maynard Alley. And ends thirty pages later with Ichiro all smiles warmth and sunshine into the dark of night zooming into California.
We know more about Jim Akutsu, Okada’s model for the protagonist “Ichiro” than we know about Okada. We know that Okada went to Minidoka and volunteered out in 1943, he served in Military Intelligence, with frontline units in the island hopping campaign. He was always accompanied by a guard. He was to be shot dead rather than risk capture by the Japanese enemy. The only glimpse we have of his service in the elite of Nisei, M-ID the first to get shot no matter what. Good going Nisei! The preface on board a B-24 four engined bomber with a “blond giant.” An unidentified Nisei explains why he volunteered. “If they put me in camp, they could kiss my ass,” the white giant says. “I have my reasons.” The Nisei answers. We don’t know the missions he was on, his decorations, has arms qualifications, his rank because his family has never seen a photo of him in uniform.
Might the blond giant been Okada’s guard sanitized of his mission? Might the dialog be the key to the book? Questions better asked and answered by Sansei, or Yonsei, or Gosei. Better hurry. You’re below 100,000. Below 98,000. You’re down to 92,000 including Hawaii. You were 123,313, all mainlanders when the camps let you out 60 years ago. If you were chipmunks and had gone from 123, 313 to 92,000 you’d be declared a protected species.
But you’re not chipmunks.
I wonder if Akutsu told his story to John Okada exactly the same as I’ve heard him recite to people several times in several places.
I mentioned all the names that I’ve associated with Akutsu, first. Like Min Yasui the Portland curfew violator. I mentioned Min fikrst, then Akutsu told me he went to Min Yasui, after he was released to Minidoka for advice on his stupid idea of writing to the Japanese gov through the Spanish consul, to come and get him.
Frank Emi has a letter from Akutsu trying to sell his repatriation to Japan as strategy to resist the draft. The carbon copy of his answer says the FPC stands on the Constitution and get yourself a lawyer.
If Akutsu had told Okada about his trudge through the snow to Yasui’s barrack and his letter to the leader of the organized resistance at Heart Mountain, I have no doubt that Okada would included them in NO-NO BOY. Why did Akutsu leave out of his memory that Jimmie Omura at the ROCKY SHIMPO refused to forward Akutsu’s letter to Ht. Mt. Fearing a trap set by the FBI with the JACL help of Min Yasui of the Denver office of the JACL was about to snap. Min Yasui, a curfew resister in 1942 was a JACL shill and FBI fink in 1944. Omura came out with his LET US NOT BE RASH to distinguish between crazy tricky thinking draft resisters saying “repatriate me” and those whose resistance to being drafted from camp rests on constitutional grounds.
Had John Okada known about the ROCKY, and Omura’s Lone Ranger news and “Hi yo, Silver,” editorials coming through the mail every week, with news releases from Ht. Mt by the Emi bros. Had Okada known about the handsome, self-effacing, third degree black belt in Judo then, he’s sixth degree now, leader of the FPC in Heart Mountain. Okamamoto the leader of title, was being held at Tule Lake from 1944 on. The leader from the super hero cartoons of men. Superman. Batman. Nisei Man. Emi the man vs Project Director Robertson “May I have a transcript of the proceedings?” Emi vs the JACL’s Nobu Kawai in six weeks of dedbate in the Heart Mountain Sentinel.
Emi was tried as one of Okamoto, the six leaders of FPC and the accused a co-conspirator journalist James Omura of Denver versus the USA. He’s accused of talking people into resisting the draft. His strategy is to admit to the charge. No one asks the identity of the leader who forced the line “We won’t go” in their public bulletins. They knew Frank would admit it was him. In the course of the trial he only takes issue with Jack Nishimoto falsely testifying to having witnessed Frank Emi promising a young man, in the men’s room that the FPC would take care of the young man’s mother, if he’s sent to jail, for not appearing for his pre-induction physical.
Frank Emi and Okamoto’s FPC were convicted and Omura acquitted but socially and financially ruined. Then a fairy tale ending. The leaders of the FPC win an appeal. The draft resisters are pardoned by Pres Truman on Xmas Eve 1947.
THE GREAT JAPANESE AMERICAN NOVEL might be a version of NO-NO BOY written with the camp story JapaneseAmerica that completes what John Okada began.
But the author of the JA history now being taught “throughout the land” to use Masaoka’s prophetic words, is the JACL. No mention of Omura, the Rocky, Okamato, Emi, the FPC or the draft resistance.
