Julia Suski


Name Julia Suski
Born March 6 1904
Died September 20 1996
Generational Identifier

Nisei

Artist and musician Julia Suski (1904–96) was the eldest of seven children born to Dr. P.M. (Peter Marie) and Francis Koharu Suski. Her father learned English as a boy in missionary schools and was briefly apprenticed in the Osaka Iron Works before traveling to Tokyo to learn photography. At the age of twenty-three, he left Japan for the United States, where he initially worked in a photography studio in San Francisco. Suski was his first child and the only of the children who was born in San Francisco, on March 6, 1904. Following the 1906 earthquake, he and his wife and young Julia moved to Los Angeles, where opened his own photography studio. However, when the income from the photography work proved to to be insufficient to support his family, he decided to begin, at the age of thirty-eight, to study medicine at the University of Southern California. He graduated in 1917 and began a successful new career in Little Tokyo.

Suski grew up with her siblings in Boyle Heights, an immigrant neighborhood just east of Downtown Los Angeles. She graduated from Los Angeles High School and then, like her father, enrolled at the University of Southern California to study medicine, but soon switched her emphasis to music and art. While at USC, she also served as the editor of the Wampus, USC's official magazine, and contributed illustrations to periodicals such as Life, Judge, and College Comics.[1] In 1926, Suski joined her sister, English editor Louise Suski, at the Rafu Shimpo newspaper, as an almost daily contributor of stylized illustrations and comics that humorously depicted the life of a "modern woman", and continued this work for over three years.[2] It is also speculated that Suski was the author of two columns that ran in the Rafu Shimpo: "What Shall I Wear" and "Judie", both focused on fashion and included illustrations, presumably drawn by Suski. Suski also was a piano teacher, and beginning in 1928, stories appeared in the paper referring to her music education career.[3]

In 1933, Suski married artist Robert Kuwahara, who at the time was working for Walt Disney Studios as an animator. Artist Gyo Fujikawa, who also worked at Disney studios, was the couple's maid of honor at the wedding. In 1942, Suski, her husband and their two sons were forcibly sent to the Santa Anita Assembly Center and later to the Heart Mountain camp in Wyoming. Suski's husband was released from camp first to work in Chicago, and the entire family was reunited in 1945. After the war, they relocated to Larchmont, New York, where Kuwahara re-established himself as an animator, and is best remembered for his cartoon creation, "Hashimoto-san."

Suski died on September 20, 1996, in Steilacoom, Washington.

Authored by Patricia Wakida

For More Information

Chang, Gordon H., Mark Dean Johnson, and Paul J. Karlstrom, eds. Asian American Art: A History, 1850-1970. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008.

Masumoto, Valerie. City Girls: The Nisei Social World in Los Angeles, 1920-1950. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Footnotes

  1. Valerie Matsumoto. City Girls: The Nisei Social World in Los Angeles, 1920-1950. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014, 102.
  2. Gordon H. Chang, Mark Dean Johnson, and Paul J. Karlstrom, editors, Asian American Art: A History, 1850-1970 (Stanford University Press, 2008), 420.
  3. Gordon H. Chang, Mark Dean Johnson, and Paul J. Karlstrom, editors, Asian American Art: A History, 1850-1970 (Stanford University Press, 2008), 420.