The AACP Newsletter
Since 1970 Asian American Curriculum Project, Inc. - Books for All Ages January 2004
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First Calligraphy or Writing of the New Year

The second day of the New Year is Kakizome in Japan. The tradition, which was started long ago, continues today with people, especially kids, doing their first writing of the New Year on this day. Happy or appropriate poems and sayings are written down to mark the occasion. Therefore, in keeping with the season, we bring you a special poetry newsletter.

Introduction to Haiku Poetry
Traditionally, Japanese haiku poetry consists of 17 syllables and often has some seasonal reference. Since haiku poetry is written around the world, the 17 syllable structure may not be appropriate in the different languages that it is written in. For example: in English, 17 syllables can convey more meaning than the equivalent number in Japanese. Therefore some rules of English haiku suggest that 11 syllables may be closer to the Japanese haiku. However, in Japanese, 17 syllables do not have to follow the rules of word order that English does and therefore may have much more flexibility than an 11 syllable English haiku would have.

The rules for writing English haiku can be quite involved and even contradictory to each other. There are lots of resources on the Internet to learn how to write haiku. Check out the websites listed in the side bar and do your own research.

The sidebar also contains our attempts at writing haiku. Philip and I chose to use the 17 (5-7-5) syllable structure. Please excuse our amateur effort and just enjoy them for what they're worth (they're free :-).

Haiku Links

Haiku for People
Jane Reichhold website on haiku
Keiko Imaoka: Forms in English Haiku
Gerald England: How to Write Haiku

AACP's Haiku

What is new today
The pigeons will never know
Why revel just now?
- Leonard Chan

A sad year passing
Water runs frozen slivers
Across the still face
- Philip Chin

Make every breath count
Monks say it is predestined
Enjoy the crisp air
- Leonard Chan

Up Coming Events

Here are some events that AACP will soon be attending.
Invite us to your events.
Feb. 10 Library Materials Fair Exhibit/Sales SC County
Office of Educ.

Santa Clara, CA
Feb. 15 Day of Remembrance Exhibit/Sales SJ Buddhist Temple
San Jose, CA
Feb. 22 Day of Remembrance Exhibit/Sales San Francisco, CA
Feb. 28 Academic Success Day Exhibit/Sales SC County
Office of Educ.

Santa Clara, CA
Feb. 28 Jack Matsuoka Cartoon Exhibit Grand Opening Japanese American
Museum of San Jose

535 N. 5th St.
San Jose, CA
Feb. 28
Jack Matsuoka Book Signing Wesley United Methodist Church
566 N. 5th St.
San Jose, CA
Feb. 29
SM JACL Day of Remembrance
Jeanne W.Houston book signing
SM Buddhist Church
2 S. Claremont St.
San Mateo, CA
Other Event of Interest that AACP May Not Attend
Jan. 17- Feb. 8 Chinese New Year
Celebration Events in SF
San Francisco, CA
Jan. 24-25
San Jose Tet Festival Santa Clara
County Fairgrounds
344 Tully Rd.
San Jose, CA
Jan. 31 Exploring the Whole of Social Studies Seattle University
900 Broadway
Seattle, WA
Feb. 7
Chinese New Year Parade San Francisco, CA

Editor's Message

Happy New Year everyone! It's been awhile since I last wrote to you.

Since last April, I've wanted to have a special poetry newsletter. After having sat in at a poetry reading, I've learned that there are many that are passionate about this form of writing. AACP carries quite a few poetry book titles. In the past, we have not had much demand for our poetry books. This newsletter is our effort to better connect with those that are interested in poetry. In the future, we hope to add a special section to the AACP website listing these titles and including audio readings and text too. Keep reading the newsletter and we'll keep you informed on the poetry section's progress. Give us your feedback on this idea and this newsletter - if you like this newsletter maybe we'll do this again next January.

Thank you Suji Kwock Kim and Steven Tanamachi for allowing us to reprint your material. Steven was an intern with us this past summer. His piece doesn't follow the theme of the month, but we wanted to show you the great work he's now doing for the Nichi Bei Times newspaper. Thank you very much Steven for writing about our organization.

Lunar New Year is January 22. Don't forget to check out our Lunar New Year page. Good health, happiness, and wealth to you all!

Leonard Chan
Executive Editor

Give Us Your Feedback

Please feel free to send us your reviews, comments, and book suggestions. You can contact us at -

New Year at the
Demilitarized Zone

(Published Dec. 31, 2003 New York Times)
By Suji Kwock Kim

Between war and peace, between now and
what lies: a no-man's-land
of razor wire, infiltration tunnels, phosphorus
        hissing against ice-grit crags,
snow on the Joint Security Area, snow on the
        Civilian Control Zone,
snow of unknowing.
Blowing backwards, yesterday by yesterday,
        the hours crack open.
Fifty years of cease-fire,
fifty years of border patrols guarding the Military
        Demarcation Line,
fifty years of blue-skulled recruits and M4 assault
        rifles and corpses,
as if we all had more than one life to waste.

