A tribute to “Seventeen Syllables and Other Stories” author Hisaye Yamamoto (1921-2011) was held March 27 at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Little Tokyo.
Speakers included Lane Hirabayashi, holder of the Aratani Endowed Chair at UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center; King-Kok Cheung, professor of Asian American studies at UCLA and author of “Articulate Silences: Hisaye Yamamoto, Maxine Hong Kingston, Joy Kogawa”; J.K. Yamamoto, Hisaye Yamamoto’s nephew and Rafu Shimpo staff writer; and poet Mitsuye Yamada (“Desert Run: Poems and Stories”).
Messages were read from author Stan Yogi (“Wherever There’s a Fight”), UC Berkeley Asian American studies professor Elaine Kim, and professors Iwao Yamamoto, formerly of Ritsumeikan University, and Mie Hihara of Kyoto Women’s University, the translators of the Japanese version of “Seventeen Syllables.”
Reading selections from Yamamoto’s short stories and essays were playwright Momoko Iko (“Gold Watch”), editor Patricia Wakida (“Highway 99”), mystery writer Naomi Hirahara (“Blood Hina”), and editor Emma Gee (“Counterpoint”). The excerpts were from “A Fire in Fontana,” “Seventeen Syllables,” “Death Rides the Rails to Poston,” and “The High-Heeled Shoes,” respectively. Novelist Karen Tei Yamashita (“I-Hotel”) also attended.
Hirahara, a former editor of the Rafu Shimpo, also provided a display of articles that Yamamoto wrote for the Poston Chronicle while interned at Poston, Ariz., during World War II, as well as Rafu Shimpo essays in which Yamamoto recounted her experiences as a staffer at the Los Angeles Tribune, an African American newspaper, after the war and her participation in the 1992 Poston Pilgrimage.
Yamamoto herself made an appearance in excerpts from a 2004 oral history interview, edited by John Esaki of the Japanese American National Museum.
The well-respected writer passed away on Jan. 30 in Los Angeles at the age of 89.
The event was co-presented by the JACCC and the UCLA Asian American Studies Center’s George and Sakaye Aratani Chair on the Japanese American Internment, Redress, and Community.