Dialogue on ‘Postwar Nikkei Life and Camp Legacies’

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SAN FRANCISCO — The Nichi Bei Foundation Author Series presents “Postwar Nikkei Life and Camp Legacies,” a joint book reading and dialogue with Greg Robinson and Brian Komei Dempster, on Saturday, April 26, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Union Bank Community Room, 1675 Post St. (Japan Center East Mall) in San Francisco Japantown.

after campCo-presented by University of San Francisco Asian Pacific American Studies Program, University of San Francisco Asian Studies Program, Japanese American National Library, National Japanese American Historical Society and Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California.

Note: The event is preceded by a Japanese American National Library lecture and video screening, “Looking for Jiro Onuma: Queer Perspectives on Wartime Incarceration” with Tina Takemoto, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Robinson’s “After Camp” (University of California, 2012) takes on a large, unexplored area of American history: the midcentury Japanese American experience. A vast and ever-growing literature exists on the incarceration of Japanese Americans in prison camps during World War II. Yet the essential question of “What happened after camp?” remains all but unanswered.

Excluded from the wartime economic boom and scarred psychologically by their imprisonment, former camp inmates struggled to find jobs and places to live, to remake their lives in light of the prejudice they still faced outside of barbed wire.

topaz-dempsterRobinson, a native New Yorker, is full professor of history at l’Université du Québec À Montréal, a French-language institution in Montreal, Canada. He is the author of several notable books, including “Pacific Citizens: Larry and Guyo Tajiri and Japanese American Journalism in the World War II Era” (University of Illinois Press, 2012). His column, “The Great Unknown and the Unknown Great,” appears regularly in The Nichi Bei Weekly.

Dempster’s “Topaz” (Four Way Books, 2013), his debut poetry collection, examines the experiences of a Japanese American family separated and incarcerated in American World War II prison camps. This volume delves into the lasting intergenerational impact of imprisonment and breaks a cultural legacy of silence. Through the fractured lenses of past and present, personal and collective, the speaker seeks to piece together the facets of his own identity and to shed light on a buried history.

Dempster is a professor of rhetoric and language, faculty member in Asian Pacific American Studies, and director of the Master of Arts in Asia Pacific Studies at the University of San Francisco. He is the editor of “From Our Side of the Fence: Growing Up in America’s Concentration Camps” (Kearny Street Workshop, 2001), and “Making Home from War: Stories of Japanese American Exile and Resettlement” (Heyday, 2011).

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