‘American Sutra’ Author to Speak at Gardena Buddhist

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Duncan Ryuken Williams examines Buddhism in the WWII concentration camps.

GARDENA — Duncan Ryuken Williams, author of “American Sutra: Buddhism and the WWII Japanese American Incarceration” (Harvard University Press), will speak on Saturday, Sept. 28, at Gardena Buddhist Church, 1517 166th St. in Gardena.

Japanese-language talk at 10 a.m. English talk at 1:30 p.m., followed by book sales and signing.

This groundbreaking history tells the little-known story of how, in one of the country’s darkest hours, Japanese Americans fought to defend their faith and preserve religious freedom. The mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II is not only a tale of injustice; it is a moving story of faith.

In this path-breaking account, Williams reveals how, even as they were stripped of their homes and imprisoned in camps, Japanese American Buddhists launched one of the most inspiring defenses of religious freedom in the nation’s history, insisting that they could be both Buddhist and American.

Williams was born in Tokyo to a Japanese mother and British father. After growing up in Japan and England until age 17, he moved to the U.S. to attend Reed College and Harvard University, where he received a Ph.D. in religion. He is currently professor of religion and East Asian languages and cultures and director of the USC Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture, and former chair of USC’s School of Religion.

Previously, he held the Shinjo Ito Distinguished Chair of Japanese Buddhism at UC Berkeley and served as the director of Berkeley’s Center for Japanese Studies for four years. He has also been ordained since 1993 as a Buddhist priest in the Soto Zen tradition and served as the Buddhist chaplain at Harvard from 1994-96.

He is the author of “The Other Side of Zen: A Social History of Soto Zen Buddhism in Tokugawa Japan” (Princeton University Press, 2005) and editor of seven volumes, including “Hapa Japan” (Kaya Press, 2017), “Issei Buddhism in the Americas” (U-Illinois Press, 2010), “American Buddhism” (Routledge, 1998), and “Buddhism and Ecology” (Harvard University Press, 1997). He has also translated four books from Japanese into English, including “Putting Buddhism to Work: A New Theory of Economics and Business Management” (Kodansha, 1997).

For more information on the event, call (310) 327-9400 or visit www.gardenabuddhistchurch.org.

For more information on the book, visit www.americansutra.com.

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