Tomorrow, in the Munsan invasion corridor,
soldiers from Camp Red Cloud will march through
        training drills.
Tomorrow the diplomats will return to Panmunjom,
tomorrow the U.N. armistice commission officers,
        the secretaries, drivers and janitors;
tomorrow secret police will repair propaganda
        speakers in Kijongdong,
blaring songs of hydroelectric projects and juche;
tomorrow Chinese tourists on the north side will
        stare south,
buying Dear Leader souvenirs, "president for
Tomorrow trains from Seoul will arrive hourly at
        Dora-san station,
railroad tracks leading nowhere.
Tomorrow someone will stare north over the Imjin
sky the color of solder,
someone grieving a father or mother or brother or
11 million separated families, 11 million lost
        relations -
soul-light seeking the heaven of another,
bittersweet, sweet-bitter as a hope hoped until it
        comes true,
crossing where?

Quick, grasp it, every crossroad the moment's
        made of,
a different fate lying in every step our families
        walked south:
now a maze of ghost grasses growing beneath the
frog's claws and cockle-burr, chickweed and wild
frost-fields of borrenwort and dragon-tongue fern
        and manchurian windflower -
Is there hope, even here, the year beginning again,
angel of changes,
tomorrow after tomorrow, blowing forwards,
        countless as seed-down or snow:
Quick the passage, quick, the speed of life: the end
must also end.

Suji Kwock Kim Links

Notes from the Divided Country
The Publisher's Website
National Public Radio (NPR) Interview

Text and/or audio from her book -
Fugue for Eye and Vanishing Point
Montage with Neon, Bok Choi,
Gasoline, Lovers & Strangers

A Literary Missionary
(published Thursday, January 1, 2004 in the Nichi Bei Times)
SAN MATEO - Florence Hongo is on a mission to spread the gospel of the Asian American experience. As president of the board and general manager of the Asian American Curriculum Project (AACP), she has crusaded to introduce the word into as many American institutions and homes as possible.

AACP, a nonprofit organization, conducts business from its San Mateo store, where books and other educational materials drip from its shelves and are stacked in boxes along the walls.

Amidst the newspapers and pamphlets in the store is its catalog - an encyclopedic listing of nearly 650 books, with a range of materials from the "A is for Aloha" children's book to Helen Zia's opus on APA history.

AACP's materials are promoted to fulfill the group's mission, which is "To educate the public about the Asian American experience, fostering cultural awareness and to educate Asian Americans about their own heritage, instilling a sense of pride," as stated in the catalog.

Hongo, 75, and other AACP workers pursue this by traveling to various events, such as academic conventions, cultural festivals and various conferences to promote the use of the materials.

"If we weren't at those social studies conferences, those 3,000 teachers would never see a display of Asian American books," Hongo said, while taking a break from work. "They come by and say 'Wow, I didn't know there was this many Asian American books.' And it's a revelation to them."

The journey began in 1969 when Hongo was recruited by the San Mateo school district to be part of a "multicultural team" that would recommend materials for the district's use. When Hongo told the group about her World War II internment experiences, "they almost fell off their chairs," she said. "They had never heard of the concentration camp experience."

This led to her recognition of the need for curriculum about Japanese American history. She began to read about the history of the forced relocation of Japanese Americans during the War.

"I was getting very emotional and I couldn't understand what was happening to me," she said. The anger was a reaction to her sudden enlightenment of all the events that had happened during World War II, she said.

"My commitment to what we're doing now came from that experience," Hongo explained. "And it was just like how people talk about being born again and all that sort of thing. It revolutionized me as a person."

She sent letters to schools and notices to newspapers looking for people who would be interested in working on the development of curriculum on Japanese Americans. She received responses from all over the Bay Area, including Berkeley, San Francisco and San Jose residents.

One person who responded was Kathy Reyes, then working in the San Francisco Unified School District as a specialist in Asian American studies.

"At the time of course there was nothing in the textbooks - we're talking about 30 years ago - as far as the experience of Japanese Americans, not even the internment," Reyes recalled.

Another person who responded to the notice was Edison Uno, a well-known activist, born in Los Angeles, who was one of the pioneering proponents of the redress for Japanese Americans incarcerated in concentration camps.

Untold Story
These three were part of the 12-person crew that in 1970 would form the core body of the Japanese American Curriculum Project (which changed to the Asian American Curriculum Project in 1994). Together, they completed what Hongo called "a 90-day wonder" - a book that would soon cause an uproar in the Japanese American community.

"Japanese Americans: The Untold Story" was a 150-page book that detailed such topics as immigration, the World War II internment, leaders of the community and religion.

It was originally planned to be submitted to the state of California to be considered for use as a supplemental text in schools. Other books written on and by various ethnic communities were to follow.

