A Humbling Easter Sunday

Jan Morrill:

Mustang Koji posted this story of love, honor and commitment in commemoration of Veteran’s Day. Beautiful and humbling.

Originally posted on Masako and Spam Musubi:

5th Marines

Easter Sunday turned out to be a tough day – emotionally for me, at least.

But it was even tougher for a 90 year old widow of the Greatest Generation.


Marge Johnson.

We went to visit her husband’s grave site…

Mr. Doreston “Johnny” Johnson.  Sergeant, United States Marine Corps.  World War II.


As I was cutting down trees and chipping the cuttings in the backyard this past Good Friday, Marge’s caretaker drove Marge up to see me.  What a pleasant surprise – besides, it gave me a great excuse to stop working.

After chatting, she brought up her husband.  It had been a year since his funeral with full military honors and that she hadn’t been back to see him.

She didn’t need to say anything more.

We agreed I would take her to see him two days later – Easter Sunday.


Mostly, I will let…

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Beautiful Monsters

Jan Morrill:

What is the value of “saving face” if that face is only a mask?

Originally posted on Jan Morrill Writes:

Sometimes, a convergence of “hints” whacks me across the face, wakes me up and tells me it’s time to do something. Here’s what smacked me this time:

220px-F_Scott_Fitzgerald_19211)  I read an article in The Atlantic about F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s thoughts on writing, titled “Nothing Any Good Isn’t Hard.” In it, he says:

But the amateur can only realize his ability to transfer his emotions to another person by some such desperate and radical expedient as tearing your first tragic love story out of your heart and putting it on pages for people to see.

That, anyhow, is the price of admission. Whether you are prepared to pay it or, whether it coincides or conflicts with your attitude on what is ‘nice’ is something for you to decide. But literature, even light literature, will accept nothing less from the neophyte. It is one of those professions that wants the ‘works.’…

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Greater Kansas City Japan Festival


I’m excited to head north to Kansas City this weekend for the Greater Kansas City Japan Festival. The festival is organized by a group of friendly, dedicated people and I look forward to seeing them again.

This will be the second year I’ve had the opportunity to attend the festival to talk about my book, The Red Kimono and the history of the Japanese American internment.

This year, I will be giving an additional workshop on writing haiku, a poetry form I enjoy writing to describe life, as I did in my book, Life: Haiku by Haiku. The following slide from my presentation spotlights a few haiku from one of the masters:

basho haiku

The workshop will also have a haiku exercise–my favorite part, because I get to hear the magical seventeen-syllable stories of the attendees.

This year, in conjunction with the workshop, the festival sponsored a haiku contest. We had over 200 entries in the adult and children categories, and the finalists are now up on the website, where anyone can cast a vote. If you’d like to read the haiku finalists and vote, click HERE. This is the last day to vote!

The festival will be at the Johnson County Community College:

12345 College Blvd
Overland Park, KS 66210-1299

My presentations will be:

2:00 – Wearing the Red Kimono, Recital Hall
4:00 – Haiku Presentation, Hudson Auditorium

Click HERE for a full schedule of events.

And of course, I’ll be selling and signing books from 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. So, if you’re in the Kansas City area, come experience a little Japanese culture and . . .

stop by to see me, too!

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Bullying: An Infectious Disease

bully (2)

October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month and I have a true story to tell.

I have been bullied, and I believe as a result, I have also been a bully. My siblings and many of my friends know that as the oldest of five children, I often bullied my “underling” siblings. But though it’s no excuse for bullying, I blame it on being too young and immature to carry some of the responsibilities I had as a child. Still, it’s something I regret to this day.

The bullying story that none but a few know, however, is a memory that shames me, even fifty years later.

I think I was maybe six or seven years old, perhaps even younger. I don’t want to say who bullied me, that’s not important. But I remember being made to stand still while I was criticized and chastised for how I looked–sloppy, unkempt, dirty. In particular, I was criticized for my dirty knees. I’m not surprised my knees stood out as “dirty,” knobby as they are. :)

I was hurt and scared at the same time. I wanted to leave that room, to hide from my hypercritic.

Who knows how long it took me to morph from bullied to bully-er, but I’m sure it didn’t take long. Sometime later, I took a walk around the block, and I came upon a red-headed girl, a little younger than I and began to yell at her about how she looked. In particular, I criticized her dirty knees. I remember feeling badly about it, even as I got uglier and uglier with my criticism. Yet, I couldn’t stop.

I don’t recall that I ever saw this little girl again. I’m sure she ran and hid any time I approached. I do wish I could apologize to her, even fifty years later.

So, here’s my first thought on bullying:

Bullying is like an infectious disease. When a person is bullied, he has been “infected,” and the chances are good the “germ” will spread through his contact with others.

