Category Archives: Japanese American

Dust of Eden by Mariko Nagai

Dust of EdenPlease correct me if I’m wrong here: The Japanese American imprisonment has been the focus of many, many titles for audiences of all ages, via fiction, non-fiction, poetry, short stories, plays, graphic titles, picture books, and more, but I believe Mariko Nagai‘s Dust of Eden is the first novel in verse on the subject. Again, please enlighten me otherwise …

Mina Masako Tagawa, 13, lives in Seattle with her journalist father, her homemaker mother, her rose breeder grandfather, and her track star older brother Nick. Her cat is named Basho, her best friend is Jamie. Until December 7, 1941, Mina is an ordinary American girl, and then suddenly she is reduced to a “Jap“: “We are not Americans, the eyes tell us. / We do not belong, the mouths curl up. / We are the enemy aliens, the Japs.”

Mina and her family are among the 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent taken from their homes and imprisoned during World War II. First Mina’s father is arrested without cause. After President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066, the family is given a week to gather their belongings. They are initially “evacuated” to the horse stalls of Camp Harmony in Puyallup, 30 miles south of Seattle, until they are shuttled away by cattle train to the remote dust fields of Minidoka Relocation Center in Idaho. “We held our breath for three / years. We did not have anything to call / our own …”

Those three years bring separation, isolation, devastation. Jamie is Mina’s one constant on the outside. One teacher renames the students with “American names. / So we can be more American, / she says.  So we will be less / the enemy alien”; a more thoughtful teacher returns the children’s identities. Father is released, only to watch Nick demonstrate his loyalty to the government that imprisoned him by offering his very life.

Nagai captures a family in flux, caught in someone else’s blame, struggling to stay together, fighting to understand. Perhaps because Nagai herself is Japanese-born and currently Tokyo-domiciled, her final “Epilogue” – a letter sent by Nick from the other side of the world – is especially compelling. While nothing is particularly new here, Nagai’s crystalline phrases, stanzas, lines that barely cover 120 pages prove gorgeously resonating.

Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult

Published: 2014

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Filed under ..Middle Grade Readers, ..Young Adult Readers, .Fiction, .Poetry, Japanese American

Yokohama Yankee: My Family’s Five Generations as Outsiders in Japan by Leslie Helm

Yokohama Yankee‘Sprawling’ barely begins to describe journalist/editor Leslie Helm‘s ambitious family history that spans nearly a century-and-a-half, three continents, and the titular five generations of a German Japanese American family with current branches spread throughout the rest of the world. Prompted by the death of his difficult father in 1991, and further spurred by the imminent adoption of two children soon thereafter, Leslie embarks on a personal quest to discover the complicated layers of his mixed-race heritage.

In 1868, Julius Helm, then 28, left his father’s 400-acre farm in Rosow, Germany, for a new American life only to find his options were limited to being a common laborer in Minnesota. One year later, the transcontinental railroad took him to San Francisco, where he narrowly missed his intended ship to China and landed instead in Yokohama in 1869.

Barely a decade earlier, Japan had been opened to foreign trade, and Yokohama was a primary entry point into the still-insular country. Julius’ arrival was fortuitously-timed: after moving from various minor jobs and apprenticeships, working for the German consul, and training Japanese soldiers, Julius eventually established himself – and his future generations – as an important merchant presence in Yokohama. Five of his nine siblings followed him to Japan. And his Japanese wife and their four hapa children insured the Helm family’s lasting Japanese ties.

Japanese ancestors, Japanese spouses, Japanese births left most of the Helm generations conflicted over the next 140 years: ‘The Helm relatives I knew were people caught between cultures,” Leslie observes. “… Most had lived on three continents and spoke four languages, yet they never felt at home in any one country.” Caught between a belief of superiority over the Japanese and too often a shameful insecurity over mixed blood, each generation of Helms battled doubts about their identity. Four generations removed from Julius, Leslie is the first to explore, explicate, and accept his challenging relationship with the country of his birth. Ironically, the fifth and latest Helm generation returns the family (at least Leslie’s branch) to Japanese ethnic ‘purity’ as both Leslie and his older brother adopted Japanese children; the children’s American upbringing, however, guarantees the Helms’ cultural hybridity.

