Jonathan Hiroshi Shirota
August 29, 1927 – July 28, 2020
Jon Shirota, Maui-born novelist and playwright, passed away peacefully in his sleep on July 28, 2020 at the age of 92. Making use of his Okinawan roots, his many works and plays reflected the immigration and war, human relation surrounding the U.S. bases and struggles with self-identity. He was a graduate of Brigham Young University. In 1968, Jon wrote his first novel, “Lucky Come Hawaii” in which he described the complicated identity issues among the Okinawans in Hawaii after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. This novel was produced as a play and awarded the John F. Kennedy Award in 1990. “Leilani’s Hibiscus,” another play, described the love story between a native Hawaiian girl and an Okinawan Nisei. Both “Lucky Come Hawaii” and “Leilani’s Hibiscus” were translated into Japanese and performed in Okinawa.
In 2005, Jon spent 6 months in Okinawa when he received a grant from the Japan-United States Friendship Commission Artist Exchange Program to do research on immigration and was also the visiting professor at the University of the Ryukus.
The play “Voices From Okinawa” evolved from his experiences and stay in Okinawa. His plays have been performed in Los Angeles, New York, Hawaii, Tokyo and Okinawa. Other novels by Jon are: “Pineapple White,” “Ripples in the Pond,” “The Chronicles of Ojii-chan” and “A Navajo Love Story.”
Jon is survived by his wife Barbara, stepchildren Sumiye (Bruce) Arnheim and Craig (Lisa) Yanase and grandchildren Alyssa Arnheim, Lauren and Bryan Yanase. He is also survived by sisters Kikue Tada, Hawaii; Tomiko Shirota, Las Vegas; Sumiko Martin, San Jose and many nieces, nephews and relatives in Japan and America.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, a private memorial service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, make a donation to your favorite charity.
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