Issei and Nisei: The Internment Years (book)
|Title||Issei and Nisei: The Internment Years|
|Original Publisher||Seabury Press|
|Original Publication Date||1967|
Memoir of a young Issei Episcopal clergyman based in Washington state during the trying years of World War II. Published in the fall of 1967, Daisuke Kitagawa 's account was among the first book-length first-person accounts of the Japanese American incarceration.
Kitagawa's account begins by describing the state of the Japanese American community in Washington prior to the war before following his community into the Pinedale Assembly Center in Fresno, California, then to Tule Lake . At Tule Lake, he ministers to the population while also assisting camp administrators. After segregation, he turns his attention to assisting with resettlement before going on to work at the Military Intelligence Service Language School in Minnesota. The memoir ends with the end of the war and does not discuss his postwar life. Though written in the first person and focused on Kitagawa's experiences, it is meant to tell a larger story; as Kitagawa writes: "The book is autobiographical, but it is not my autobiography. If anything, it is a collective autobiography of the Japanese-American community as a whole, in which I am simultaneously an observer, an actor, and the narrator." 
In it, Kitagawa provided a study of the challenges that faced both the Issei and Nisei during the incarceration, based on his own observations. As with later memoirs that documented life in camp, such as Monica Sone’s Nisei Daughter, Issei and Nisei followed the existing pattern of praising the strength of the community and the downplaying the negative aspects of camp. Nonetheless, Kitagawa presented one of the first glimpses into the harsh conditions at the Tule Lake Segregation Center, and exposed the tensions facing those confined there over questions of loyalty. Kitagawa dramatized the disillusionment felt by the "no-no's" and their internal conflict over their American identity. Issei and Nisei was also one of the first memoirs of a religious leader in camp, and highlighted the importance of faith for Japanese Americans during the incarceration. Following his death in 1970, a new edition of Issei and Nisei was published, with a brief foreword by Senator Daniel Inouye.
The book—and to some extent the community it represents—was praised by mainstream critics for its lack of anger and uniformly positive response to the indignities suffered. In The Christian Century , Milton E. Marty noted that the "author is without rancor or bitterness," while Publisher's Weekly noted that Kitagawa "relates his experiences without bitterness and with a full measure of Christian charity." In a review for the Courier-Post of Camden, New Jersey, Dennis M. Culnan described Issei and Nisei as "well-written, and it should be well-read."  Similarly, in Saturday Review , Roger W. Shugg wrote, "It is a measure of the true quality of those who were interned that they and their children retain no residue of hate; that, once freed, they sought again to achieve full American citizenship." 
Its assessment by Asian American reviewers or those coming from an Asian American Studies perspective was more mixed. Historian John Modell, who later edited and published social worker Charles Kikuchi's diary in 1973, wrote a critical review of Issei and Nisei for the Pacific Historical Review. While Modell thought that Kitagawa's insights into camp life were interesting, he argued Kitagawa failed to deliver a "collective autobiography of the Japanese American community as a whole."  In the influential early Asian American Studies anthology Roots: An Asian American Reader , Bruce Iwasaki summed up Kitagawa's account as "overly biased toward Christianity, somewhat irritatingly accomodationist, and rather simplistically glib." On the other hand, in his obituary of Kitagawa for the Pacific Citizen, Reverend Michael Yasutake praised Kitagawa's honesty and insights into the suffering wrought by the incarceration. In his concluding remarks, Yasutake described the importance of Issei and Nisei as "a lasting memorial to his life dedicated to improving understanding between nationally and culturally diverse people around the world." 
Find in the Digital Library of Japanese American Incarceration
This item has been made freely available in the Digital Library of Japanese American Incarceration , a collaborative project with Internet Archive .
Might also like Manzanar and Beyond: Memoirs of Frank F. Chuman by Frank F. Chuman; In Search of Hiroshi by Gene Oishi; Out of the Frying Pan: Reflections of a Japanese American by Bill Hosokawa
For More Information
Kitagawa, Daisuke. Issei and Nisei: The Internment Years . New York: Seabury Press, 1967.
van Harmelen, Jonathan. " Daisuke Kitagawa: Civil Rights and Anti-Racism Activist: Part 2 ." Discover Nikkei, May 9, 2022.
Marty, Martin E. "Compelling Document." The Christian Century , Jan. 3, 1968, 26.
Modell, John, "Japanese Americans: The Evolution of a Subculture, by Harry H. L. Kitano and Issei and Nisei: The Internment Years, by Daisuke Kitagawa." Pacific Historical Review, 1 May 1970; 39 (2): 247–249.
Publishers' Weekly , Sept. 11, 1967, 64.
Shugg, Roger W. "Virus of Hate." Saturday Review , Jan. 13, 1968, 89.
Culnan, Dennis M. "Shameful Episode in American History." The Courier-Post. November 24, 1967.
- Daisuke Kitagawa, Issei and Nisei: The Internment Years (New York: Seabury Press, 1967), p. vii.
- Dennis M. Culnan. "Shameful Episode in American History." The Courier-Post. November 24, 1967.
- Martin E. Marty, "Compelling Document," The Christian Century , Jan. 3, 1968, p. 26; Review of Issei and Nisei, Publishers' Weekly , Sept. 11, 1967, p. 64; Roger W. Shugg, "Virus of Hate," Saturday Review , Jan. 13, 1968, p. 89.
- John Modell, "Japanese Americans: The Evolution of a Subculture, by Harry H. L. Kitano and Issei and Nisei: The Internment Years, by Daisuke Kitagawa." Pacific Historical Review, 1 May 1970; 39 (2): 247–249.
- Bruce Iwasaki, "Response and Change for the Asian in America: A Survey of Asian American Literature," in Roots: An Asian American Reader , edited by Amy Tachiki, et al. (Los Angeles: Asian American Studies Center, University of California, 1971), p. 93; see also Brian T. Niiya, "Open-Minded Conservatives: A Survey of Autobiographies by Asian Americans," M.A. thesis, UCLA, 1990.
Last updated Sept. 2, 2022, 2:35 p.m..