Plays and Biographies

Japanese American Resource Library



Asian American Women Playwrights Archive, Roberta Uno/New World Theatre (1997)
Catalog listing of items in the Uno Asian American Women Playwrights
Archive housed at UMASS Amherst.

Fish Head Soup and Other Plays, Philip Kan Gotanda 1991)
Exploring the relationship among the Issei (first generation), Nisei (second generation), and Sansei (third generation), Gotanda has crafted four powerful and sensitive dramas. Japanese American family life is at the heart of the plays, from elder traditionalists and Nisei still troubled by the message of the wartime camps, to women seeking new roles and brash youth seizing opportunities in a larger society.


Beyond Loyalty: The Story of a Kibei M. Kiyota, trans. by L. Keenan (1997)
The powerful and inspiring story of a young man whose life and education were rudely disrupted by the US government’s imprisonment of Japanese Americans during WWII. A high school student when interned in 1942, Minoru Kiyota was so infuriated by his treatment during an FBI interrogation and by the denial of his request to leave the camp to pursue his education that he refused to affirm his loyalty as required of all internees. For this he was sent to Tule Lake Segregation Center in northern CA–a holding pen for “dangerous” and “disloyal” individuals. While imprisoned there under deplorable conditions, Kiyota learned of a new law offering Japanese Americans the opportunity to renounce their US citizenship. Although barely old enough to do so, Kiyota took this drastic step. Throughout his four long years of incarceration, he refused to resign himself to injustices. His story shares the fury and frustration aroused by gross violations of his rights as a US citizen and shows how the painful years of internment determined the course of his life.

Citizen 13660, Mine Okubo (1983)
Mine Okubo was one of 110,000 people of Japanese descent who were rounded up into “protective custody” shortly after Pearl Harbor. This is a poignantly written and beautifully illustrated memoir of her life in two relocation centers.

Foo: A Japanese American Prisoner of the Rising Sun, Univ. of N. Texas Press (1993)
The secret prison diary of Frank ‘Foo’ Fujita, one of two Japanese Americans to have been a prisoner of war of the Japanese.

The Kikuchi Diary: Chronicle from an American Concentration Camp, the Tanforan Journals of Charles Kikuchi, Charles Kikuchi and edited by J. Modell (1993)
“How can we fight fascism,” wrote Charles Kikuchi in June 1942, “if we allow its doctrines to become a part of government policies?” Kikuchi is one of the American-born majority of more than 100,000 Japanese Americans who were placed in “relocation centers” in 1942.

Manzanar Martyr: An Interview with Harry Y. Ueno, S. Embrey, A. Hansen and B. Mitson (1986)
The story of a hard working, law-abiding California citizen who, shortly after Pearl Harbor, found himself and his family incarcerated in a hastily constructed concentration camp called Manzanar. Employed as a cook in a camp mess hall, Ueno suspected that certain War Relocation Authority personnel were diverting rationed foodstuffs from the internee population for their own profit. Ueno organized the Manzanar Mess Hall Workers’ Union and reported the incriminating findings of a union-inspired investigation to the FBI. When, on the evening of 12/5/42, the accommodationist Nisei head of the Manzanar Work corps was beaten by some masked internees, Ueno was arrested as a suspect by camp authorities and removed to a nearby town jail. This action set in motion a series of events culminating in a confrontation between internees and military police. When the dust cleared on the Manzanar Riot, as it has come to be known, one internee was dead, another was dying, and 10 more were wounded. Although never formally accused nor granted a hearing, Ueno was deemed a “trouble-maker” and spent the remaining years of WWII in various jails, stockades, isolation camps, and segregation centers.

A Matter of Honor: A Mémoir James M. Hanley (1995)
The story of James M. Hanley’s early life and military career, particularly his years as one of the senior commanders of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in WWII and the conflict in Korea in the fifties. More than that, it is the story of the brave Japanese American (Nisei) soldiers who volunteered for military service following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor – despite the widespread distrust of anyone of Japanese ancestry and the fact that they and their families were incarcerated in concentration camps. This book reveals a deep understanding of this wartime tragedy and a warm sensitivity and empathy to the Nisei who served under Colonel Hanley’s command with distinction and valor.

Noguchi East and West, Dore Ashton (1992)
The life of Japanese American sculptor and designer Isamu Noguchi was an unending spiritual and physical voyage between the two cultures of his birthright. This book maps the events of his life and the milestone of his art.

Morning Glory, Evening Shadow: Yamato Ichihashi and His Internment Writings, 1942-1945, Edited by Gordon H. Chang (1997) Yamato Ichihashi, a Stanford University professor was one of the first academics of Asian ancestry in the US. Through his writings, the book presents a comprehensive first-person account of internment life. Chang explores Ichihashi’s personal life and intellectual work until his forced departure from Stanford, examining his career, publications, and experiences in American academia in the early 20th century. He also related Ichihashi’s involvement in international conferences, including the 1922 Disarmament Conference, an involvement with later consequences. Chang closes the book with an epilogue about the Ichihashis’ lives after the war.

Promises Kept: The Life of an Issei Man Akemi Kikumura (1991)
The wife and children of the author’s father, Saburo, recall different parts of his
past and the inner turmoil that beset him much of his life. Though his gambling habit, WWII, and incarceration in a concentration camp threaten to split the family apart, Saburo vows that his teachings and beliefs would help the family survive. They were promises kept.

The Red Angel, Vivian McGuckin Raineri (1991)
The life and times of Elaine Black Yoneda, 1906-1988.

Through Harsh Winters: The Life of a Japanese Immigrant Woman Akemi Kikumura (1981)
The moving story of the author’s mother, whose spirit and courage enabled her to triumph over hardship, loneliness, and despair familiar to all immigrants.

Visas for Life, Yukiko Sugihara (1993)
The story of Chiune Sugihara, one of the most important rescuers of Jews during WWII. Because of his bravery, an estimated 40,000 descendants of refugees he saved are alive today. In 1939, Sugihara was sent by the Japanese government to Lithuania to open a consulate. When the Nazis invaded Poland, a wave of Jewish refugees fled eastward into Lithuania with chilling tales of German atrocities. Thousands of Polish Jews converged on the Japanese consulate, begging Sugihara for transit visas to escape Poland. Sugihara wired his government in Tokyo three times for permission to issue visas. He was denied each time. Sugihara consulted his family, who voted unanimously to help the refugees. Stating later that he had answered to a higher power than his government, Sugihara issued the visa, saving more than 6,000 lives. After the war, the Sugihara family was imprisoned for a year and a half in a Soviet internment camp in Romania. When they returned to Japan in 1947 the Japanese government unceremoniously dismissed Mr. Sugihara from the diplomatic service. Once a rising star in the foreign service, he was forced to seek part-time employment and eventually became manager for an export company. Sugihara died in 1986,
virtually unrecognized for his heroic actions. Yukiko Sugihara has written a moving account of the decision to issue the visas. Through her, we can witness events that preceded those in Lithuania, and the difficult years that followed.

When Justice Failed: The Fred Korematsu Story, Steven A. Chin (1993)
After the Japanese Navy attacks Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the US and Japan are at war, for over 100,000 Japanese Americans the war brings special tragedy. One and all, they are rounded up by the US Army and imprisoned in internment camps. Fred Korematsu challenges his arrest and the treatment of other Japanese Americans during the war.