Seki-nin (Duty Bound) (book)

Title Seki-nin (Duty Bound)
Author George Nakagawa
Original Publisher Oral History Program, California State University at Fullerton
Original Publication Date 1989
Pages 327
WorldCat Link

Novel by George Nakagawa about a Nisei stranded in Japan during World War II.

First-time novelist Nakagawa tells the story in five parts, with the first two largely telling the immigration story of the Toyota family, who eventually settle in Seattle and operate a hotel. The story eventually focuses on Nisei son Jiro Toyota, who becomes an honor student and football star in high school. But like many Issei in the 1930s, Jiro's father Tomio comes to believe that racism will limit the future of Jiro and other Nisei regardless of their individual attributes, and opts to take the family to Japan. Though opposed to his father's decision, Jiro is "duty bound" to obey. Making the best of the situation, he works hard to learn Japanese and manages to get into a good Japanese college, while also befriending other Nisei he meets. But the coming of war finds Jiro conscripted into the Japanese military against his will and dispatched to a desolate part of China.

Seki-nin was published by the Oral History Program, California State University at Fullerton, the second novel the program published. (The first was Georgia Day Robertson's The Harvest of Hate.) The volume includes an oral history of the author by program director Arthur A. Hansen. In the oral history, the author makes it clear that the story told is not autobiographical (he and his family spent the war years in American concentration camps like all other Japanese Americans living on the West Coast), but is based on a Japanese American family that he knew.

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho

Might also like: The Two Worlds of Jim Yoshida by Jim Yoshida and Bill Hosokawa; Midnight in Broad Daylight by Pamela Rotner Sakamoto; Two Homelands by Toyoko Yamasaki.

For More Information

Niiya, Brian. Review of Seki-nin (Duty Bound). Tozai Times, Sept. 1989, 6.

Wasden, Winifred S. Review of Seki-nin (Duty Bound). Oral History Review 18.1 (Spring 1990): 181–82.