Mia Nakaji Monnier

Mia Nakaji Monnier is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor. She was born in California to a Japanese mother and American father, and has lived in eleven different cities and towns, including Kyoto, Japan; small town Vermont; and suburban Texas. To contact her or see more of her work, visit mianakajimonnier.com

Updated July 2015

war en

“Thirty Minutes Over Oregon” Introduces Children to the Complexity of War and Friendship

When we talk about World War II, it’s often in terms of major milestones: the racist incarceration of Japanese Americans; the bombings of Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. But there are infinite smaller-scale stories that many of us will never hear, like that of Nobuo Fujita, a Japanese pilot sent on a mission to bomb Oregon. Because nobody was injured during the bombings, they didn’t become major news in either the U.S. or Japan. Twenty years later, the town of Brookings, Oregon invited Fujita to their Memorial Day festival, sparking a lifelong friendship and a mini cultural ...

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culture en

Author Andrea Tsurumi on kindness and the role of uncertainty in art and cultural identity - Part 2

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Monnier: How do you describe your identity when you describe yourself? What words do you like?

Tsurumi: Well, it depends on who I'm talking to or why I'm describing it. If it's with a friend or somebody I'm close with or in the context of this interview, it's a longer conversation, right? If it's somebody who's like, 'Well, what are you?" which is the common thing, I think, if you're mixed-race in America, then it's like, "Well, my dad's Japanese and my mom's Jewish. I'm ...

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culture en

Author Andrea Tsurumi on kindness and the role of uncertainty in art and cultural identity - Part 1

In the undersea world of Andrea Tsurumi’s new picture book, Crab Cake, the community has a steady rhythm: “ Seahorse pretends to be seaweed…Parrotfish crunches coral and poops sand…Pufferfish puffs up…And crab bakes cakes.” When a (human-caused) disaster brings this routine to a halt and all the animals into hiding, Crab takes action. What results is a warm-hearted affirmation of individual effort, art, and caretaking, with joyful, richly textured illustrations sure to inspire curiosity about ocean ecology, environmental responsibility, and the taste of mussel-topped cupcakes.

Tsurumi—who is also the author of picture book Accident! (about a ...

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identity en ja

Ben Furuta, the Air Force Academy’s First Cadet of Color

I was conscious of being different, but only in the sense of looking different.

—Ben Furuta

Ben Furuta was only four when his family was forced out of Oakland, California, and incarcerated at Poston during WWII. “I have only flashes of memory, little incidents,” he says, like an image of his father with bandages on his arms, covering chemical burns he received at his camp job, working in the camouflage factory. He remembers older boys, teenagers or young men, who told stories of rattlesnakes in the shade canopies that “scared the bejeezus” out of the little kids.

The family only ...

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identity en

Full Disclosure: How My Ambiguous Looks Mean I’m Constantly Coming Out as Biracial

Some years ago, an old friend stopped in L.A. for her summer job, driving across the country in a classic car to promote a vacation rental company. I went out to meet her and her driving partner near their rental in Hollywood, and in an act of company-paid luxury unthinkable to fresh-from-college me, we took a cab to The Stinking Rose for dinner. We settled around our booth table in a dark corner of the restaurant for a meal of garlic dishes, and Liz and John began telling stories about their trip.

Liz and I had met in Texas ...

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