I’d never heard about Yuri Kochiyama before her death on June 1, 2014, when I began reading articles about this 93-year old Japanese American activist.
I was surprised and excited to learn that a “real-life” person existed whose life parallels much of what my character, Sachiko Kimura, will experience in the sequel to The Red Kimono, currently (and temporarily, I’m sure) titled Broken Dreams.
The following NPR sound byte talks about Ms. Kochiyama’s life:
There are many similarities between Ms. Kochiyama’s life and Sachi’s work-in-progress story, which will take place during the years 1957-1963. Here are just a few:
Ms. Kochiyama was interned in Jerome, Arkansas, where she met her husband, Bill. Sachi and her family were interned at Rohwer, Arkansas, though in the sequel, Sachi marries a Caucasian man, Paul, whom she met in college.
The NPR article titled “Yuri Kochiyama, Activist And Former World War II Internee, Dies At 93,” explains how Ms. Kochiyama’s interest and passion for civil rights began:
The couple married after World War II and moved to start their family in New York City. Living in housing projects among black and Puerto Rican neighbors inspired her interest in the civil rights movement.
Sachi’s interest in civil rights begins in 1957 while she and her friend, Jubie Lee Franklin are watching the Little Rock Nine attempt to enter Little Rock Central High School. I don’t want to give away too much about the surprising event that changes Sachi’s life, but from that moment, she joins many of the civil rights activities that occur during that era.
Ms. Kochiyama became friends with Malcolm X. Sachi will become friends with an African-American activist with whom she and Jubie attend many of the civil rights events between 1957-1960.
I just ordered two books about the life of Yuri Kochiyama, which I am looking forward to reading:
I look forward to seeing where the stories in these books take the story of Sachi. Who knows? Perhaps she will be lucky enough to meet Ms. Kochiyama at a civil rights event in the sequel.
I’ll just have to wait to see what Sachi tells me.