Americans from Japan (book)


Title Americans from Japan
Author Bradford Smith
Original Publication Date 1948


A 1948 book by Bradford Smith that presents an overview of the Japanese American experience for a general audience. Part of the "People of America" series of books edited by Louis Adamic, Americans from Japan told the story of an ethnic group that drew on its ethnic traditions and values to overcome long odds and harsh discrimination to make a place for themselves in multicultural America, a template many subsequent chroniclers would emulate.

By the 1940s, Louis Adamic was perhaps the country's foremost chronicler of the ethnic American experience, having authored several books in the "Nations of Nations" series that focused the various ethnic groups in the United States. In 1943, he embarked on an ambitious series of books with J. B. Lippincott, a Philadelphia publisher, that aimed to produce a a volume on every ethnic group in the U.S. The first volume, Americans from Holland by Arnold Mulder appeared in 1947, followed by Americans from Hungary by Emil Lengyel in 1948. Americans from Japan was the third book of the series, published on August 25, 1948.[1]

The author of Americans from Japan was Bradford Smith. A native of New England born in 1909, he intended to teach English there after graduating from Columbia with B.A. and M.A. degrees. But unable to find a job, he took a teaching position in 1931 at a Christian university in Japan despite knowing nothing about the country. He ended up spending five years at St. Paul's University in Tokyo and also lectured at Tokyo Imperial University. He returned to teach at Columbia and at Bennington College. When the war broke out, he took a job with the Office of War Information, first in Washington, D.C., then as the chief of Center Pacific Operations "setting up printing and radio operations in the Pacific aimed primarily at hastening the end of our war against Japan," as he put it years later, based in Hawai'i for part of that time. He received a two-year Guggenheim fellowship after the war, allowing him to conduct the research and writing of the book.[2]

After an introduction titled "On Tolerance" by Adamic and a prologue that focuses on the exploits of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the 409 page volume is divided into two parts, one on Hawai'i and one on the continental U.S. Each begins with the early immigrants and presents a general history of the Japanese American experience in each venue, with World War II providing a turning point in the story. Highlighting the "loyalty" of the Nisei and the heroism of the Nisei soldiers, Smith presents the Nisei as having overcome discriminatory treatment to be well on their way to becoming mainstream Americans, with the resettlement program of the War Relocation Authority that sent formerly incarcerated Nisei to various parts of the country even being beneficial to that goal.

Reviews were positive highlighting its "clear and vivid" style and hailing it as "a readable document with a sincere and humane perspective."[3] T. A. Bisson, writing in The Saturday Review, effusively praises the book illuminating "the human side of the story" through "stirring human documents, alive with the everyday struggles, victories, and heartbreaks of the Japanese who came to live among us."[4] In an essay on Adamic, historian Yuji Ichioka credits Smith with bucking the trend set by previous assimilationist chroniclers by crediting Japanese cultural values applied in the American context—rather than a pure embrace of mainstream values—as being the key to the successes of the Nisei.[5]

Americans from Japan was reissued by Greenwood Press of Westport, Connecticut in 1974.

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho

For More Information

Ichioka, Yuji. "'Unity Within Diversity': Louis Adamic and Japanese Americans." Chapter 6 of Before Internment: Essays in Prewar Japanese American History by Yuji Ichioka. Ed. Gordon H. Chang and Eiichiro Azuma. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006. 127–52.

Smith, Bradford. Americans from Japan. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1948.

Reviews

Bisson, T. A. "2d-Class Citizens, A-1 Loyalty.' The Saturday Review. Sept. 4, 1948, 12–13. http://www.unz.org/Pub/SaturdayRev-1948sep04-00012a02.

Bloom, Leonard. Pacific Historical Review 18.1 (Feb. 1949): 136–37.

Cullum, Robert M. Pacific Affairs 22.2 (Mar. 1949): 107–08.

---. "More on the American Dilemma." Common Ground, Dec. 1949: 107–08. http://www.unz.org/Pub/CommonGround-1949q4-00107.

Fisher, Galen M. Far Eastern Survey 18.6 (Mar. 1949): 71.

Wada, Yori, "Bradford Smith Tells Stories of Americans from Japan." Pacific Citizen, Aug. 14, 1948, p. 5. http://www.pacificcitizen.org/digitalarchives/assets/images/full/PCN_19480814_005.jpg.

Footnotes

  1. Pacific Citizen, Aug. 7, 1948, p. 4, accessed on Sept. 6, 2014 at http://www.pacificcitizen.org/digitalarchives/assets/images/full/PCN_19480807_004.jpg. Only two more books in the series were ultimately published: Americans from Sweden by Adolph B. Benson and Naboth Hedin (1949) and Americans from Norway by Leola Nelson Bergmann (1950).
  2. Biographical sources include the finding aid for the Bradford Smith papers at UCLA accessible at http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/tf4w1006f7/ and Smith's books The Seasoned Mind (Brattleboro, Vt.: The Stephen Greene Press, 1965) and Men of Peace (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1964), the quote coming from the later (page 16).
  3. Galen M. Fisher, Far Eastern Survey 18.6 (Mar. 1949), 71 and Leonard Bloom, Pacific Historical Review, 18.1 (Feb. 1949), 137.
  4. T. A. Bisson, "2d-Class Citizens, A-1 Loyalty," The Saturday Review, Sept. 4, 1948, 12, accessed on January 9, 2013 at http://www.unz.org/Pub/SaturdayRev-1948sep04-00012a0.
  5. Yuji, Ichioka, Before Internment: Essays in Prewar Japanese American History, ed. Gordon H. Chang and Eiichiro Azuma (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006), 146–47.