From an early age, Hasaye Yamamoto was familiar with the odds – some put in the US by Japanese immigrants and some placed around Japanese Americans in the country of his birth by the US government. She will spend the rest of her life writing about those obstacles.
To mark the beginning of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Google on Tuesday dedicated its doodle to Yamamoto, one of the first Asian American writers to earn literary distinction after World War II, which chronicled the Japanese immigrant experience in the US . His writing often focused on issues that divided the early generations of Japanese in America, particularly the immigrant Issei’s desire to preserve his language while the American-born generation assimilated through expressions of loyalty to Nissi America. Leaning towards and embracing the English language.
It is to say that the 1940s were a difficult time for Japanese immigrants to the US, they would understand the hatred and violence they had to endure on a daily basis. Highlighting her experience, and the work that comes out of it, all seem more relevant in light of the recent upheaval in violence directed towards the Asian American and Pacific Islands community in the US.
The daughter of immigrant strawberry farmers from Japan, Yamamoto was born in 1921 in Redondo Beach, California. Due to race-centric laws, his family was often forced to relocate. But as a teenager, she found comfort in writing, often contributing to short stories and letters under the pseudonym Napoleon to newspapers serving the Japanese American community.
After the outbreak of World War II, Yamamoto’s family was among the 120,000 Japanese Americans who were forced to relocate to Japanese internment camps. She began writing stories and columns for the camp newspaper to remain active in the Poston, Arizona, camp, but the physical and psychological toll of forcibly leaving homes and businesses would be a frequent topic in her later work.
After three years in Poston, Yamamoto returned to Southern California when the war ended in 1945 and went on to work in the Los Angeles Tribune, a weekly newspaper serving the Black community. Attracted by his experience at internment camp, Yamamoto wrote about the complexities of racial interaction in America.
She wrote about the threat that a black family named Short was experiencing from white neighbors in Fontana. After the family’s death in an apparent arson attack, he scolded himself for using words such as “perceived” or “assertion” to describe threats against the family.
Yamamoto will leave journalism after writing the 1948 story The High-Heeled Shoes: A Memoir, which focuses on sexual harassment of women. Next year, she will follow up with the Seventeen Syllables, exploring the common differences between Issei and Nisei. Her 1950 tragedy The Legend of Miss Sasagwara tells the story of a girl in a rehabilitation camp who is thought to be mad only to be exposed as a repressor by her Buddhist father.
In later years, her work continued to advocate against racism, sexism, and violence, and in 1986, she won the Columbus Foundation’s American Book Award before her Lifetime Achievement for her contributions to American multicultural literature.
He died at the age of 89 in 2011 after a stroke a year earlier.