Museum Picks

Carole Yamakoshi and Agnes Yamakoshi-Sasaki’s pick: Nisei Voices

Our “museum pick” is Nisei Voices: Japanese American Students of the 1930s—Then & Now. The author, Joyce Hirohata, is a Sansei from Oakland. Her grandfather, Paul Hirohata, had originally published a book of forty-nine graduation speeches given by Nisei prior to World War II. Joyce became interested in the personal stories of these individuals and decided to try to contact them. After three years of research, she gathered information from the students and their surviving family members and wrote about what has happened to each of them from the 1930s to the present. Because of Joyce&rsquops additions, the book has become a great historical masterpiece. What makes Nisei Voices so fascinating is that it is about real people and real experiences.

George Inagaki, a tireless advocate for the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), John Aiso, a prominent judge in the Los Angeles Superior Court, Frank Chuman, a prominent lawyer and Shizu (Komae) Matsumura, a volunteer at the Japanese American National Museum, are a few of the individuals featured in this book. However, we have a special interest in this book because both of our parents are in the book. They met when our father went to cover the speech that our mother was delivering at her grammar school commencement! Our father’s high school graduation speech is also featured. Our parents knew that Joyce was working on this book, but neither was able to see the finished product. Therefore, it became particularly important to us, along with our other three sisters, to contribute information about our parents and to share the story of their lives since the original book was published.

Nisei Voices was a labor of love for Joyce to preserve the legacy of her grandfather’s work. Joyce Hirohata was so taken by the patriotism of these young and idealistic American citizens that she made it a personal goal to preserve the speeches and document the history of these students for all Americans. She found it ironic that within six years these same individuals would be incarcerated by their government—not the future they had envisioned. She wanted to show the strength of the human spirit enabled these people to persevere even in the face of adversity. If you lived through this period of time, know someone in this book, or love history, it is a fascinating read!

Carole Yamakoshi is a volunteer at the Japanese American National Museum. Agnes Sasaki is her sister and a frequent visitor and supporter of the Museum Store Online. Agnes is a retired elementary school teacher who resides in San Lorenzo, California.

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