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

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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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A Conversation with Nancy Oda, President of the Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition

Nancy Oda was very happily retired when she learned about Tuna Canyon.

“Very happily retired,” she says for a second time. “It was like a call to action.”

We’re sitting together in the small back room of the Hirasaki National Resource Center at the Japanese American National Museum, just past Only the Oaks Remain: The Story of Tuna Canyon Detention Station, the special display that Oda helped to develop. Four years ago, she may not have heard of the historic site, but it’s since become a central part of her life.

“I’m really happy when I go ...

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Sewing Lessons

My mom and I discovered the Japanese fabric store together two years ago. Under a blue awning, in a part of town we rarely went, these Japanese-print clothes hung in the window, and we both stopped to admire them. The store gave lessons, so we signed up, and for some Saturdays in a row, we sat across from each other at sewing machines, making our own clothes.

It’s hard to untangle all these parts of a simple story about sewing together, mother and daughter. First, there’s the part about making things by hand, like she taught me to ...

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My Life with the Anime Nerds

Last month, I worked at Kinokuniya Bookstore’s booth at Anime Expo for the second year in a row. For two days, I stood in front of a display of posters, phone charms, and T-shirts featuring half-naked manga characters, both female and male. And for two days, I tried not to embarrass customers who walked shyly up to the register, asking if I could take a few life-size, cartoon-girl body-pillowcases out of their plastic packages, so they could see which one they wanted.

I have no interest in anime or manga, and other than a short, obligatory obsession with Pokemon ...

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Keiro Addresses Community at Open Meeting

Each July during Obon, Japanese Americans gather in the Nishi Hongwanji Temple gym to buy udon. Under the basketball hoops, they slurp noodles out of Styrofoam bowls before wandering back into the cooling night to dance Obon odori, pacing ovals in the parking lot, waving uchiwa, those round paper fans with the plastic skeletons that you can find, any time of year, in Japanese American houses and in the pockets of car doors.

Thursday night, around 400 people packed into the temple gym, mostly elderly, mostly wearing red—red shirts, red scarves, red hachimaki tied, warlike, around foreheads. The crowd ...

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