Working with unpublished memoirs and diaries (including Julius’ biography “[r]e-written from his personal notes, by his brother Karl”), aging photographs, letters, articles, public records and registries, interviews, and memories, Leslie admirably attempts to corral an unwieldy cast of characters into a single historical narrative. His presentation is not always smooth: sections lag, skip, overlap (Leslie’s father Don’s life story, interwoven throughout, is often jarring to the story’s flow), while certain repetitions are unrelenting (too many of the Helms’ self-loathing doubts and denials). That said, the pages continue turning and fascinating details keep the narrative moving; the book’s latter chapters about the rediscovery of a distant, elderly Japanese cousin and the newly established bond with extended Japanese relatives of Julius’ Japanese wife’s family are particularly memorable.

Whatever its narrative pitfalls, this memoir is an undeniable visual success, exquisitely designed with fascinating photographs, historic documents, maps, handwritten notes and passages, travel stamps, and family crests. The mementos add a vibrant intimacy that overshadows any literary missteps. The family that emerges from these pages, with deep roots in Japan yet constantly in flux between wars, migrations and returns, economic opportunities – not to mention languages and cultures – proves to be a resilient force of inspiration, tenacity, and discovery.

Readers: Adult

Published: 2013

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Filed under ..Adult Readers, .Memoir, .Nonfiction, European, Hapa, Japanese, Japanese American

Gone to the Forest by Katie Kitamura

Gone to the ForestSpare, lean, restrained, dare I say … ruthless? In her concision, yes. Katie Kitamura knows how to make each word count: “The old man lies on the bed and more than ever he secretes the toxic charisma of the dying.” Tell me that’s not a perfectly restrained, yet startlingly fecund compilation of words.

Such moments of literary awe are many despite the fact that, like her debut, The Longshot, Kitamura’s latest is also not quite 200 pages. Again, like LongshotForest was honored as a finalist for the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award (2013) and appeared on many of the ‘Best of’-lists for 2012. Clearly, she’s a formidable contender not to be ignored.

In an unnamed colonized nation preparing to overthrow its oppressors, Kitamura lays bare the final dissolution of a widowed father and his only son. “[A]ll Tom wanted was the old man’s approval” – he who arrived 40 years ago among the first white settlers and built a sprawling farm – but the impending end of their relationship, of their lives as they have known it, remains bitter, desperate, tragic.

The father invites a young woman to move in, apparently intended to be Tom’s wife, yet claims her for his own bed with disastrous consequences. When he falls gravely ill, Tom remains truculently determined to keep the withering old man alive while safety and comforts disappear all around them.

If you choose to go audible, rest assured each page is crisply narrated by Paul Boehmer; the less-than-six hours is a taut thrill that resonates long after the final track. Focused and riveting, Forest reads like a modern fable, its brevity belying multiple layers seeped in historic colonialism, timeless betrayals, and the complicated dynamics of fathers and sons.

Readers: Adult

Published: 2012

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Filed under ..Adult Readers, .Audio, .Fiction, Japanese American

The Fences Between Us: The Diary of Piper Davis, Seattle, Washington, 1941 by Kirby Larson

Fences Between UsHow’s this for new math: the first 286 pages hold about the same weight as the final 25 pages. The fictional diary expounds and entertains, revealing a 13-year-old’s West Coast experiences during World War II; the ending “Life in America in 1941” section illuminates and educates, providing readers resonating historical and personal context to one of America’s most shameful wartime decisions.

On November 8, 1941, Piper Davis’ recently enlisted older brother Hank sets off for Hawai’i to serve in the U.S. Navy. That Saturday, for the first time in her life, Piper begins writing in her diary, a gift from Mrs. Harada who has cared for her since she was a baby after her mother passed away. “DeeDee” – as in “Dear Diary” – becomes the repository for a tumultuous year-and-a-half of young Piper’s life.

One month later, Hank thankfully survives the Pearl Harbor bombing, but back on the mainland, the battles are just beginning. As the pastor to the Seattle Japanese Baptist Church, Piper’s father witnesses the ugliness of wartime racism. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s signs Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, Pastor Davis loses his entire congregation when church members are first relocated to the horse stalls of “Camp Harmony,” then imprisoned at Camp Minidoka in Idaho. With unprecedented courage, the pastor follows his flock.

Piper tries to maintain a ‘normal’ life, going to school, spending time with her friends, and navigating her first romance. But she also watches as her Japanese American friends she has known all her life are targeted and punished for crimes they never committed. Although she gravely protests when her father uproots her to Idaho, her own experiences at Minidoka provide invaluable life lessons: “Mrs. Harada taught me that a good broom and good faith are essential tools when facing the dust of life. Mr. Matsui taught me that there is beauty to be found even in the middle of a desert. But it was Pop who helped me to learn the most important thing of all … even if we can’t do much about the fences that get built around people, when fences get built between people, it’s our job to tear them down.”

