Greg Robinson

Greg Robinson, a native New Yorker, is Professor of History at l'Université du Québec À Montréal, a French-language institution in Montreal, Canada. He is the author of the books By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans (Harvard University Press, 2001), A Tragedy of Democracy; Japanese Confinement in North America (Columbia University Press, 2009), After Camp: Portraits in Postwar Japanese Life and Politics (University of California Press, 2012), Pacific Citizens: Larry and Guyo Tajiri and Japanese American Journalism in the World War II Era (University of Illinois Press, 2012), and The Great Unknown: Japanese American Sketches (University Press of Colorado, 2016), as well as coeditor of the anthology Miné Okubo: Following Her Own Road (University of Washington Press, 2008). His historical column “The Great Unknown and the Unknown Great,” is a well-known feature of the Nichi Bei Weekly newspaper. Robinson’s latest book is the coedited volume John Okada - The Life & Rediscovered Work of the Author of No-No Boy (University of Washington Press, 2018).

Updated June 2018

culture en

First Impressions: Early Reviews of John Okada’s No-No Boy

One intriguing window into the world of John Okada’s landmark 1957 novel No-No Boy is the study of how it was first received. An exploration of comments by reviewers of the initial edition reveals the prevailing climate of opinion regarding wartime Japanese American experience, and provides evidence as to how the work was understood at the time of its creation. These are not simply matters of historical documentation or literary criticism. Part of the legend surrounding No-No Boy is the idea that its initial publication was deliberately ignored and its author subjected to a campaign of silence by hostile ...

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war en

The Unknown History of Japanese Internment in Panama

The historical narrative surrounding the wartime confinement of ethnic Japanese in the United States grows ever more complex. In the last years, historians and activists working with community organizations (in some cases with government funding) have made significant discoveries. The Honouliuli Internment camp in the then-Territory of Hawaii, whose site remained long hidden from view, was located and explored, and was ultimately named a National Monument. The Tuna Canyon Detention Station near Los Angeles, where Issei men arrested by the FBI after Pearl Harbor were held, was rediscovered and its history documented. The War Relocation’s illicit “isolation center” at ...

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politics en

K.K. Kawakami, Cosmopolitan Issei Writer

One intriguing aspect of Japanese immigrant experience before World War II was the diverse intellectual life of community members. Although most early Issei were farmers or laborers, a significant group of writers and thinkers emerged among them. These people found work as Buddhist priests, school teachers, or newspaper editors within Japanese communities.

As Eiichiro Azuma shows, they wrote primarily in Japanese, identified with the old country, and were heavily invested in building a “shin nippon,” a new Japan in the New World. Yet overlapping with them was a selection of students, artists, and professionals who might be termed “cosmopolitan Issei ...

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politics en

The Unsung History of the Japanese American Committee for Democracy

The Japanese American Committee for Democracy (JACD), a New York-based social and political group of the 1940s, has been effectively ignored in the history of Japanese Americans. The JACD held rallies to support the American war effort in World War II, helped Japanese Americans in New York to find jobs and housing, and provided a forum for like-minded Issei and Nisei to meet up and socialize. Their monthly publication, the JACD Newsletter, offers historians a vital resource on what was going on in Nikkei circles in New York—especially during the early months of 1942, when the city was home ...

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identity en

Toru Matsumoto: The New York Years

My recent Discover Nikkei article on Tsuyoshi Matsumoto has prompted interest from readers in other members of the Matsumoto family, such as Tsuyoshi’s sister Takako Shibusawa, a leader in social welfare work in postwar Japan, and most especially Tsuyoshi’s younger brother Toru. Toru Matsumoto (1913-1979) was actually the more-renowned brother during his lifetime: in the United States during the 1940s he was known as the author of multiple books, including the notable 1946 memoir A Brother is a Stranger. Following his return to Japan, he became celebrated as a popular media star and teacher of English. Oddly enough ...

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