Short Story: Desert Birth – June 1944

The following is the first of two short stories by Yosh Golden, who was born behind the barbed wire at Manzanar during World War II. This story, along with June 1997: High School Yearbook is the foundation for the upcoming short film, The Song, based on Manzanar, and the Japanese American Incarceration story. Originally published in Northwestern University’s Triquarterly Online (Issue 140, Summer/Fall 2011). It is reprinted here with permission.


Former Manzanar incarceree Yosh Golden (seated at left, on a chair),
who was born at Manzanar during World War II, shares her knowledge
and experience during a small group discussion at the 2013
Manzanar At Dusk program.
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee

by Yosh Golden

My father, Yoshizo Yoshimura, born in Salt Lake City, was 26 at the time of my birth. My mother, Sachie, twenty-three, was born in Portland, Oregon. Both were American citizens, Japanese Americans—now confined to a camp in the California desert, Manzanar Relocation Center, surrounded by barbed wire and machine-gun turrets.

On June 14, 1944, my mother stepped out of Apartment 1 of Building 2 in Block 20. She and my father left their three-year-old son, Johnny, asleep on a government-issue blanket and cot back in the tarpaper barracks in the care of a young woman in Apartment 2, who lived just on the other side of a blanket partition. Holding my father’s arm, Sachie crossed the sandy walkways to another hastily constructed green-wood barrack that had been converted into a hospital. Sagebrush and sand devils kicked about by the constant wind blew across her pathway.

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Manzanar Committee Honors Author, Former Manzanar Incarceree Hank Umemoto – Photos

Former Manzanar incarceree and author of the new book, Manzanar To Mount Whitney: The Life and Times of a Lost Hiker, Hank Umemoto, shown here with daughters Jasmine Grace (left) and Michelle Nakamura (right), was honored by the Manzanar Committee on March 17, 2013, in Gardena, California.
Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee

GARDENA, CA — On March 17, the Manzanar Committee honored former Manzanar incarceree Hank Umemoto, author of the new book, Manzanar To Mount Whitney: The Life and Times of a Lost Hiker, at a book signing party in Gardena, California.

Umemoto, who was born in 1928, grew up in Florin, California, near Sacramento. At the age of 14, he was sent to Manzanar in California’s Owens Valley, one of ten American concentration camps where over 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were unjustly incarcerated during World War II.

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Manzanar Committee To Honor Author, Former Manzanar Incarceree Hank Umemoto

Photo: Heyday Books

LOS ANGELES — The Manzanar Committee will honor Hank Umemoto, author of the newly-released book, Manzanar To Mount Whitney: The Life and Times of a Lost Hiker, at 12:30 PM on March 17, 2013, at the Merit Park Recreation Room, across the street from 56 Merit Park Drive, Gardena, California, 90247-3840 (see map below).

Umemoto, who was born in 1928, grew up in Florin, California, near Sacramento. At the age of 14, he was sent to Manzanar in California’s Owens Valley, one of ten American concentration camps where over 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were unjustly incarcerated during World War II.

After Manzanar, Umemoto struggled, to say the least, spending over three years on the streets of Skid Row. But he endured, finishing high school, and attending Los Angeles City College before serving with the 38th Military Intelligence Service during the Korean War.

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Despite Flaws, Eyes Behind Belligerence By K.P. Kollenborn Is A Solid Addition To Novels On Japanese American Incarceration Experience

Photo courtesy Erin Carter/K.P. Kollenborn

LOS ANGELES — In the world of novels about the Japanese American Incarceration experience during World War II, there are only a handful of books available, including Monica Sone’s Nisei Daughter, John Okada’s No-No Boy, Yoshiko Uchida’s Desert Exile, and the best known of them all, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and her late husband James D. Houston’s Farewell To Manzanar.

But why have there been so few fictional works about the American concentration camps in which over 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were unjustly incarcerated during World War II?

One look at those four novels mentioned provides a huge clue: each was written by someone who was incarcerated behind the barbed wire of one of those concentration camps—Sone and Okada were incarcerated at Minidoka in Idaho, Uchida was behind the barbed wire at Topaz in Utah, and Houston was imprisoned at Manzanar in California’s Owens Valley. Each of them drew upon their memories of camp, good and bad, pleasant and painful.

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