Author Kirby Larson doesn’t end her story there. In addition to a thorough, detailed “Historical Note,” haunting photographs of actual events that add at least a thousand words each, a cookie recipe that adds a sweet interlude, the transcript of FDR’s “Infamy speech” (the audible version, read adroitly by Elaina Erika Davis, offers the actual recording of FDR’s fateful address!), the final “From the Author” addition is perhaps the most powerful two pages of all.

A Washington State resident for most of her life, Larson didn’t know about the WWII fate of some 120,000 Japanese Americans until she went to college in the 1970s: “How could I have grown up in an area where thousands of residents had been forced from their homes without being aware of it?” Decades later, while conducting World War I research for her 2007 Newbery Honor BookHattie Big Sky, Larson came across an interview with a German American woman who delivered groceries to her Japanese American neighbors the day after Pearl Harbor. “’I remember during the other war when my mother couldn’t buy any food anywhere. I am afraid that might happen to you,’” she told her neighbors.

When Larson learned about Emery “Andy” Andrews, the real-life pastor who followed his congregation from Seattle to Twin Falls, Idaho, and Minidoka, Larson knew she had her story. And on this 72nd anniversary of “a date which will live in infamy,” we definitely have ours.

Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult

Published: 2010

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Filed under ..Middle Grade Readers, ..Young Adult Readers, .Fiction, Japanese American, Nonethnic-specific

The Longshot by Katie Kitamura

LongshotAlong the lines of Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running and Neal Bascomb’s The Perfect Mile being running books, or Chris Cleave’s Gold a biking title, or Thien Pham’s Sumo and Gail Tsukiyama’s The Street of a Thousand Blossoms sumo wrestling books, Katie Kitamura‘s debut is a boxing novel – or mixed martial arts, to be more exact. As she was named one of the five finalists for the The New York Public Library’s 2010 Young Lions Fiction Award for The Longshot (she was again thusly honored as a finalist in 2013 for her latest, Gone to the Forest), clearly her spare title is so much more than about throwing a good punch.

The Longshot examines the 10-year relationship between two men – a fighter and his coach – as they prepare for an MMA re-match that will forever change their futures, both individually and together. The men arrive in Tijuana, Mexico, to check into a $46/night motel three days before Cal will once more face Rivera, to whom he lost a fateful match four years ago. Rivera remains undefeated. By Riley’s estimation, Cal’s looking “‘the best I’ve seen you in a long time,’” as both men duly ready themselves for what’s to come.

Clocking in at less than 200 pages (or just under five hours as resonantly, intensely read by the fabulous Mark Bramhall), the novel’s brevity might initially seem misleading. But just as fighters must make every punch count, Kitamura writes with honed efficacy as she creates three portentous days, especially dense with psychological detail that move swiftly through to the final bell.

For Kitamura, writing Longshot was a family affair. She reveals in an interview on her publisher’s website (which you should only read after the novel, in order to avoid spoilers), that when she decided “to write something about fighting … [her] brother was a great guide to the sport.” Research was conducted à deux: “We’ve been to fights around the world together, watched and rewatched our favorite fights, endlessly debated the strengths and weaknesses of individual fighters,” she reveals. “We’re pretty extravagantly different; while I was studying for a Ph.D. in American literature he was busy establishing himself as one of the top tattoo artists in the world. But fighting is something we’re both completely passionate about.” When Kitamura finished her book, her brother celebrated with – what else? – a tattoo: “He’s now had the word LONGSHOT tattooed on his knuckles, and that’s the cover image for the book.” Sibling support doesn’t get much more graphic than that!

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2009

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Filed under ..Adult Readers, ..Young Adult Readers, .Audio, .Fiction, Japanese American, Nonethnic-specific

The Favorite Daughter by Allen Say

Favorite DaughterWell, goodness … the back flap of Allen Say’s latest arrives on my desk with a quote from my own review about his last title, Drawing from Memory! Huh, how did I miss that until now? Okay, I have to admit I’m just tickled at my discovery. Oh, but I do digress … back to the book already!

