From a Japanese American Literature Class at a German University

This series of articles come from a Japanese American Literature class in Germany. Bettina Hofmann teaches American Studies at the University of Wuppertal, Germany and contacted Discover Nikkei about her class. She asked her students to write their response to the course - to be published on Discover Nikkei.

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"Yokohama, California" – Toshio Mori

The ideals behind one of the most famous phrases in the United States’ Declaration of Independence, “the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, can be found within several short stories of Toshio Mori’s Yokohama, California (Washington UP, 1949).

The author weaves different topics through his short stories, such as feelings of sadness, loneliness, restlessness, and the search for an identity and sense of belonging that stem from the immigration process. Other topics include racism, financial stresses that cause bad living conditions, including living below the poverty line. The list could go further. However, throughout all the ...

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Cultural challenges and differences in Etsu Sugimoto´s "A Daughter of the Samurai"

To be honest from the very beginning: When I registered for our lecture on “Japanese Americans” I had absolutely no idea of what to expect. I did not know a thing about Japanese Americans, neither about their history nor about their culture. The course description, however, sounded interesting and therefore I decided to take that course.

In the very first lesson we were introduced to the different topics in this lecture. The most striking aspects for me were the emotional and cultural influences on Japanese Americans due to their immigration to the United States. One of our very first texts ...

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Text and image relations in Miné Okubo's Citizen 13660

Okubo was interned in 1942 in the Central Utah Relocation Center in Topaz a year after the attack on Pearl Harbor. During that time she created drawings depicting the life of the Japanese Americans in the camp. When she returned home she added text to this collection. In 1946 she published it and named it Citizen 13660.

When I first encountered this book I did not pay much attention to it. I saw it in a comic book store several weeks before I attended a seminar and learned about the context and the meaning of it. Nevertheless when I saw ...

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A short insight into the conflicts in John Okada’s No-No Boy

While attending the University of Wuppertal in Germany, I took a course where I learned about the history and development of Japanese Americans in the United States, from their first experiences with Americans and their reasons for moving to a new country, to their inconceivable experience during the Second World War, after Japan attacked Pearl Harbour. During the course, we reviewed many stories and books written by Japanese American writers, which provided interesting but alarming and thought-provoking insights into Japanese American lives.

One of the books I preferred was the novel No-No Boy by John Okada. Published in 1957, it ...

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Toshio Mori's "The Trees"

I first came into contact with Toshio Mori’s works in the “Japanese Americans” seminar I attended this summer term at the University of Wuppertal. What I enjoyed most about Mori’s short stories was that they gave quite brief, but nonetheless vivid and fair, accounts of life in Japanese American society before WW II and during the Japanese internment. At that time, the first generation of Japanese immigrants, or Issei, and the second generation, or Nisei, lived predominantly in communities on the West Coast. The short story that fascinated me the most was "The Trees."

The plot is quite ...

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