I see varying degrees of bullying almost every day on the news, social media and even in real life. Each time, I think about what’s behind it. Here are a couple of other thoughts I’ve had:

  • Social media is an incubator. It’s made bullying covert–easier and safer. A bully can remain anonymous. But perhaps even worse, sometimes the bullying may not be intentional. I’ve seen instances where snarky, sarcastic comments are taken personally and the receiver feels bullied. Sadly, this often leads to an escalation of emotions and shuts down communication.
  • We’re losing our ability to empathize, to put ourselves in another’s shoes. What is behind someone’s bullying? How does bullying make someone feel, whether it’s in jest or not? Again, much of the blame goes to social media, where we comment without the benefit of knowing a person, without the benefit of seeing their physical response to our comments–a look in their eyes, a gasp, a wince, a turning away.

Bullying impacted me enough that I included several instances in The Red Kimono. In the following excerpt, Pearl Harbor has been attacked, and Sachi reflects on being bullied:

The school yard was crowded with kids waiting for the bell to ring. Sachi hesitated to get out of the car.

They will all stare at me.

That was just one of the things she hated about fourth grade. She didn’t like homework either. Or grumpy Mrs. Nelson. And she especially didn’t like the kids who called her slant-eyes.

One day at lunch, a boy in her class had moved to another table, all because she sat next to him. Snickers and whispers had surrounded her like moths around a porch light. She left her tray on the table and ran out of the cafeteria. But those moths flitted and batted around her all the way out.

I would love to hear your stories. Have you ever been bullied? Have you ever been a bully? Were the two related?

IThe Red Kimonon recognition of Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, anyone who leaves a comment (hope you’ll share a story!) will be entered into a drawing for an autographed copy of The Red Kimono. Drawing will be held November 1. (NOTE: If the winner lives outside of the contiguous United States, I will send a gift certificate for a Kindle version of The Red Kimono.)

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Today, while watching CNN, I was reminded once again about how history repeats itself, though not always in obvious ways.

I learned about these two hashtags:

I learned about them while listening to a discussion between CNN anchor, Carol Costello and Bobby Ghosh (Managing Editor of the business news website, Quartz). In the discussion, they mentioned President Obama’s reference to the movement #NotInMyName at yesterday’s speech to the United Nations.

According to the Huffington Post:

Led by East London-based charity Active Change Foundation, #NotInMyName gives a voice to young Muslims in the UK who have come together against the hate and violence espoused by the terror group, [ISIS].

Upon hearing about this hashtag, I clicked on the Twitter app on my iPhone and searched for #NotInMyName. “Bravo” flashed before me as I read some of the texts:



But that wasn’t the end of the discussion. Mr. Ghosh followed up by talking about the second hashtag I learned about today: #MuslimApologies.

The Washington Post  defines the hashtag as:

#MuslimApologies represents another reaction: Frustration over the assumption of collective responsibility.

#MuslimApologies is a generally sarcastic and humorous attempt by some Muslims to express their frustration.


ma2 (2)

This isn’t the first time attitudes toward the Muslim community have reminded me of attitudes many held about people of Japanese descent (more than 60% of whom were Americans) after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Here are a couple of similarities as I see them:

  1. As with the young Muslims who are using the hashtag #NotInMyName to disassociate themselves from ISIS, the Japanese living in America did not want to be associated with and thought of in the same light as the Japanese who attacked Pearl Harbor. Though they, of course, didn’t have the power of social media to distance themselves, some hung signs outside of their businesses and homes that declared they were American. And in interview after interview I found in my research for The Red Kimono, many former internees talk about how they did not resist going to the camps to prove they were loyal Americans.
  2. Mr. Gosh talked about the frustration of many Muslims about the attitude many hold that moderate Muslims do not speak up more against radical Islamists. Through my research, I learned that many Japanese held the same frustrations. There was little they could do to prove their loyalty and that they were no threat.



History repeats itself. That’s why we should remember it. I’ll admit, even with the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II being a part of my own family history–my mother was an internee–and even with all of the research I did to write The Red Kimono, I still sometimes find myself sliding into thinking about a group of people as all being the same as a radical relative few.

Sometimes the very media from which I learned about these hashtags can contribute to these attitudes.

But if we remember our lessons of the past, perhaps we’ll think twice before such attitudes become cemented into who we are.


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How Will You Celebrate #PeaceDay?

red water lily (2)

Today, September 21, is the International Day of Peace. I’ve seen very little on the news or social media about the day, a curious thing, considering the condition of the world today.



Here’s the definition on the United Nations website:

Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September. The General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.


