Wakako Yamauchi

Wakako Yamauchi was born in Westmoreland, California, in 1924, where her family farmed in nearby Brawley in the Imperial Valley. During World War II she was incarcerated in the concentration camp at Poston, Arizona. She worked as an artist for the camp newspaper, the Poston Chronicle. She began her career as a playwright in 1977 when she was encouraged by Mako, the artistic director of East/West Players Theater, to adapt her short story “And the Soul Shall Dance” for the stage. She passed away in August 2018 at age 93.

Updated August 2018

culture en

Poston, Arizona: A Personal Memory

Fifty years*—half a century ago. We are speaking of another time, another life. We are returning to that era of war, divided loyalties, betrayal, and incarceration. Many of us have already gone, some in fading notoriety, some with trauma and conflicts unresolved.

If the median age of Japanese Americans in 1942 was seventeen, then my contemporaries and I were the average Japanese Americans of the time. We were seniors in high school. In another semester, we would graduate. And soon we would face grave situations and make important decisions.

Excluded from mainstream American society, we were more Japanese than ...

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identity en

Nanka Nikkei Voices

“NAPOLEON SEZ”

When I search my past for the defining moment that turned my life around, I find it hard to pinpoint. Maybe there were many, some too subtle or mundane to recognize. I’m inclined to think each of us—starting from early childhood—moves in a certain arc and something, or a series of things, happen that push us rapidly and without resistance, along the curve. It may be an event as simple as missing a bus or an impulsive change of plans. Or as huge as the Great Depression or a mass incarceration.

Like many of us Nisei, I ...

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war en

Nanka Nikkei Voices

Outside 

We had been in Camp I of Poston, Arizona, for about five months when the Administration began recruiting labor for farms and canneries in permitted areas. I, like everyone else in camp, felt caged, so imprisoned, I jumped at every opportunity to get out. I applied for work leave. All those phrases: “group leave,” “short term leave,” “clearance,” “indefinite leave,” were a familiar part of camp life over half a century ago. Today, however, those desperate angry years seem like an excerpt from someone else’s dream; it’s hard to summon the youth and passion of the time, and ...

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