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«A Dissertation submitted to the Faculty of the Joint Graduate School in the Science of School Education in partial fulfilment of the requirement for ...»

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Assimilation, Sexuality and Racism: Japanese

American Nisei Writer Hisaye Yamamoto

A Dissertation

submitted to the Faculty of the Joint Graduate School

in the Science of School Education in partial

fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Doctor

of Philosophy

by

Shiho Nagai

Hyogo University of Teacher Education

2013

Acknowledgments

Without those who have helped me out over the past

several years, I could not have completed this dissertation. In

particular, I would very much like to thank Prof. Kazuhira Maeda of the Department of English Language Education of Naruto University of Education. He has kindly acted as my main supervisor since I was enrolled in Naruto University of Education in 2007. Prof. Hiroshi Oshima of Hyogo University of Teacher Education carefully read an earlier version of my paper and provided me with feedback. I am also indebted to Prof. Naoto Yamamori of the Department of English Language Education of Naruto University of Education for his continued encouragement and suggestions for improvement.

Substantial help also came from the following individuals:

Prof. Naoya Ota of Naruto University of Education in his careful reading of my paper and feedback, Prof. Yuko Sugiura of Naruto University of Education in her careful reading of my papers and invaluable suggestions for improvement, Prof. Bradley Berman of Naruto University of Education in his proofreading of some chapters of this work, Prof. Gerard Marchesseau of Naruto University of i Education in his careful proofreading of some chapters of this work. I also wish to acknowledge my debt to Ms. Keiko Fukagi and the other members of Naruto University of Education Library in their continued supports for collecting a number of papers for the dissertation.

Last, but certainly not least, a ton of thanks go to Mr. Mark Yoshinaga for his constant support, encouragement, thoughtful reading, and precious feedback. Without his warm help the completion of this work would have hardly been possible.

ii Abstract Assimilation, Sexuality and Racism: Japanese American Nisei Writer Hisaye Yamamoto by Shiho Nagai Supervisors Professor Kazuhira Maeda, Ph.D. (Naruto University of Education) Professor Hiroshi Oshima (Hyogo University of Teacher Education) Professor Naoto Yamamori, Ph.D. (Naruto University of Education) This dissertation discusses a Japanese American Nisei writer Hisaye Yamamoto (1921-2011), the Nisei main characters in her short stories, and Yamamoto’s newspaper articles from the viewpoints of assimilation, gender, sexuality,internment and racial discrimination in order to verify the influence of racial discrimination

–  –  –

“Epithalamium,” with that of a Vietnamese American Le Ly Hayslip in her autobiography When Heaven and Earth Changed Places to show the unique situation of the Japanese American Nisei who suffered from the oppressions from gender and racial discrimination.

To measure assimilation level, the following six benchmarks are applied: (1) Socioeconomic status, (2) Language assimilation, (3) Spatial concentration, (4) Intermarriage, (5) Racial discrimination, and (6) Influence of war.

Regarding socioeconomic status and language assimilation, there is a significant difference between American born Nisei and Vietnamese American first generation. Yamamoto’s skill for English language is so much better than Hayslip’s that the comparison by the benchmarks socioeconomic status and language assimilation does not provide any meaningful results.

–  –  –

intermarriage with an American is just a means to emigrate to the U.S., but Yuki’s intermarriage with an Italian American is a means to assimilate into white society. The difference of the two women should be largely dependent on their experience in the wars. Le Ly tries to survive by emigrating to the U.S. On the other hand, Yuki’s life is not

–  –  –

sexuality. Therefore Yuki’s strong desire to assimilate into white society by leaving the Japanese community involves the complicated situation of the Nisei.

–  –  –

characters in “Epithalamium” and “The Legend of Miss Sasagawara.” The sexuality of Yuki is explicitly expressed in “Epithalamium.” The main character Miss Sasagawara’s sexuality and the internees’ life with the details of the internment camp are depicted in “The Legend of Miss Sasagawara.” Strong resemblance is seen in the sexuality of Yuki and Miss Sasagawara. Both of the main characters insist on their own ways of life through their sexuality. Although Yuki resists all objections against her sex and marriage and is anxious about marrying an alcoholic dropout, she makes her decision on her life all by herself. In this way Yuki shows her protest to gender discrimination and racial discrimination through her sexuality. This is a Nisei woman’s answer to the oppressions and she is different from Japanese American Issei women who cannot escape their situations.

Section 1 of Chapter 3 discusses the racial discrimination against African Americans in “A Fire in Fontana,” which was published in 1985. The story dates back forty years to the period of World War II. The story can be regarded as a compilation of Yamamoto’s thoughts about racial discrimination over the forty years.





In relation to the racial discrimination in the story, two more stories “Wilshire Bus” and “Eucalyptus” are introduced for discussion.

–  –  –

Tribune run by African Americans. She wanted to protest openly to the racial discrimination against African Americans, but as a Japanese American news reporter she felt restrained to do so. During this period Yamamoto experienced an incident, the death of an African American family by suspicious fire. Because she had written an article about the family’s persecution prior to the incident, she was gnawed by a sense of guilt and regretted that she should have gone to great lengths to describe the situation. She tried to protest against the discrimination in a pacifist way which was not accepted by African Americans. Eventually she could not bear the situations and kept herself away from African Americans. She left the Los Angeles Tribune and became a writer and then a catholic worker. Yamamoto seems to have chosen to devote herself to the introspective life as a catholic worker.

Until 1985 when Yamamoto published “A Fire in Fontana,” she had little talked about the racial discrimination issue of African Americans since she left the Los Angeles Tribune. She had been making desperate effort to atone for her guilty conscience towards the African American family’s death. A strong sense of guilt and responsibility to rebel against the discrimination obsessed her and it developed into ‘fear of responsibility.’ Yamamoto was in a hospital for the treatment of her mental disorder and then she delineated this experience in “Eucalyptus.”

