Denver’s Mayor Michael B. Hancock welcomes the 100 applicants and their family members to the citizenship ceremony.
I was born in Japan, but because my father was born in Hawaii when it was a U.S. territory, I am an American citizen. I didn’t have to take a test, and recite an oath of allegiance. After my family moved to the States in 1966, I remember helping my mother, who’s from a small town in northern Japan, study for her citizenship test. I was eight years old.
I don’t remember the ceremony when she repeated the oath and was given her naturalization certificate, but it was probably something like the wonderful ceremony I saw today, on the top floor of the Emily Griffith Technical College, a school that teaches English as a second language and gives many immigrants the skills for them to find jobs in America (full disclosure: I’m a member of the Emily Griffith Foundation‘s Board of Directors).
One hundred people became American citizens today in Denver. They came here from all over the world, from Bhutan to the Ukraine, Canada to Cote d’Ivoire. Some held small American flags in their hands as they waited, and waved them when they were asked to stand to represent their soon-to-be-former countries. Continue reading →
The media are reporting on how Muslim Americans are braced for attacks this weekend, because of the 9/11 anniversary. I know what that’s like, unfortunately, though not on the scale of violence and hatred Muslims are facing today.
It’s a sad commentary on the state of American “patriotism” that Japanese Americans still get nervous every December 7 because we grew up with racial slurs of “go home, Japs” and “Remember Pearl Harbor!”
Such are the deep emotional scars that form after a national trauma, and ethnicity and religion add layers of fear and complexity. It’s understandable in a way, but also unjust — Japanese Americans had nothing to do with Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor any more than German Americans had to do with the blitzkrieg of London. And Muslim Americans certainly had nothing to do with the awful attacks of 9/11. It’s too bad that so many Americans can’t understand such a basic fact and separate nationality from ethnicity, faith from fanaticism.
The book on its surface is a simple idea: A memoir of Rizzuto’s 2001 trip to Japan, paid for by a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts to research the stories of Hiroshima bomb survivors, a group that shrinks each year as the generation passes away, in the city where her own family roots are planted. Rizzuto lived there for eight months to find people to interview, so she could write her second novel.
Instead, she came out of the experience with her life changed profoundly, and this memoir came first before the novel, which is finished but incubating a bit before she sends it to editors under the name “Shadow Child.”
Until the novel comes out, readers can devour “Hiroshima in the Morning” and marvel at Rizzuto’s craft and literary approach to telling non-fiction stories, as well as her brave willingness to expose the emotional evolution she undertakes by the end of her fellowship.
Her ability to write literature as if it were non-fiction is what set Rizzuto’s first novel, “Why She Left Us,” which won the American Book Award upon its release in 2001, apart from other books based on the Japanese American internment.
Rizzuto, who is half-Japanese, based that first book in part on her mother’s experience of being interned at Camp Amache in Colorado during World War II. But she interviewed many former internees to collect observations, details, relationships, experiences and story lines that she wove together into fiction that rang with the power of truth.
She wrote the novel in the different perspectives and voices of its main characters, and jumped through time and space in ways that masterfully held the reader on track, following the devastating legacy of internment on generations of one family. It was unorthodox, artsy and literary, and a riveting read.
I look forward to seeing how she uses the research in Hiroshima as fuel for her fiction, especially after reading “Hiroshima in the Morning.”
Thanks a bunch for writing your book, “In Defense of Internment: The Case for Racial Profiling in World War II and the War on Terror.” Thanks for trying to prove that not only was putting Japanese Americans into U.S. concentration camps during World War II the right thing to do, but also urging that the United States use racial profiling as a tool today, against Muslims. Continue reading →