Caldecott Medalist Allen Say again turns to the personal in a warm story both dedicated to and about his daughter. “Yuriko came to stay with her father on Thursday that week,” the book begins. Over dinner, her request for a baby picture for “a class album” results in a “perfect” photo which reveals a plump-cheeked, blond hapa toddler making Play-Doh mud pies in the “‘prettiest kimono [the father] could find in Tokyo.’”

Yuriko’s excitement over that “perfect” photo diminishes into disappointment by the time she returns from school the next day. Her classmates insist Japanese have black hair, her new art teacher has inadvertently dubbed her “Eureka,” and even her closest friends are mimicking the mistake. “‘I want an American name, Daddy,’” Yuriko announces. “‘Umm … feels like I’m getting a new daughter here,’” Daddy responds.

That evening, “Michelle” accompanies her father to their favorite Japanese restaurant, where father and daughter discuss sushi, school, mistakes, and chopstick manners. Yuriko frets over her newly assigned art project, but her father cajoles her into a “‘real quick trip’” to Japan – at Golden Gate Park. There she finds so much more than the souvenir trinket she hoped for, as well as the exact inspiration she needs to create “‘something different from everyone else in art.’”

You may have already guessed where the title originates – such a moment of amusing, heartfelt delight! – but just in case, no spoilers here. Allen Say writes with such humor and patience, providing just the right amount of guidance to gently enable his hapa daughter toward self-discovery and cultural appreciation. As always, his illustrations are visual gifts, enhancing the smallest details that make the story whole: the ubiquitously recognizable soy sauce bottle, the backpack larger than the small child, the multi-culti park crowd, Yuriko’s slouchingly socked feet. Also included are two precious photographs of real-life Yuriko – as a toddler (mentioned above) and as a young woman in full kimono clearly taken during father and daughter’s (real-life) trip to Japan.

Daughter is Daddy’s side, and you can find Yuriko’s voice here, written when she was 13. Their father/daughter bond is unmistakable, proof that every once in a while, ‘playing favorites’ can be “the most wonderful time together.”

Click here to check out more of Allen Say’s titles in BookDragon.

Readers: Children

Published: 2013

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Filed under ...Absolute Favorites, ..Children/Picture Books, .Fiction, .Memoir, Hapa, Japanese American

Truck Stop by Anne Rockwell, illustrated by Melissa Iwai

Truck StopWhen our son broke his little toddler wrist (one of those moments parents will always remember in slow motion), he was so attached to his truck-of-the-moment that his chubby fingers never let go of this mini-vehicle even during his x-ray. Now that he’s almost ready to drive, of course, his four-wheels of choice sit under a pickup, egads!

Welcome to Truck Stop: “Early each morning the sun isn’t up when we get busy at our truck stop, Mom and Dad and me,” a young boy explains. He’s in charge of squeezing the fresh orange juice as his parents prepare the favorite foods for the many truck drivers about to roll in. “I know each and every one of the regulars that comes to our truck stop,” he explains: Sam with his 18-wheeler needs Mom’s bacon and eggs over easy; Milk Tank Maisie likes doughnuts with her coffee; and Diligent Dan with his moving van prefers sausage and pancakes with plenty of syrup.

As the truck stop fills up with “good smells” and good friends, the boy prepares for school. On his way aboard the yellow bus, he spots missing Green Gus, and knows just what to do to help him get rolling along. Everyone has places to go … that is, until tomorrow, when they will all gather back at the truck stop to say “good morning” and start another traveling day.

Illustrator Melissa Iwai uses her signature whimsical style to create a showcase of all sorts of trucks that fill both inside covers, in addition to the adorable pages within. She presents a multi-culti community of caffeine-seeking drivers, happy for the company of others (can’t you just smell that freshly-brewed java?). Author Anne Rockwell offers just enough excited anticipation over finding broken-down Gus, then shows how a community quickly comes together to help a friend in need. Here’s to enjoying the nicest truck stop for miles and miles, for sure!

Readers: Children

Published: 2013

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Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Fiction, Japanese American, Nonethnic-specific

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

A Tale for the Time BeingYou might choose to read Ruth Ozeki‘s latest novel as another engrossing, original story – because it clearly is. And if you decide to stick the novel in your ears, you’ll be thrilled and grateful to know that Ozeki herself reads to you – her recitation is crisp, measured, and exacting.

