On June 19, 1868 a ship sailed into Honolulu harbor carrying 148 Japanese men, women and children. Contract laborers brought in to work American-owned Hawaiian sugar plantations, these were the first of over 300,000 immigrants from Japan who settled mostly in Hawaii and California between 1868 and 1924. Their American descendants today number over 750,000 and live in every state. Japanese Americans have played an important and largely unrecognized role in American history. Japanese American History is the first encyclopedic reference work documenting their story. The lack of an accurate historical interpretation of their experience has resulted in depictions of Japanese Americans that range from the blatantly racist ("yellow peril") to the patronizing ("model minority"). Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, other Americans became unwilling to distinguish them from the enemy, and as a result more than 120,000 Japanese Americans were forcibly removed from their homes to concentration camps - a mass internment that lasted three years. Only in the last 20 years has a more complete story begun to emerge. A new generation of scholars has focused on the experience of the Japanese Americans themselves. Using Japanese-language sources, oral histories and other previously neglected material, these scholars have illuminated the world of issei labor leaders, nisei soldiers, nikkei women writers and many others. Achievements and contributions by individuals in virtually every field are noted here. Japanese American History brings this material together for the first time, in an accessible and comprehensive reference format. There are four sections: a chronology of major events in JapaneseAmerican history in historical context; more than 400 A-to-Z entries on significant individuals, organizations, events and movements; a thorough bibliography including all major works on Japanese Americans; and an illuminating historical overview by Professor Gary Okihiro, a dist
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Japanese Americans are called the "model minority," but the harsh reality of the struggles of the early Japanse immigrants, the issei, just to own land or to obtain U.S. citizenship is an epic in itself. The contributions of Japanese Americans in all areas of life are varied and important, but unfortunately, very few of us know this history. Japanese American History is designed "to reflect the current state of knowledge in the field of Japanese American studies." Of use to the general reader and the researcher, the book is divided into three parts: an overview of Japanese American history, an 800-item chronology, and the encyclopedia. A pronunciation guide, a list of acronyms, a bibliography, and an index complete the work.
The introduction outlines a few rules: words in small capitals have a corresponding entry in the encyclopedia, names are presented given name first in Western order, long-vowel symbols are omitted, and Japanese terms or expressions are defined or translated parenthetically.
The overview, "The Japanese in America" by Gary Y. Okihiro, covers four phases, from early migrants to Hawaii in 1865 to the present. This excellent coverage of the Japanese American experience would be of value by itself.
The chronology gives a brief bibliographic citation to a printed source of information for each major event in Japanese American history. At the end of the chronology is a list with full bibliographic information for these sources. Also included are general events, such as Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic and the Spanish American War, to put the other events in context.
The encyclopedia section provides entries on events, people, organizations, locations, and terms. Most of the entries have a list of further reading. Many of the resources are primary sources. Entries written by researchers other than compiler are signed with that individual's name. See references are used to direct readers to related topics. The entries range from a short paragraph defining a term to a full-page essay on an important topic such as Endo, Ex Parte, a major legal case brought to show that Japanese Americans did not deserve to be interned during World War II.
The entries range from names most people would recognize, such as S. I. Hayakawa, to such less well known figures as Bob H. Suzuki, first American-born Japanese American to become president of a university.
The legal blocks that were set up by anti-Japanese factions are covered in depth in the entries Alien Land Laws and Anti-Japanese Movement. Japanese culture is represented in entries about sports and in the entry Sanba (Japanese American midwives). Literature, theater, and art are also included.
The definitive tragedy of the Japanese Americans, their internment during World War II, is covered in depth in all three sections of this work. Many of the individuals involved, the laws that were upheld by the Supreme Court, and the final admission of guilt in the redressing of this injustice are easily discernible themes.
Eighty black-and-white illustrations add interest to the book. The work ends with a basic library of 100 books and journal articles on Japanese Americans. The titles range from academic to popular with full bibliographic citations and brief annotations.
Japanese American History, an informative survey of Japanese Americans covered from their point of view, is a recommended purchase for academic, public, and high school libraries.From Library Journal:
Published in conjunction with the opening of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, this encyclopedia is intended for a general audience. The contributors make extensive use of oral history and anecdotes in telling their stories. What distinguishes this work is the detailed telling of significant events from the Japanese perspective. The work is divided into three parts: a brief historical overview, a chronology, and an encyclopedia covering people, organizations, and events pertinent to Japanese Americans. The volume also includes 80 black-and-white illustrations from the museum archives (not seen), a list of acronyms, and a pronunciation guide. Entries in the encyclopedia section range from a few paragraphs for individuals to several pages for events or organizations, such as the much-decorated 442nd Regimental Combat Team of World War II fame. For students and interested readers, this is a useful guide to an important American ethnic group. Highly recommended for academic and public libraries with strong reader interest in this area.
- Robert Andrews, Duluth P.L., Minn.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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