8Asians Book Review: The Repatriation of Henry Chin

The Repatriation of Henry Chin, written by Issac Ho and read by Anthony Lee on audiobook, is about a future where the United States has been in an escalating trade war with China which eventually leads to the roundup of all Chinese Americans into “internment” camps—a la, the Japanese Americans during World War II.

This book is a powerful reminder of what could happen to us—as Americans—when we let our fears get the best of us. It’s scary to imagine an assembly center in this day and age at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Or just the idea that you can even lock up an entire group of people for no other crime than being the “wrong” race or ethnicity.

In the book, we follow Henry Chin, who was an ex-military guy turned pharmacist. He’s been trying to live low and raise a hapa daughter after a traumatic war experience in Panama. However, when they start rounding up Chinese Americans, he refuses to comply. He takes his daughter and together they make a run for Canada through the Angeles Crest mountains—with the help of Henry’s army buddy.

My one problem with the story—and don’t get me wrong, this should not deter anyone from reading it—was how Japanese Americans were depicted. There was one part early on when the narrator states that Japanese Americans were wearing Japanese flags to make sure everyone knew they weren’t Chinese. I have a hard time imagining Japanese Americans doing this on many levels. First, we would never wear Japanese flags. And second, we would never sit idly by and allow the government to lock up a whole group of people again.

The concentration camps during World War II scarred the Japanese American community. We still talk about what happened today. It is not hyperbole to write that if a group of Japanese Americans get together, the word “camp” will come up—multiple times. Personally, I’ve dedicated much of my working life to teaching other people about it. We—as a community—have made it a point to make sure it never happens again to anyone ever. After 9/11, Japanese Americans were one of the first groups to come to the defense of Muslim/Arab Americans. So, the idea that Japanese Americans would sit by and do nothing is crazy.

Regardless, The Repatriation of Henry Chin is an important reading for all Americans. I tell people all the time: Today they might be coming after someone else. But if you don’t fight for their rights, tomorrow they could be coming after you. So go out and get this book on Audible or anywhere else audiobooks are sold.

Please note that I received this title for free in exchange for an unbiased review.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Ksakai1.

The Most Important Video You’ll See Today

8A-2016-03-RonDellumsThis is a video I believe every Asian American–heck, every American–should see. In it, the Honorable Ron Dellums from Oakland gave one of the most stirring speeches about the effects of the taking of Japanese Americans had on people outside of the Japanese American community. No matter how times I watch it, I tear up when I hear him describing his crying out when his best friend was taken away.

During this time of fear, hatred, and violence toward the Muslim, Arab, and Sikh American communities, it is important that we keep the unconstitutional incarceration of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II–including my family–in the forefront of our minds and not let it happen to anyone in our country ever again.

Follow me at @ksakai1.

George Tetsuo Aratani, Nisei Entrepreneur and Philanthropist, Passes Away at Age 95


George Aratani, a survivor of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and later successful businessman and philanthropist who founded Mikasa and Kenwood, passed away Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at the age of 95.

His legacy in philanthropy through The Aratani Foundation has supported many Japanese American organizations, but especially in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo. One literally cannot walk a block in Little Tokyo without passing by a space endowed by George and Sakaye Aratani: Japanese American Cultural and Community Center’s Aratani Japan America Theatre; the Japanese American National Museum’s George and Sakaye Central Hall; and the Union Center for the Arts’s Aratani Courtyard.

From The Nisei Week Foundation Facebook page:

The Nisei Week Foundation mourns the passing of George Aratani who passed away peacefully today [Tuesday, February 19, 2013].

Aratani successfully launched post-World War II international trade enterprises. His first was Mikasa, a tableware company which was doing $400 million in annual sales when it was sold in 2000.

Influenced by his late father and motivated by the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, Aratani and his wife Sakaye have donated a sizable amount of their wealth to Japanese American organizations and causes.

For More Information:
Hirahara, Naomi. An American Son: The Story of George Aratani, Founder of Mikasa and Kenwood. Los Angeles, CA: Japanese American National Museum, 2001.

Photo credit: CalPoly Pomona, The George and Sakaye Aratani Japanese Garden

Why George Takei is Simply Awesome

If you’ve been using Facebook for the past year or so, chances are that you may have come across a hilarious meme, quote, or pictures from a certain “George Takei.” You may be asking yourself, “Wait, George Takei as in that Star Trek Sulu George Takei? He can’t possibly be this witty, funny, and social media relevant!”

The answer is a most resounding yes, that is indeed the one and only George Takei.

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Tim Burton’s All Asian American Hansel & Gretel Film

So everyone in L.A. has been visiting our beloved Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) to see the latest blockbuster art exhibit featuring the art of director Tim Burton. Appropriately, this exhibit will be on display until Halloween 2011. Over the July 4th weekend, I was able to stop by the exhibit and enjoy with childish delight Burton’s amazing private collection of his own art. They even had on display all of the original figurines used in The Nightmare Before Christmas, my all-time favorite.

