Tessaku was the name of a short-lived magazine published at the Tule Lake concentration camp during World War II. It also means “barbed wire.” This series brings to light stories of the Japanese American internment, illuminating those that haven’t been told with intimate and honest conversation. Tessaku brings the consequences of racial hysteria to the foreground, as we enter into a cultural and political era where lessons of the past must be remembered.

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The Songbird of Manzanar: Mary Nomura - Part 1

“I always thought when I was a little girl, ‘I’m going to be a singer on the radio.’ I thought I would not get in the movies because who’s going to see a Japanese girl perform in the movies? So if they hear me singing on a record, they won’t know it’s my Japanese face singing.”

— Mary Nomura

Mary Kageyama Nomura was a teenager when the war broke out between the U.S. and Japan. She and her siblings were living completely on their own in Venice, all orphaned when their parents died within four years ...

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Ann Sato - Part 2

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And then you as an American, did you experience any backlash?

I remember there was an American soldier that was downed, an airplane was downed and naturally I ran with the whole mob of children that went to see them. And he was in a prison. I remember, and these bars were wooden, it was a local jail. And I felt so sorry for him. I remember running home ahead of the group with tears in my eyes because I felt so sorry for him, you know?

And you felt sorry because –

Every time I see an ...

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Ann Sato - Part 1

"I remember being strafed because I was in the factory. And so I guess they knew which ones to bomb. I remember every time this siren would ring, we reluctantly put our helmets on and run into the forest. And at that time I really prayed to God.”

— Ann Sato

After taking the last ship back from sunny Southern California to Japan with her parents and sister in 1940, Ann Sato’s life was completely upended with the escalating tensions between the United States and her parents’ home country. Her siblings all found themselves on opposite sides of the globe ...

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Lily Yuri Tsurumaki - Part 5

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And then you had another marriage. How did that happen?

Oh, with Ted. He was born and raised in Japan but my office Japan Airlines was in downtown L.A., on Sixth street. I needed brochures to put into the rack for the people to pick up to entice them on tours. So I went to Japan Travel Bureau one day, I said I’ll pick it up during my lunch hour. So I went to the office. And here was this man, you know, I’ve always talked to him by telephone. And he had the ...

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Lily Yuri Tsurumaki - Part 4

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And did your mother work in camp?

You know, she was doing embroidery here before they went to camp. Oh, this is when we’re leaving Heart Mountain. There was a Mr. Kinushita. Being it’s a desert area there’s a lot of Jasper rocks and dinosaur bones sometimes. And Mr. Kinushita started a rock group so they can go outside the campground and look around the desert area for rocks.

Adina: Oh, is that how they got started in all that?

Yeah. So Mr. Kinushita made arrangements and Grandpa was right away into this thing ...

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