The novel’s dual protagonists take turns revealing the eponymous ‘tale’: Nao, short for Naoko, is a bullied Tokyo teenager dealing with her suicidal, unemployed father while whose closest confidante is her 104-year-old Buddhist nun great-grandmother; Ruth is a hapa Japanese American novelist living on a tiny island off the coast of Canada’s British Columbia. The two women are connected via the vast Pacific waters when a Hello Kitty lunchbox containing mementos of Nao’s life – including a journal retrofitted inside the cover of an aptly chosen Marcel Proust classic, À la recherche du temps perdu (Remembrances of Things Past) – washes up on the island’s shoreline, quite possibly a vestige from Japan’s 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. [Note to self: Tale pubbed exactly two years and one day after the tragedy, and a full decade minus two days after Ozeki's last novel, All Over Creation.] While Ruth attempts to reconstruct Nao’s past from the lunchbox remnants, she also works desperately to find Nao’s present.

All that is reason enough to read the novel and be done. But I dare you NOT to keep thinking long after you reach that final cover. The names will surely keep you challenged: just for starters, might I mention Nao/now, ‘Naoko’ meaning honest child in Japanese and the ‘truth’ she writes or doesn’t write in a work of fiction, her last name Yasutani (which might mean ‘peaceful valley,’ the ironic opposite of Nao’s complicated young life) which also happens to be the name of renowned Zen Buddhist priest Yasutani Haku’un, not to mention the fictional and real-life Ruths, both with husbands named Oliver.

If the names don’t spark further interest about reliable narrators, notions of reality, the art of fiction, the cover could inspire further volumes. Allow me to share a couple of the multi-layers to consider. In the third line down of the story’s opening page is this description: “A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.” That explanation transforms the title into at least a double entendre, as in ‘a story for now,’ or ‘a story for Nao.’ Add the subtitle, “a novel,” and the author’s name, and you’ve grown a labyrinth of meanings, from ‘a novel story for now by Ruth,’ to ‘Ruth’s novel about Nao,’ and so much more.

I might quibble that by the final pages, a few of the narrative threads were a bit too ‘deus ex machina‘-ly resolved, but I also find myself insisting that sometimes endings just need to be happier than not. That sort of magical thinking perhaps doesn’t make for a perfect novel, but it’s a small price to pay for attempting to redeem humanity through the healing power of sharing words and telling stories.

Readers: Adult

Published: 2013

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Filed under ..Adult Readers, .Audio, .Fiction, Japanese, Japanese American

I Survived the Bombing of Pearl Harbor, 1941 by Lauren Tashis, illustrated by Scott Dawson

I Survived the Bombing of Peark Harbor, 1941Today – December 7, 2012 – is the 71st anniversary of the “date which will live in infamy,” as named by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in describing the assault on the Pearl Harbor Naval Base and launching the United States into World War II. That the attackers were Japanese would eventually lead to Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 9066 which imprisoned some 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent.

In less than a hundred pages, Lauren Tarshis manages to tell a riveting story and populate the slim title (perfectly proportioned for even the most hesitant middle grade readers!) with resonating historical and sociological content. Danny and his single mother are new residents of Pearl City, Hawai’i, where his mother works as a nurse at Hickam Air Force Base in Pearl Harbor; she’s thankful to be in “the most beautiful place on earth,” while Danny just wishes they could go back to their old New York City apartment and be with his best friend Finn. Even as Danny’s mother is adamant that this “fresh start” will keep her son “away from danger and trouble,” Danny is plotting a stowaway journey home. And then the bombs fall: Danny’s plans for escape turn into a fight for survival, not just for himself but for the friends he has begun to make, including the brave officer trying too hard to win his mother’s affections, and his Japanese American neighbors whose irresistible little boy Aki is already devotedly attached to Danny.

As the author behind Scholastic’s I Survived series – “[e]ach … tells a terrifying and thrilling story from history, through the eyes of a boy who lived to tell the tale,” her website explains – Tarshis must be an incredibly quick study, producing what seems to be two titles a year highlighting diverse historical moments. If Pearl Harbor, the fourth in seven titles thus far, is any indication, Tarshis is especially thorough. Into the heart-thumping survival story that lasts some 48 hours (with a final Christmas Day chapter that serves almost as an epilogue), Tarshis weaves in gang influence within the FBI, questions of identity, anti-Japanese backlash and fear, Japanese American imprisonment without just cause, a good old love story, and a young boy’s coming-of-age from numbness to fear to feeling. For the further curious, Tarshis’ after-story appendix is filled with historical notes, a tucked-in update on Danny’s mom and her officer, a detailed time line, and resources to find out more (including a few titles detailing true stories of real Pearl Harbor children).

