Nisei Attorney Chuman Publishes Memoir

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Sen. John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts (center) with members of the Japanese American Democratic Club on Sept. 19, 1956, at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. Pictured with him are (from left) Frank Chuman, Frank Kurihara, Meri-Jane Yokoe and James Mitsumori. Kennedy was campaigning for Adlai Stevenson and Estes Kefauver, the Democratic nominees for president and vice president, who lost to the Republican incumbents, Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. Kennedy was elected president in 1960. (Photo by Toyo Miyatake Studio, courtesy of the Japanese American National Museum’s Hirasaki National Resource Center)

Nisei attorney Frank Chuman will sign copies of his memoir, “Manzanar and Beyond,” at the JACL National Convention, which will be held from July 7 to 10 at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel & Spa.

Chuman will be at the AACP (Asian American Curriculum Project) booth. The mission of AACP, which is based in the Bay Area, is to educate the public about the Asian American experience and to educate Asian Americans about their own heritage through books and other educational materials.

Published by AACP, Chuman’s book includes a foreword by Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii and an introduction by attorney Dale Minami.

After being incarcerated at Manzanar during World War II, Chuman finished his interrupted law education and became a distinguished lawyer. His life work and community service were spent helping Japanese Americans with their struggle to regain their rightful place in America after the war.

Chuman’s legal work and writings on civil rights issues brought him to national prominence, which eventually led him to being on the legal team that helped overturn the unjust wartime conviction of Fred Korematsu.

Chuman’s career has been quite diverse – taking him from head administrator of Manzanar’s camp hospital to president of the JACL, from legal counsel for the UCLA Alumni Association to legal advisor to the Consulate General of Japan, from Eagle Scout to bar admission to the U.S. Supreme Court.

He is also the author of “The Bamboo People: The Law and Japanese Americans” (1976), the first book chronicling the long history and immense legal struggles of people of Japanese ancestry in America. The late Robert Kirsch of the Los Angeles Times said in his review that the author did not “pull any punches.”

“Unlike so many memoirs now flooding the market, this is one that genuinely merited being written and published,” said Arthur Hansen, professor emeritus of history and Asian American studies at CSU Fullerton. “Although modest about his many diverse accomplishments, Chuman has fashioned an autobiographical narrative that not only starkly illuminates the Nisei generation’s steeply challenging life course, but also serves as a robust embodiment of the saying ‘You only live once, but if you work it right, once is enough.’ ”

“I have always admired Frank Chuman,” said Lane Hirabayashi, the George and Sakaye Aratani Professor and Endowed Chair at UCLA. “I have his book ‘Bamboo People’ on my shelf, and have turned to it many times before a lecture or while I’m writing. Now ‘Manzanar and Beyond’ reveals Frank’s hidden yet pivotal role in the 1980s redress movement.

“This is the story of an intelligent, hard working, self-effacing Nisei. A U.S. citizen, incarcerated during the war years by his own government, Chuman went from camp, to law school, to a post-war life as a lawyer, author, family man, and dedicated community leader. A model minority? Perhaps. Yet it was none other than Frank Chuman who first articulated that ‘writ of error coram nobis’ could be a legal key to unlocking redress for Japanese Americans in the 1980s.”

“This memoir is an important and highly readable addition to Nisei narratives about their experiences in the United States before, during and after the World War II,” said Taunya Lovell Banks, Jacob A. France Professor of Equality Jurisprudence at the University of Maryland School of Law. “The story is told with no bitterness and occasional humor. It is a story of personal resilience. It also is the story of those Americans who refused to be intimidated by anti-Japanese sentiment pervasive in some parts of this country and who treated Japanese Americans with respect and kindness.”

Chuman will also speak on Sunday, July 24, at 2 p.m. at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, 1840 Sutter St. in San Francisco Japantown.

For more information on the book, call (650) 375-8286 or email [email protected].

For information on the convention, call (213) 626-4471 or visit www.jacl.org/convention/la/home.html.

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2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Nisei Attorney Chuman Publishes Memoir – The Rafu Shimpo | Maryland Personal Injury

  2. I have just written a memoir entitled: BEING LOCAL IN HAWAI’I: TALKING STORY WITH JULIA OF WAHIAWA.

    I am a 73 year old Nisei woman (my mother was a picture bride) and I believe I may be the first Nisei woman in Hawaii to write a memoir. I would love for you to do a story on my book; my family live in L.A. and subscribe to Rafu Shimpo…their names are Ruth and Douglas Murakami in Montebello.

    Please contact me at 808-852-1892 (cell) or [email protected]
    Would love to talk to someone from Rafu Shimpo…..
    Aloha, Julia Matsui Estrella

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