Lily Yuriko Nakai Havey

Born in Los Angeles, incarcerated at Amache, educated in Boston and Utah, Lily currently lives in Salt Lake City with husband John. She taught school for 13 years and had a stained glass business for more than three decades from which she is semi-retired. She is a watercolor artist and has written a creative autobiography “Gasa Gasa Girl Goes to Camp: A Nisei Youth Behind a World War II Fence,” which will be published by the University of Utah Press in the spring of 2014.

Updated August 2012

education en

Phyla, etcetera - Part 1

No matter where we were, even in a prison camp, schooling took precedence, that is, after food and a place to sleep.

In Los Angeles I had attended Saturday Japanese School. The Nihon gakko consisted of Every-Day-After-School students and Saturday students and naturally the EDAS ones were ahead of us in every way—reading, writing, and calligraphy. We Once-A-Week students were branded “second-rate” and were assigned front row seats, “to better hear Sensei.” Before class began, the student body lined up in perfect rows in the yard behind the building and listened to the exhortations of the principal. One morning he …

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war en

Arcadia, No. 2 - Part 3

>> Part 2

I thought about my father, his absence, his distancing. He was an apparition that appeared briefly and disappeared over and over from my life. Like my mother, he grew up in a small rural hamlet tacked on to the fringes of a larger city. Both ended their formal educations in the sixth grade, but the similarities end there. She took on family responsibilities; he emigrated to America.


My brother and I called him “Daddy.” So did my mother except when she was exasperated or angry at him...then it was “You, anta.” My aunts called him “Neesan,” …

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war en

Arcadia, No. 2 - Part 2

>> Part 1

A temporary school was organized to make up for three months of lost time. We were scattered in small clusters across the bleachers in the grandstand. The clamor was overwhelming. Most of the time I could barely hear our teacher, Miss Nakasuji.

I shared a single geography text with four other kids. One page featured a photo of Japanese women, their hair swept up in smooth pompadours like huge dinner rolls. They smiled shyly and shaded themselves with parasols.

“This is dumb,” I blurted. “No one in Japan wears hairdos like this anymore.”
“Never mind. We’re not …

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war en

Arcadia, No. 2 - Part 1

As we settled into our bewildering lives at Santa Anita, clashing mess bells dictated our days. Clang, clang, ding, ding, bong, ka-ching—a mishmash of rhythms and tones rang out three times a day. In the evenings we surrendered ourselves to the block captain making bed-checks. The first few weeks he knocked and poked his head in and counted each of us, but later he simply tapped on the door and asked us to verify our number. “Yes, we’re here,” one of us would answer, but sometimes my father was missing. We wouldn’t have known what to say if he …

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