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Swimmingin the American:AMemoir and Selected WritingBook Report
Hiswriting work as well as performance on stage made him to beconsidered as an early pioneer of the Asian American theater inAmerica. Hiroshi Kashigawi is a Japanese-American author, poet, actorand playwright who have been renowned for his work and especially the‘swimmingin the American: A Memoir and Selected Writings’which is one of his publications that has been recognized among theAmericans, and also won him the American Book Award. Born in 1922,Hiroshi has remained an influential author among Japanese-Americanwriters. This paper is a summary report of his book ‘swimmingin the American: A Memoir and Selected Writings’which is regarded as his personal narrative of the historical eventsas well as how the Japanese-Americans were treated (Kashiwagi10).The book report will focus on racialization perspective withreference to the Japanese community in America, as wellinterpretation of the history, during the war period.
Swimmingin the Americanby Hiroshi Kashigawi is a book that chronological focuses on thehistorical events, highlighting the ups and downs as experienced bythe Japanese Americans in the 20thcentury. The books follow the historical events since the birth ofthe author (Hiroshi) to the modern or present times. In a nutshell,the book narrates about his life during his childhood and twenties,the time of the Great Depression, which was around, he was in his30’s, then came the World war II, which was around his 40’s andthe post war years to the present. The book is a summary of the joysand the tragedies of being a Japanese-American, throughout thehistory of Japanese immigrants to the United States. In addition,it’s also “as much about the author’s passion in writing,acting and also reading (Kashiwagi96).
Growingup as Japanese or a minority group of people, together with the issueof racism was the key aspect experienced by the author during histime and after the war period. His young and boyhood age was spentmostly in his parents` fish store. Havingbeen born and grown in Loomis together with his family, the author(Kashigawi) was confined in Tule Lake camp. During his time in thecamp, he spent his time reading before he joined a group thatparticipated in theater works, hence getting into the tasks of actingand writing. His time spent in the camp was due to racialdiscrimination subjected to the minority communities in America.
Wherewere my relatives? Did I have any at all? Maybe in Japan, butcertainly none close by. Some boys told about going fishing andhunting, which was boring to me… People listened to them. Whycouldn’t I tell a hunting story? But I never went hunting(Kashiwagi65).
Duringhis time in the camp, the U.S. government demanded that allforeigners in the country take a compulsory ‘LoyaltyQuestionnaire’.This was, however, turned down by the Hiroshi, and his family, whichin turn made them be labeled as ‘disloyal’ to the government or‘No-NoBoys’.At this time, it was almost for him, to be deported, but through theAmerican Civil Liberties, his American citizenship was restored. Theordeal experienced by the Japanese Americans changed its dimensionafter the Japanese bombing of the Pearl Harbor/
“Myposition was this — why was I, an American citizen, thrown in prisonwithout cause, without due process? Why were they questioning myloyalty? I was an American, a loyal American. If they restored mystatus as a rightful citizen, let me go free, out of this prison, Iwould do anything required of me. Why should I answer the ambiguousquestions? I would follow my conscience and refuse to register(Kashiwagi102).”
Withthe outbreak of the World War II, there was the war against theJapanese. This meant there was a massive anti-immigrant resentmentwhich turned to the nearest Japanese which happened to be theJapanese-Americans. In order for the Americans to protect America,the then president of the United States, President Roosevelt, gave anorder which meant that Japanese related Americans were imprisoned.The camp time was marked by terror however, it gave him the chanceto practice his writing, and acting skills, at this time Hiroshi was20 years old. The emergence of WWII marked the internment of theJapanese-Americans, which were due to racial identification. This wasan aspect of racial profiling of the Asian community. With dedicationand never giving up, the author managed to become one of theJapanese-American recognized authors of his time. The relocations ofthe Japanese-Americans in the camps set by the American governmentbecome one of the numerous violations of the civil liberties in thehistory of America. During their time in the camps, there wereallowed to choose their representatives. However, their grievanceswere not considered, but instead recreational activities were part ofthe arrangements for passing time.
Lifein the relocation wasn’t simple, and according to the author thecamps were too cold and too hot during winter and summerrespectively. In addition, if they attempted to escape they would beshot by armed sentries who kept watch over the camps. TheJapanese-American community was denied their justice, which wasattributed to their racial identity. At some point the Supreme Courtjustified the order to detain them in camps. On the other hand, evenwhen the wartime time came to an end, the evacuees were not acceptedback to their homes as signs were displayed all over for them neverto return. According to the author, the experience they had as darkmarks on the Americans record towards the aspect of culturaldifferences and civil liberties (Kashiwagi156).
Afterthe wartime in America, the Japanese Americans continued to besegregated on racial basis. Hiroshi later in his life testified forthe investigations as to the reasons behind the mass incarceration ofthe Americans of Japanese orientation in a hearing that was conductedin 1981. This healing process led to the release of officialgovernment apology to the Japanese Americans, which was followed byredress payment in 1988. After the wartime, there was increasedtension as the Japanese immunity embarked on fighting for theirrights and justice as Americans. However, this wasn’t a clean pathfor the community as the Japanese Americans were continuouslysubjected to racial discrimination. This in turn denied them accessto services such as education and in turn bringing the issue ofinequality among the Americans. Hiroshi’s experience during andafter the war signifies the different efforts and strugglesexperienced by the Japanese as they fought to reconstruct their livesafter the war time or their descendants. According to the author, itwasn’t until the years 1970’s, and 80’s, when the communitymanaged to navigate through the shame of internment, hence commencingthe fight for justice.
Theauthor has extemporarily used literal aspects such as metaphor,similes and first person narration to bring out the themes of thebook, ‘swimmingin the American:AMemoir and Selected Writing’.In addition, the chronological flow of the story from his boyhood, tothe adulthood, through the ordeal narrates the experiences of theJapanese-American community during the war period, and how they weretreated by the larger American community.
Inconclusion, the book by Hiroshi provides an excellent unfolding of away of life being a Japanese American. With reference to the book, itnarrates the struggles experienced by the Japanese community in theUnited States through racial profiling and during the WWII.Additionally, the book is an example of racial discriminationexperienced by minority communities in the United States before thefight for their justice. For example of such racial profiling are theblack Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic community among many otherAmericans. In the present times, there have been cases of racialdiscrimination with reference to people’s background in the UnitedStates.
Thebook is comprised of different stories and poems as the author putstogether his life during and after the war times. On the other hand,Hiroshi’s writing illustrated the meaning as well as the impact ofcultural pluralism in the American community, and in turn becoming agood account for Japanese Americans. Having worked in differentoccupations such as a librarian, writer, playwright, and as an actor,Hiroshi had the best way of narrating the experience of being aJapanese American, and the evolution of time, till the time theminority communities in America. Finally, this book is along anddiverselife, well lived, well reflected upon, and, in addition to this, welland captivatingly told.
Kashiwagi,Hiroshi. Swimmingin the American: A Memoir and Selected Writings.San Mateo, Calif: Asian American Curriculum Project, 2005. Print.