Asian Pacific Heritage Month pays tribute to the generations of the Asians and Pacific Islanders and their contributions to the rich and diverse history of the United States.
In researching The Red Kimono and its sequel (currently a work-in-progress and titled Broken Dreams) I’ve come across several websites and books detailing the history of events surrounding these cultures. Throughout May, I’ll share some of what I’ve found.
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“Densho’s mission is to preserve the testimonies of Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II before their memories are extinguished. We offer these irreplaceable firsthand accounts, coupled with historical images and teacher resources, to explore principles of democracy and promote equal justice for all.”
— Densho website
I used this website extensively in my research. Many of the photographs helped me to develop my scenes by providing images of the internment camps, as well as showing the pride and heartbreak in the faces of the Japanese Americans being interned.
The following video from YouTube gives a good overview of Densho.org and its mission:
The Densho Archives are also an extensive source of documents, including camp newspapers. I read several of the Rohwer Outpost columns which gave me ideas of the day-to-day life inside the camp.
But most useful and most poignant were the videos of former internees who were interviewed about their internment experiences. So many of the videos began with stoicism, but often ended with tears. These videos, more than anything, helped put me in the shoes of the internees so that I might develop characters who would better help readers to see that time in our history through the internees’ eyes.
Here are a couple of Densho videos from YouTube:
And so we take the mistakes of history and determine for ourselves that in our lifetime, it will happen never again.
— Justice Charles Z. Smith