Recognition for Long-Overlooked Figures in Nikkei History

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“The Unsung Great: Stories of Extraordinary Japanese Americans” by Greg Robinson (University of Washington Press)

From a title-winning boxer in Louisiana to a Broadway baritone in New York, Japanese Americans have long belied their popular representation as “quiet Americans.” Showcasing the lives and achievements of relatively unknown but remarkable people in Nikkei history, scholar and journalist Greg Robinson reveals the diverse experiences of Japanese Americans and explores a wealth of themes, including mixed-race families, artistic pioneers, mass confinement, civil rights activism, and queer history.

Drawn primarily from Robinson’s popular writings in the San Francisco newspaper Nichi Bei Weekly and community website Discover Nikkei, “The Unsung Great” offers entertaining and compelling stories that challenge one-dimensional views of Japanese Americans.

This collection breaks new ground by devoting attention to Nikkei beyond the West Coast — including the vibrant communities of New York and Chicago, as well as the little-known history of Japanese Americans in the U.S. South. Expertly researched and accessibly written, “The Unsung Great” brings to light a constellation of varied and incredible life stories.

Robinson is professor of history at l’Université du Québec à Montréal and author of several books, including “After Camp: Portraits in Midcentury Japanese American Life and Politics” and “By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans.”

“Almost like a detective, Robinson pieces together narratives about previously unrecognized Nikkei while simultaneously integrating these individuals within the book’s larger thematic structure. The result is a rigorous, compelling study that intertwines long-standing questions with striking new concepts.” — Karen Inouye, author of “The Long Afterlife of Nikkei Wartime Incarceration”

“An extraordinarily rich and inspiring resource. Greg Robinson’s portraits go beyond biography and illustrate resilience, fortitude, and creativity under adversity.” — Gordon H. Chang, Stanford University

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