Japanese American Imprisonment and Resettlement: The Power of Our Stories

CJRC Japanese American Religion and Society Project; Sawyer Seminar Special Presentation

Gene Oishi reads from his new novel, Fox Drum Bebop, and Brian Komei Dempster from his new collection of poetry, Topaz, followed by a discussion about new perspectives on the WWII Japanese American incarceration experience and its postwar effects.

In this intergenerational presentation, authors Brian Komei Dempster and Gene Oishi will illustrate the critical importance of storytelling for Japanese Americans and the power of writing to document, empower, and heal. 

Brian Komei Dempster will read poems from his recently published debut collection, Topaz (Four Way Books, 2013), which looks at the lasting effects of wartime incarceration on his maternal family and younger generations.  A third-generation Sansei, Dempster will also share his experiences of leading community-based writing workshops for a group of mostly Nisei Japanese Americans who were imprisoned during World War II in America's concentration camps.

Gene Oishi will read from his novel Fox Drum Bebop, published by Kaya Press, which is the story of Hiroshi, a Japanese American boy caught up in the turmoil of World War II. The opening chapters foreshadow the coming conflict before the novel enters a concentration camp, one of the sites of the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during the war. The story then explores the catastrophic impact of the war and the displacement on the boy and his family and the decades-long psychological aftereffects that follow him into adult life.


Brian Komei Dempster
's debut book of poetry, Topaz, was published by Four Way Books in October 2013.  Dempster is editor of both From Our Side of the Fence:  Growing Up in America's Concentration Camps (Kearny Street Workshop, 2001), which received a 2007 Nisei Voices Award from the National Japanese American Historical Society, and Making Home from War:  Stories of Japanese American Exile and Resettlement (Heyday, 2011). His work—as a poet, workshop instructor, and editor—has been recognized by grants from the Arts Foundation of Michigan and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the California State Library's California Civil Liberties Public Education Program, the Center for Cultural Innovation, and the San Francisco Arts Commission. Dempster has also received scholarships to the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.  He is a professor of rhetoric and language and a faculty member in Asian Pacific American Studies at the University of San Francisco, where he also serves as Director of Administration for the Master of Arts in Asia Pacific Studies.

Gene Oishi, who personally experienced the concentration camps as a child, is a former Washington and foreign correspondent for the Baltimore Sun. He has written articles on the Japanese American experience for The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Newsweek, West Magazine and the Baltimore Sun. His memoir, In Search of Hiroshi, was published in 1988.

Co-sponsored by Kaya Press. This is a special presentation of the the Center for Japanese Religions and Culture's "Critical Mixed-Race Studies: A Transpacific Approach" Andrew W. Mellon Foundation John E. Sawyer Seminars Series at the University of Southern California.