I was totally geeking out and chuckling as I enjoyed all of his awesome drawings and sculptures when I came across a live-action film playing continuously. It was clearly a creepy rendition of the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale with an all Asian cast. The film looked old, like from the 1970’s. Intrigued, I sat down and watched the film, thinking, “Did Tim Burton make a film in Asia?” Then I quickly noticed  that all the actors were speaking with pristine, un-dubbed American English and realized it was an all Asian American cast.

It turns out Burton had made the film for Disney in the early 80’s, which aired on Halloween night 1983 and then disappeared for over two decades before being shown again at art galleries in recent years. Apparently, Burton was really into Japanese culture at the time, and this film has an all Japanese American cast.  The film footage can’t be found on online, so it looks like the only way to see this totally Asian American casted Tim Burton film right now is at LACMA. Definitely worth it.

Imagined Futures Conference in Los Angeles for up and coming APA artists

imaginedfuturesAs a graduate of the UCLA Asian American Studies Department, I am usually pretty interested in events that are sponsored by my former department at my alma mater. The upcoming “Imagined Futures” conference definitely piques my interest not just because of my UCLA ties, but also because they are bringing some very interesting speakers together for this free(!) event.

Presented by the Aratani Endowed Chair, UCLA, and the Japanese American National Museum, “Imagined Futures” is a one day conference for up and coming Asian Pacific American artists on May 2, 2009 from 1pm – 5pm. (Pre-register online). To tackle questions like, “What does the future hold of Japanese American and Asian Pacific American communities?” and “What is the role of the young artist in defining our community’s future?” the organizers have brought together a distinguished panel of speakers and workshop facilitators.

And I’ll just say it: George Takei is going to be there! I love George Takei! And a few of my friends are actually presenting workshops (Which one to attend?! Such a dilemma! Okay, let me get a hold of myself.)


Conference Program
The one day conference takes place at the Japanese American National Museumin Little Tokyo from 1-5pm. After a keynote address, participants will learn from established artists in two hour workshops. The workshops will be followed by closing remarks and a reception.

1-2pm: Welcome

  • Special Opening Performance by UCLA’s NSU Modern
  • Opening Remarks by Prof. Lane Hirabayashi, Koji Sakai, and Emily Morishima

Keynote Speakers

  • Eric Nakamura of Giant Robot
  • George Takei, Actor

2-4pm: Workshops

  • Filmmaking with director/writer/producer Quentin Lee
  • Anime/Comics with the author of the biweekly column “Asian Pop” for the San Francisco Chronicle, Jeff Yang
  • Blogs/New Media with Phil Yu of Angry Asian Man
  • Spoken Word/Hip Hop with LA hip-hop sensation Shin-B
  • Fiction with award winning writer, Naomi Hirahara
  • The Art and Business of Clothes with Ryan Suda of Blacklava

4-5pm: Closing Light Reception

Anyway, I already pre-registered online… will you be there?

(Some Workshop Descriptions below)
Continue reading “Imagined Futures Conference in Los Angeles for up and coming APA artists”

What does Shinseki mean to the Department of Veteran Affairs?

Over the weekend, retired four star Army General Eric Shinseki, was appointed as the Secretary of Veteran Affairs in the new Obama administration. So what does this mean for one of the largest government agencies?

Personally, I don’t think it’ll change too much; it depends on if and how Shinseki shakes things up in the VA. He has definitely presented a record of speaking his mind regardless of status quo and that actually would help shape up the agency, but with Obama’s administration pushing “change”, this is one of the few agencies that runs decently outside of their bad image.

Most people see the Department of Veteran Affairs as “the scary medical place,” where you hear the horror stories of veterans who don’t get their benefits until months later. What you’re not told are the other non-federal agencies that push the veterans to make claims, or how the process of claims work, or even why those claims are approved or denied. In this case, the Department of Veteran Affairs needs to have a strong public relations team. Perhaps Shinseki is the guy to put this together. Perhaps not. But it is interesting that under the current leadership, the Department of Veteran Affairs still gets a lot of bad press.

Here’s a great example: on today’s episode of NPR’s Morning Edition, Joseph Shapiro talks about how the VA works, but from a veteran’s perspective. This negative tone has plagued the VA since at least the Vietnam War era and I have always wondered why they don’t actually explain how things work so that veterans and press alike would understand where and why it takes a month or more to clear a benefit claim. Here, the appointment of retired General Shinseki speaks in vast towards the fact that he fights for the veterans — but will he be able to fight for the agency too? Only time will tell.