Nancy Matsumoto

Nancy Matsumoto is a freelance writer and editor specializing in the areas of sustainable agriculture, food, arts, culture and health. She has been a contributor to The Wall Street Journal, Time, People, Civil Eats, NPR’s The Salt, TheAtlantic.com and the online Densho Encyclopedia of the Japanese American Incarceration, among other publications. She is also the co-author of the book The Parent's Guide to Eating Disorders: Supporting Self-Esteem, Healthy Eating & Positive Body Image at Home.

Twitter/Instagram: @nancymatsumoto

Updated June 2017

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Documenting Manzanar - Part 5 of 18

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History Recast as Art: Documentary and Fictional Accounts of Exile and Banishment

Those views were shaped in turn by artistic, literary, documentary and nonfiction accounts of the Japanese American war experience. Born Free and Equal was forgotten amid the post-war building boom as a curtain of silence descended upon this chapter of history. One early exception was artist Miné Okubo’s powerful book, Citizen 13660, published by Columbia University Press in 1946. Okubo included 206 of her own illustrations of life in the unlawful California “assembly” center Tanforan and the Topaz, Utah concentration camp, accompanied by rueful ...

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Documenting Manzanar - Part 4 of 18

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The Photographic Documentation of Manzanar

As Fujikawa, Alinder and Hosoe all noted, photographs of the World War II prison camps can be just as misleading as the rosy accounts of those who were imprisoned. So much so that the writer and lawyer Gerald H. Robinson titled his examination of the Manzanar photographs of Adams, Lange, Miyatake and Albers Elusive Truth. Still, it is valuable to explore how documentary photography, in the hands of talented photographers, can manipulate the viewer’s perceptions and mean such different things to viewers in different eras.  

Adams’s book on Manzanar, Born ...

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Kizuna: Histórias dos Nikkeis sobre o Terremoto e Tsunami no Japão

Chef Bill Telepan and Friends Cook for Tohoku

I happened to speak with Chef Bill Telepan yesterday, who was full of news about his recent trip to Japan. He was one of eight New York chefs who traveled to Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, one of the areas most devastated by the March 11 Greater Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The team’s mission was to cook a heartwarming Fourth of July weekend lunch for an estimated 1,000 people in this city.

“It was an amazing event, and it went perfectly,” said the chef, whose eponymous Upper West Side restaurant is known for its artful presentation of seasonal and local ...

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Documenting Manzanar - Part 3 of 18

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Why Are They Smiling?

My initial confusion about and inability to understand the Issei and Nisei attitude toward their imprisonment contributed to my fascination with the documentary photographs of Manzanar: If the Nisei and Issei would not talk about what really happened, wouldn’t photographs of the camp reveal the truth? The answer, I discovered, was “not really.”

“If we judge from the images themselves,” the historian Roger Daniels wrote of the hundreds of thousands of War Relocation Authority (WRA) photographs taken of the prison camps, “we must conclude that almost none of the photographers….seem to ...

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Documenting Manzanar - Part 2 of 18

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The Silence of the Nisei

After the war, the newly freed Japanese busied themselves with building new lives, often far from the inhospitable West Coast of the U.S., where anti-Japanese sentiment lingered.

For as long as I can remember, my father, who died in 1997, never spoke of his experience of entering Manzanar at age 13 or the imprisonment that followed. This was not unusual among Nisei, who made up two-thirds of those in the prison camp. He and his family relocated to Chicago with the $25 they were each given upon being released. With such ...

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