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Born in the USA
A Story of Japanese America, 1889-1947
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Born in the USA
A Story of Japanese America, 1889-1947

By Frank Chin
2002, 501 pages, paperback.
Book Description from Back Cover
Book Description from the Publisher's Website
Comments from Back Cover
About the Author

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Book Description from Back Cover

Newly arrived Japanese and newly minted Japanese Americans remember their history from 1889 through World War II and the concentration camps, to Christmas Eve 1947. American novels, songs, newspapers, movies, and cartoons also paint a picture of Japanese America. Same country, different story.

Frank Chin extensively interviewed Japanese, Japanese Americans, and white Americans in an effort to understand the times surrounding World War II. He masterfully interweaves their recollections with the popular culture of the time to present a history of America at war with itself that reads like an intricate spy novel. Yet every word, every document, every name is real.

Chin tells the story of a Japanese America wrestling with coming of age in the United States just as the Imperial Japanese Navy bombed Pearl Harbor, dashing their dreams and fragmenting their community. Confused citizens are forced from their homes into the darkness of the internment camps. The conflict overseas overshadowed the secret war seething behind the barbed wire among groups of Japanese Americans and their differing views of Americanism. On the one hand, the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) had government support and publicity for its policy of surrendering civil rights until its fellow Japanese Americans "re-earned" them. On the other, the resisters had no official support and almost no publicity. Yet they had one honest journalist, James Omura. They had a lawyer and they had leaders, in particular one man, Frank Emi.

Born in the USA tells the story of the JACL collaboration with the government in arresting James Omura, shutting down his newspaper, and silencing the resistance. Yet the JACL survived as the only group organized to defend Japanese American civil rights. Until the publication of this book, the story of the fight against the JACL policies was one of the best-kept secrets of the internment camps.

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Book Description from the Publisher's Website

This unique oral history presents the Japanese American saga as told by those who lived through it. Frank Chin details the lives of first and second generation Japanese Americans before World War II with a rich kaleidoscope of images drawn from interviews, popular songs, novels, and newspaper articles. The heart of his story is the tragedy that followed the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when Japanese American citizens lost their homes and property and were forced into internment camps. The author deftly weaves interviews and testimony from the Japanese American Citizen's League (JACL) with opposing, in-depth conversations with those who resisted the JACL's support for U.S. policy. This shameful episode in American history resonates deeply today as we witness similar erosions of civil rights in the name of wartime security.

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Comments from Back Cover

"On May 11, 2002, the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) apologized to the 'resistors of conscience' who had refused induction while they and their families were confined in American-style concentration camps during World War II. Why? Bursting with passion, Born in the USA uses insiders' accounts of the resistors' lives to explain their cause and their persecution. This is an indispensable contribution to the literature on Asian America."
- Lane Hirabayashi, University of Colorado

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Background on Frank Chin

Frank Chin was born in 1940, to Chinese immigrant father and a fourth-generation Chinatown mother. He received his BA in English, from the University of California at Santa Barbara, in February of 1966. He is the author of two plays, The Chickencoop Chinaman (1972) and The Year of the Dragon (1974). He is also the author of a collection of short fiction, The Chinaman Pacific and Frisco R.R. Co. (1988); two novels, Donald Duk (1991) and Gunga Din Highway (1994); and a book of essays, Bulletproof Buddhists (1998). He wrote the critical essays in and coedited two studies of Asian American writing with Jeffrey Chan, Lawson Inada, and Shawn Wong: Aiieeeee! An Anthology of Asian American Writers (1974) and The Big Aiieeeee! An Anthology of Chinese American and Japanese American Literature (1991).

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