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My Journey to Discover the Legacy of my Grandma, Yuri Kochiyama

mkochiyama
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"Passing it On"

I remember that day when almost all of the family met up at the East Wind bookstore near UCLA.  It's very rare to have the whole Kochiyama clan from New York, Oakland, and LA come together at one time, but we had to be there for release of Grandma's book, "Passing it On-A Memoir."  

I think I was about 12 years old when this book came out.  I still didn't know very much about Grandma at the time, but I thought it was pretty awesome that my grandma wrote and published her very own book.  During her speech, she declared that her book was dedicated to all of us grandkids!  I was honored, but quite surprised.  I had always felt disconnected in a way from that aspect of my grandma’s and my family’s life until then.  I don't know if someone recorded her speech, but I regret to say that I don't exactly remember what she said.  But I think the main things she wanted to convey through this book were her stories and lessons that she has learned throughout her life and the values that have remained constant.  At the end of the speech, she called up all the grandkids and we were each given a copy of her book with a little note written inside the cover.

After the ceremony and when all the cousins met up, I remember that we all just looked at each other like we knew that this was something pretty big.  Our grandma was passing down her legacy to us.  It was awesome, but at the same time, something else hit me for the first time.  Pressure.  Is everyone going to expect us to become human rights activists and speakers?  How can we live up to all that Grandma has done?  What if we want to do something totally different?  These were some of the questions going through my mind.  Although, it was kind of overwhelming at the time, at least that was when I started thinking about my place in this world and the reasons why I do what I do.  That was definitely a turning point in my life. 

From reading her book, my family history materialized before my eyes.  The stories that I’d only touched the surface of became so real, almost tangible.  Because she had grown up a sheltered, “All-American” girl in the city of San Pedro, it made her accomplishments seem more attainable and I started to think, “Hey, maybe I can make a difference..."

Based on this original

Passing it On-A Memoir by Yuri Kochiyama Book Release
uploaded by mkochiyama
Photo of the Kochiyama family in the East Wind Bookstore at the release of "Passing it On-A Memoir" by Yuri Kochiyama. 2004 Photo courtesy of Herb Holman. More »


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