Of course when handing this book to your reluctant reader, he or she doesn’t need to know anything more than this is just a really good story. Enough said!

Readers: Middle Grade

Published: 2011

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Filed under ..Middle Grade Readers, .Fiction, Hawaiian, Japanese American, Nonethnic-specific

Publisher Interview: Sunyoung Lee and Kaya Press

Early this year, at almost 18 years old, Kaya Press flew the nest. Leaving behind the comfort and familiarity of New York’s publishing world, the non-profit indie specializing in “books from the Asian diaspora,” moved offices across the country to Los Angeles. Now comfortably ensconced in the Department of American Studies & Ethnicity on the University of Southern California campus, Kaya has a new address, new community, new books, new staff, and is definitely basking in new energy.

With all the latest changes, the one Kaya constant is Sunyoung Lee… although she does have the fairly new title of “Publisher and Editor.” Founded in 1994 by Soo Kyung Kim, a postmodern Korean writer, Kaya was originally intended to house a journal of Korean literature-in-translation, which eventually morphed into Muae, a spirited anthology highlighting the newest in Asian Pacific American writing that Library Journal named one of “The Best Magazines of 1995.” Muae fell victim to the Korean economic collapse of 1997, but under the bolstering management of Juliana Koo and Lee, who took over that year as managing editor and editor, respectively, Kaya managed to survive – and thrive – living up to its namesake: “Kaya was the name of a tribal confederation of six Korean city-states that existed from the middle of the first until the sixth century CE,” their website officially explains. “Although the Kaya kingdom was an iron-age culture, it is remembered as a utopia of learning, music, and the arts due to its trade and communication with China, Japan, and India.”

Kaya Press channels that international history, feeding its artistic vision by regularly pushing the boundaries of the Asian Pacific Islander (API) diaspora through the titles the tenacious press has published thus far. A small sampling might include an enhanced reprint of the groundbreaking 1937 classic East Goes West by the first Korean American novelist Younghill Kang; American Book Award-winning The Unbearable Heart by Japanese German American poet Kimiko Hahn; Chinese Australian Brian Castro’s already-major-award-winning-in-Australia novel, Shanghai Dancing; the lauded Commonwealth Prize-winning Where We Once Belonged by Sia Figiel, which was the first novel by a Samoan woman to be published in the United States; and Migritude by Kenyan-born, South Asian-descended, citizen-of-the-world performance artist Shailja Patel.

The word “kaya” echoes the diversity of its authors: in addition to its ancient Korean representation, in Japanese, Kaya is also “summer night” or a type of yew tree that withstands harsh environmental conditions; in Malay, kaya means “rich”; in Indonesian, “prosperous”; in Tagalog, “to be able”; in Sanskrit, “body”; in Turkish “rock”; in Zulu, “home.”

For Lee, home is where the press is. In order to sustain it, she’s worked endless day jobs and freelance gigs – from Billboard magazine to Publishers Weekly – in addition to teaching the requisite composition classes, to pay the bills so she could nurture Kaya well into its teenage years. Now that she’s settled into rooms of her own at USC, Lee’s ushering out the next set of Kaya titles: Lament in the Night, which includes two 1920s Japanese American novellas by Shōson Nagahara, translated by Andrew Leong; The Hanging on Union Square, an experimental novel originally published in 1935 by H. T. Tsiang; Water Chasing Water by Seattle-based poet Koon Woon; and Korean American adoptee Nicky Sa-eun Schildkraut’s debut poetry in Magnetic Refrain.

It’s been a full decade since we officially talked about Kaya. So, what’s your latest, greatest news?
The biggest news, as you know, is that we moved to LA this year. We’re publishing a bunch of new books, and a lot of wonderful new people are working with us. This is the largest group of people we’ve had involved with Kaya. USC gives us funding to pay for two part-time grad students – they’re 25% part-time – and we also get a lot of volunteers. Their involvement – both undergraduate and graduate students – means while they learn hands-on about the publishing process, I’ve been able to do more strategic work, to put more energy into Kaya, and that’s been really gratifying. [... click here for more]

Publisher interview: “Feature: Sunyoung Lee and Kaya Press,” Bookslut.com, December 2012

Readers: Adult

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Filed under ...Author Interview/Profile, ..Adult Readers, .Fiction, .Poetry, .Translation, Chinese American, Japanese American, Korean American, Pan-Asian, Pan-Asian Pacific American