–  –  –

insight and anguish experienced at the Los Angeles Tribune. For instance, the comparison of the main character Nisei woman’s sensitivity towards racial discrimination with a Chinese woman’s shows Nisei woman’s fearful attitude towards racial discrimination, which implies the dismay caused by the internment and hostility received as an enemy alien in the U.S.

Section 2 of Chapter 3 discusses the discrimination against African Americans in Yamamoto’s newspaper column “Small Talk.” Yamamoto’s column is reviewed to investigate African Americans’ attitude toward racial discrimination and how they protested against it, Japanese Americans’ attitude toward racial discrimination and the actions they took against it, and African Americans’ attitude toward Japanese Americans.

Yamamoto, as a member of the marginalized racial minorities, tried to resist racial discrimination by sharing painful experience with African Americans. As mentioned above, she tried to protest against the discrimination in a pacifist way which was not accepted by African Americans. African Americans had only blacks and whites in the palette of their hearts, while Japanese Americans were eager to enter the white mainstream and discriminated against African Americans. Under this situation it might have been impossible for the two parties to have ‘dialogue’ to understand each other. Yamamoto lost her way in the maze of the argument of binary opposition and she was depressed by facing the racial minority’s

–  –  –

of the lack of dialogue and “intercultural competencies” (Tsuchiya 56) and therefore there was no opportunity for the racial minorities to learn from other minorities at that time.

From the discussions of Yamamoto’s stories and her life, it could be concluded that all issues taken up in her stories such as internment, assimilation, gender and sexuality are intricately related to racial discrimination which is a dominant undercurrent flowing through her stories.

–  –  –

Acknowledgments・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・i Abstract・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・iii Introduction ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・1 Chapter 1: Assimilation and Asian American Women ・・・・・・・・6

1.1 Le Ly Hayslip’s When Heaven and Earth Changed Places ・・・12

1.2 Hisaye Yamamoto’s “Epithalamium” ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・30 Chapter 2: Sexuality of Japanese Americans ・・・・・・・・・・・47 Chapter 3: Racism

3.1 The Stream of Racial Consciousness in “A Fire in Fontana”・・・64

3.2 Resistance to Racism in the Column of the Los Angeles Tribune 82 Conclusion ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・91 Works Cited ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・97

–  –  –

California. Her parents were engaged in cultivating tomato and strawberry. The family led a Japanese life style and lived with Japanese neighbors and Mexican hired hands. French, German, Chinese, Armenians and other people lived in the vicinity of the family and Yamamoto studied at school with the children there (Ueki and Sato 42).

Japanese immigration started in late 19th century.

Initially, most of Japanese immigrants were engaged in

–  –  –

industriousness in their works. However, as the number of immigrants grew and they started purchasing farms and their own business, anti-Japanese sentiment gradually emerged. The anti-Japanese sentiment was accelerated and the legislations such as Gentlemen’s Agreement (1908-) (Daniels, Asian 125), California Alien Land Law (1913-) (Daniels, Asian 138-44) and Immigration Act of 1924 (Daniels, Prisoners 15) were introduced.

–  –  –

7, 1941 (local time), the conflict between Japan and the U.S.

escalated into an all-out war. While the anti-Japanese sentiment went into hysterics, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 and by this order nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans were interned. The men, women, and their children, more than two-thirds of whom were American citizens, were exiled from their home and incarcerated in the internment camps by the U.S.

government simply because they or their parents had been born in Japan. Yamamoto was interned in Poston, Arizona, the setting for her story “The Legend of Miss Sasagawara.” There she served as a reporter and columnist for the Poston Chronicle, the camp newspaper, and published “Death Rides the Rails to Poston,” a serialized mystery.

Yamamoto “had early contracted the disease of compulsive reading” (Yamamoto, “Writing” 61) and started writing when she was a teenager, for a time under the pseudonym Napoleon. Much of her work is closely connected with the places and the events of her own life. Many Nisei including Yamamoto were allowed to leave the camps to get jobs or education in the Midwest and the East. She went back to Poston upon receiving the news that one of her brothers had been killed in combat in Italy. The experience became the basis of her story “Florentine Gardens.” The Japanese Americans’ internment

–  –  –

Yamamoto said that “Any extensive literary treatment of the Japanese in this country would be incomplete without some acknowledgment of the camp experience” (“... I Still” 69). After the war she worked for three years from 1945 to 1948 for the Los Angeles Tribune, an African American weekly paper; “A Fire in Fontana” is a memoir of her job as a reporter there.

–  –  –

Fellowship (1950-1951) allowed Yamamoto to write full time for a while. Drawn to the pacifist and selfless ideals advocated in the Catholic Worker, she became a volunteer worker of the Catholic Worker rehabilitation farm on Staten Island from 1953 to 1955.

Catholic Worker was founded by Dorothy Day (1897-1980) and Peter Maurin (1877-1949) in 1933, when the U.S. was at the bottom of the depression. Catholic Worker aimed at social justice, relief of the poor, and anti-war activities. Her experience in the

–  –  –

“Epithalamium.” Yamamoto was one of the Japanese American writers to gain national recognition after the war, when anti-Japanese sentiment was still strong. Four of her short stories found their way to Martha Foley’s yearly lists of “Distinctive Short Stories.” They are “Seventeen Syllables” (1949), “The Brown House” (1951), “Yoneko’s Earthquake” (1951), and “Epithalamium” (1960): “Yoneko’s Earthquake” was also

–  –  –



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