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). Robinson is also coeditor of the volume John Okada - The Life & Rediscovered Work of the Author of No-No Boy (University of Washington Press, 2018). 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 an anthology of his columns, The Unsung Great: Portraits of Extraordinary Japanese Americans (University of Washington Press, 2020).

Updated September 2020

community en

Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga: The Godmother of the Redress Movement

Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga was the scholar-activist who dedicated herself to researching the wartime removal and confinement of Japanese Americans, and who located the evidence of government injustice that helped lead to the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 and to the victories in the coram nobis cases in federal court by the wartime defendants in the “Japanese internment” cases. Aiko’s life can be considered a marvelous set of paradoxes. Though she spent her active years outside the West Coast, she began and ended her long life in Los Angeles.

After being confined by the US government under Executive ...

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community en

Japanese Americans and Catholicism

The recent release of Martin Scorsese’s film SILENCE, on the persecution of Catholic missionaries in early modern Japan, has increased popular interest in the long and eventful encounter between Japanese Americans and Catholicism, a subject that has tended to pass unnoticed in chronicles of Nikkei life. This absence of discussion is peculiar, since in most places around the world where Japanese emigrant communities became established in the 20th century—including Latin America, the Philippines, New Caledonia, and Quebec—Catholicism was the dominant religion. In these regions, the Church played an important role in assisting the Nikkei, some of whom ...

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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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