Mia Nakaji Monnier

Mia Nakaji Monnier is a writer in Los Angeles. Her journalism and essays have appeared in BuzzFeed News, Shondaland, The Washington Post, and more. She started her career in Little Tokyo at Discover Nikkei and The Rafu Shimpo. You can find her on Twitter @miagabb and read more of her work at mianakajimonnier.com.

Updated May 2021

food en

Interview with a Nikkei forager: mushroom hunting with Sayuri Shinya

On still-damp, foggy mornings after the rain has cleared, Sayuri Shinya and her husband drive from their home in the San Francisco Bay Area and into the woods, looking for mushrooms. Shinya began forging five years ago, when she met her husband, who grew up in Germany and has hunted for mushrooms since childhood.

“At first, I thought it was weird,” she told me. “I was like, mushrooms, really? Foraging is not something you hear about all the time. Mushrooms sound like, you could buy that in the store, right? But the kinds we pick, they're not like button mushrooms; …

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war en

“Thirty Minutes Over Oregon” Introduces Children to the Complexity of War and Friendship

When we talk about World War II, it’s often in terms of major milestones: the racist incarceration of Japanese Americans; the bombings of Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. But there are infinite smaller-scale stories that many of us will never hear, like that of Nobuo Fujita, a Japanese pilot sent on a mission to bomb Oregon. Because nobody was injured during the bombings, they didn’t become major news in either the U.S. or Japan. Twenty years later, the town of Brookings, Oregon invited Fujita to their Memorial Day festival, sparking a lifelong friendship and a mini cultural exchange program.

Children’s …

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culture en

Author Andrea Tsurumi on kindness and the role of uncertainty in art and cultural identity - Part 2

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Monnier: How do you describe your identity when you describe yourself? What words do you like?

Tsurumi: Well, it depends on who I'm talking to or why I'm describing it. If it's with a friend or somebody I'm close with or in the context of this interview, it's a longer conversation, right? If it's somebody who's like, 'Well, what are you?" which is the common thing, I think, if you're mixed-race in America, then it's like, "Well, my dad's Japanese and my mom's Jewish. I'm from New York. I'm a person..." So I'm not either—I am …

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culture en

Author Andrea Tsurumi on kindness and the role of uncertainty in art and cultural identity - Part 1

In the undersea world of Andrea Tsurumi’s new picture book, Crab Cake, the community has a steady rhythm: “ Seahorse pretends to be seaweed…Parrotfish crunches coral and poops sand…Pufferfish puffs up…And crab bakes cakes.” When a (human-caused) disaster brings this routine to a halt and all the animals into hiding, Crab takes action. What results is a warm-hearted affirmation of individual effort, art, and caretaking, with joyful, richly textured illustrations sure to inspire curiosity about ocean ecology, environmental responsibility, and the taste of mussel-topped cupcakes.

Tsurumi—who is also the author of picture book Accident! (about a chain of events …

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identity en ja

Ben Furuta, the Air Force Academy’s First Cadet of Color

I was conscious of being different, but only in the sense of looking different.

—Ben Furuta

Ben Furuta was only four when his family was forced out of Oakland, California, and incarcerated at Poston during WWII. “I have only flashes of memory, little incidents,” he says, like an image of his father with bandages on his arms, covering chemical burns he received at his camp job, working in the camouflage factory. He remembers older boys, teenagers or young men, who told stories of rattlesnakes in the shade canopies that “scared the bejeezus” out of the little kids.

The family only …

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