One of my favorite hymns is “Let There Be Peace on Earth:”

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our father
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment
And live each moment
With peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me.

“And let it begin with me.”  In my opinion, those are the most important words.

As I thought about the day, I brainstormed about how peace might begin with me. Here’s my list so far:

  • Accept and appreciate our differences instead of fearing them.
  • Practice compassion.
  • Learn to be more empathetic.
  • Strive not to offend.
  • Strive not to be offended.
  • Focus on the positive.
  • Don’t be drawn into the negativity social media often feeds.
  • Let go.

Today, as I continue to pack and prepare to move, I’ll be singing “let it begin with me.” Good thing nobody can hear. :)

How will you celebrate the day? What are your ideas on ways to promote peace?

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#TGIF On a Positive Note: True #BFF


Most news stories leave the bitter taste of “What’s this world coming to” in my mouth. But this story of friendship, kindness, courage and compassion gives me hope.

After “mean girls” play a joke on Lilly Skinner, telling her she’s been nominated for homecoming queen, her two BFFs, Anahi Alvarez and Naomi Martinez, promise to pass the crown to Lilly should either of them win.

Lilly, unaware of her friends’ promise, showed grace through the bullying, remembering what her mother told her: “Don’t judge by the outside. It’s what’s in the heart that counts.”

Bravo to Anahi and Naomi. Two beautiful souls to give us hope.

Read the full story HERE.

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Chicago! Chicago!

I am honored to be invited by the Japanese American Historical Society of Chicago to give a workshop on writing family history on Thursday, August 28, starting at 12:00 p.m.

CJAS Workshop


And thank you very much to the Japan America Society of Chicago for their invitation to do a presentation and book signing for The Red Kimono, same date, same place, starting at 6:00 p.m.

CJAS Book signing

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Ah, Life!

Jan Morrill:

Life gets crazy…but I love it!

Originally posted on Jan Morrill Writes:

I started to post this little complaint ruse on Facebook, but thought I might get a little long-winded, so I’ll do a blog post instead. I can’t make any promises about not being too long-winded, however.

In the last several days, squeezed in during Tommy’s naps and my evening hours, I’ve been packing and preparing three presentations I’ll make next week between here and Chicago:

Saturday, August 23 – Springfield Writers’ Guild, 1:00 pm-2:00 pm at Heritage Cafeteria, 1364 E Battlefield in Springfield, Missouri. I’ll be presenting a workshop on Interviewing Your Characters.

Thursday, August 28 – Chicago Japanese American Historical Society, 12:00 pm-1:30 pm at Harold Washington Library, 400 S. State Street (Video Theater, Lower Level), Chicago, IL. I’ll be conducting a workshop titled Wearing the Red Kimono, which will teach participants different methods to turn family history into stories.

Thursday, August 28 – Japan America…

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What Do You Think: A Comic Book Character’s Demise


Today I heard a story on CNN about tomorrow’s demise of a comic strip character I grew up with: Archie.

Though I was not a huge fan of Archie, or for that matter, many other comic book characters, just hearing the name “Archie” took me back to my childhood with memories of Saturday morning cartoons when I watched Archie and the Gang. In fact, before I was publicly interested in boys, I remember being rather enthralled with the goings-on of Archie, Veronica, Reggie and Betty.

So, when I first heard, “Archie,” I thought, “Oh yeah, I remember Archie and the Gang.”

CNN reported:

…he’s dying taking a bullet for his gay best friend, Kevin Keller, so he’s saving his life by taking a bullet for him…


I can’t completely articulate why this bothered me, but it did. Why did a beloved character have to die at all, much less like this? I mean, this was a happy-go-lucky teenager, not a crime-fighting superhero like Batman, Superman, etc.


I understand that the “real” world is a violent place and that bad things happen to good people. But why do our CARTOONS–a place children used to be able to go for fun and possibly to escape reality–have to be so real?

It was a “what’s-this-world-coming-to” moment.

I did feel better when I further researched the death and read in the Washington Post:

While casual fans likely still associate Archie with soda shops and sock hops — and that’s still holds true for the very much alive teenage character in the original “Archie” series — Archie was thrust into adulthood with the launch of “Life with Archie” in 2010.

So, apparently, Life with Archie is geared more toward adults.

I know. Maybe I need to get a life if this bothered me so much. Maybe I think it’s sad that the world has lost a lot of its innocence. Maybe it’s because there’s so much awfulness in the “real world”–the crisis in the Middle East, immigrant children, shootings in Chicago, an inept government, blah, blah, blah–that I want my entertainment, and more specifically, kids’ entertainment, to stay entertainment.

Either way, this is how I’ll remember Archie and the Gang.

Film-Archie Movie

What do you think?



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