James Omura saw his nemesis as JACL leader and Volunteer No. 1 and secret agent Jr. G-Man Mike Masaoka. On the field of publicity, in the world of white newspapers, and Japanese vernaculars, in wartime, Omura was the lone defender of freedom of the press - Omura was so obviously right in everything he published. The authoritative white histories of Japanese America admit what Masaoka did was probably illegal and his claims to freeing the Japanese from camp are wrong, but he was right to volunteer for camp because Americans are bigger and stronger than any little Jap. But Americans aren’t Nazis. You the JACL are the Nazis. You’ve done the white racist work to become more “American,” that’s why you keep your wartime name. The Nazi’s have changed their name. Is it arrogance, loyalty or stupidity that explains JACL’s refusal to repudiate their corrupt WWII leader Mike Masaoka. They admit, they boast that he led JapaneseAmerica into camp for good reasons. They admit that the JACL betrayed JA into camp.
Why hasn’t JapaneseAmerica taken charge of their own history and seen that James Omura’s best writing was bronzed by, dare I say it, a “grateful”people?
No wonder JapaneseAmerica’s going extinct. Before you go, I want you to know you had artists, strange sorts of person to be sure, who are so few, especially when
of person to be sure, who thought that what Okada led to, should be celebrated as the fruit of knowing how to read
compare to the number of books fiction and non fiction by Jews about their European camps that existed about the same time as the WRA camps in America, and ended at about the same time at the end of WWII.
In the 60 years since the close of camp there have been three JA works. Okada’s NO-NO BOY, A novel, Michi Weglyn’s book of bitchy gotchya fact and history YEARS OF INFAMY, Lawson Inada’s DRAWING THE LINE, a book of poetry, with title poem DRAWING THE LINE about a young architecture student, sketching Heart Mountain the volcano shaped like a heart from an angle not available to him in camp and the poem contemplates the young artist’s resistance to the draft.
The continued existence of the JACL might appear intimidating to some former internees, or the JACL might really intimidate JapaneseAmericans and control JapaneseAmerican publishing and that explains why JapaneseAmericans so few have written about or talked about camp.
There are two documentary films by JA’s on the JACL, the camps, James Omura and FPC. Emiko Omori’s RABBIT IN THE MOON and Frank Abe’s CONSCIENCE AND THE CONSTITUTION. Both aired on PBS. Both have close-ups of Frank Emi answering an interviewers questions. Both agree on basic facts. Both back way off from making a JA judgment about whose the good guy and whose the bad guy.
The JACL aren’t shy about whose good and whose the bad.
From Bill Hosokawa’s "JACL: In Quest of Justice" New York: William Morrow & Co., 1982.
JACL had in fact made considerable efforts to help some of the draft resisters. Joe Grant Masaoka and Min Yasui first met with Nisei from the Amache camp at Granada being held at the Federal Correctional Institution outside Denver. Yasui, who had gone to jail to challenge the curfew order as discriminatory, endorsed restoration of Selective Service because it ended discrimination. Next they visited Amache to talk with confused young men being pressured by activists to resist military service. Then they traveled to Cheyenne, Wyoming, to talk with some fifty imprisoned draft violators from the Heart Mountain camp. (To put the number of resisters in perspective, it is necessary to note that more than seven hundred men from Heart Mountain signed up for the draft and took their physical examinations. (p.273)
Hosokawa writes pure fiction here. No threatening activists at Amache. But Yasui talked to Noboro Taguma. Masaoka and Yasui spoke to six out of sixty three Heart Mountain draft resisters in Cheyenne, Ike Matsumoto and Yosh Kuromiya were interviewed by Min Yasui. Accounts of Taguma, Matsumoto verify each other form different camps. "Visit to Cheyenne County Jail with Japanese American Draft Delinquints. JACL Report to the FBI" April 28, 1944 authored by Yasui differs greatly.
The three non-JACL works proclaimed the existence of an honorable resistence in camp. Moses Mike responded in his last book, THEY CALL ME MOSES MASAOKA:
"Some historians, writing from the isolation of their ivory towers, have contended the draft resisters were the real heroes of the Japanese-American story because they had the courage to stand up for a principle. These historians are wrong! The significanse is in the relatively small number of dissidents in the face of gross injustice. The heroes are the men and their families who demonstrated their faith in America."
A 4th JapaneseAmerican work fights its way to currency from a fabled outskirt of Chicago. David Mura’s FAMOUS SUICIDES OF THE JAPANESE EMPIRE is about to be released. At least a part of the novel is set in Heart Mountain. It may have a set of facts that differ from everything known in the facts of Heart Mountain, and all the JapaneseAmerican fictions about Heart Mountain.
What survives of JapaneseAmerica has time to read and view dvd’s on tv and decide how much the facts Heart Mountain really mean to the reputation of a people that landed here five generations ago.
What if Mura’s book says, as fact An alien called FPC burst into the barrack and turned all internees into horny toads?
It will be JapaneseAmerican response that will make everyone’s reputation as spokesmen.