‘A Principled Stand’ Tells Gordon Hirabayashi’s Story in His Own Words

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“A Principled Stand: The Story of Hirabayashi v. United States” by Gordon K. Hirabayashi, with James R. Hirabayashi and Lane Ryo Hirabayashi, has been published by University of Washington Press as part of the Scott and Laurie Oki Series in Asian American Studies.

In 1942, University of Washington student Gordon Hirabayashi (1918-2012) defied the curfew and mass removal of Japanese Americans on the West Coast, and was subsequently convicted and imprisoned as a result. In “A Principled Stand,” Gordon’s brother James and nephew Lane have brought together his prison diaries and voluminous wartime correspondence to tell the story of Hirabayashi v. United States, the Supreme Court case that in 1943 upheld and on appeal in 1987 vacated his conviction.

For the first time, the events of the case are told in Hirabayashi’s own words. The result is a compelling and intimate story that reveals what motivated him, how he endured, and how his ideals deepened as he fought discrimination and defended his beliefs.

“I never look at my case as just my own, or just as a Japanese American case,” he once said. “It is an American case, with principles that affect the fundamental human rights of all Americans.”

“A Principled Stand” adds valuable context to the body of work by legal scholars and historians on the seminal Hirabayashi case. This engaging memoir combines his accounts with family photographs and archival documents as it takes readers through the series of imprisonments and court battles he endured. Details such as Hirabayashi’s profound religious faith, his roots in student movements of the day, his encounters with inmates in jail, and his daily experiences during imprisonment give texture to his storied life.

Hirabayashi, who was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in May 2012, was professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. His case was reopened in the 1980s on the basis of new evidence and his convictions for violating curfew and exclusion orders were vacated in federal court.

James Hirabayashi (1926-2012), who was detained at Tule Lake during World War II, was professor emeritus of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University, where he was dean of the nation’s first School of Ethnic Studies. He was also an actor with the Asian American Theater Company.

Lane Hirabayashi is professor of Asian American studies and the George and Sakaye Aratani Professor of the Japanese American Incarceration, Redress, and Community at UCLA. He and his father co-edited two books with Akemi Kikumura Yano, “Common Ground: The Japanese American National Museum and the Culture of Collaboration” and “New Worlds, New Lives: Globalization and People of Japanese Descent in the Americas and from Latin America in Japan.”

“‘A Principled Stand’ makes an important contribution to understanding both Gordon Hirabayashi’s life and the horrible episode in this country’s history that was the internment,” said Lorraine Bannai of the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality, Seattle University School of Law.

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