The book, however, never made its way to the classroom.

"Some people began to speak in opposition of this book," Hongo said. "The first cry that came out was that it was anti-Buddhist."

Reyes recalled that several others were adamantly opposed to the book, alleging that "different groups (within the Japanese American community) were not represented" or that the information on the Buddhist church was not accurate.

Despite declarations by the protesting groups that they would write another book, they never did, Reyes remembered.

Once word spread that the book was causing a stir within the Japanese American community, the project was dropped as was the plan for the distribution of materials on other ethnic groups, Hongo declared, fiercely adding that the Japanese American community "destroyed that book."

"We, as an organization, went through sheer hell during that time," Hongo said, because of the strong backlash they received after trying "to do something for the community."

The results did not cause the organization members to lose faith, but instead, "It really cemented the group," Hongo said. "We were more determined than ever to succeed."

The group continued with its efforts by seeking out books they felt were appropriate to distribute.

The first one they promoted was Yoshiko Uchida's "Journey to Topaz," a story about a child's internment experience at the Topaz concentration camp in Utah.

Hongo explained that Uchida was "fairly well-known, but not among Japanese Americans," and that the distribution of "Journey to Topaz" caused an "awakening" in the community.

The group didn't focus only on books relevant to Japanese Americans, but to other ethnic groups as well.

Reyes recalled that "Vietnamese students were coming in around the mid-'70s and the teachers didn't know how to relate to them. They didn't know the background at all. Anything that we were able to provide for them they were eager to get."

The years of the group's progress would soon be overshadowed by the loss of Uno, who suffered a heart attack and passed away on Dec. 24, 1976 at the age of 47. Hongo remembered him as a "man with a vision" and that his dedication spread to the other members of the group.

Copies of AACP's first book, "Japanese Americans: The Untold Story" - the project to which Uno had dedicated much of his time - were scarce. AACP had no copies of it until Uno's widow, Rosalind Uno, gave the group a stack that she had found in her home.

Today, eight copies, not available for sale, sit on a shelf as relics of the group's controversial inception.

Books that Humanize
Hongo used to drive her Volkswagen Beetle, filled with books, around the West Coast to attend conferences. The car and number of books has changed, but the goal remains the same. Today, she and other AACP staff and volunteers travel around the country to evangelize literature to schools and libraries. Hongo has traveled as far as New York to attend a conference.

On Dec. 5 and 6, Florence Hongo and her husband Mas went to Reno for the Reno Literacy Conference. Three days later, they drove to Santa Cruz for the UCSC Multicultural Book Fair.

Their schedule gets busy, and according to Hongo "it's expensive, but we have to go to as many of those conferences as possible," Hongo said.

While store customers may buy a few books, Hongo said that school districts will buy up to thousands of dollars worth of materials.

She continued, "and that's where we want to see our books - in the libraries so that people will have an opportunity to see the wide range of materials that are available."

In deciding what books to accept for its inventory, the AACP crew actively seeks books and also reviews those sent in for consideration.

"What I really want to see are books that humanize Asian Americans," Hongo said.

She directs special attention to children's books. Hongo sees this genre as particularly critical for the readers, citing a lack of "primary level books that bolster the self image of an Asian American child."

She praised the work of children's authors Allen Say and Laurence Yep.

"There is a whole group of really good Asian American writers now that have their head screwed on straight and write well," she said, also noting the quality of work produced by Ruthanne Lum McCunn, Marlene Shigekawa and Cecilia Manguaerra Brainard.

With the exception of fairy tales, AACP carries only materials about the Asian American experience and not literature from or about life in Asia. One of the reasons behind this, Hongo explained, is to fight the misconceptions that all Asians in the U.S. are immigrants.

In addition, not all the books relative to Asian Americans make their way into the store.

"You'd be amazed," Hongo said. "Even though these people call themselves Asian American artists and Asian American writers - thumping their chests and saying they're doing this for the community - some people are still producing junk. And that kind of stuff I won't touch."

Changes Since Its Genesis
The organization has undergone changes since its genesis, including its store location. It has moved to four different locations throughout San Mateo before finding its present space on 37th Avenue, where it has been for the last three years.

One of the organization's recent endeavors has been getting back into publishing books - its initial venture. AACP published three books in 2003, including "Poston Camp II, Block 211" by Jack Matsuoka, "Building a Community: The Japanese Americans of San Mateo County" by gayle k. yamada and Dianne Fukami, and "Birth of an Activist: The Sox Kitashima Story" by Joy Morimoto and Sox Kitashima.

Florence and Mas Hongo, 83, started a new chapter in their lives when they got married in 1981. Mas Hongo now helps run AACP by managing the finances and shares the same faith in the group's contribution to the "educational process" of the country, he said.

"A lot of times, it's very difficult to stand up and speak up because something might happen to you," he said. "But still you have to have enough guts to stand up and say what you have to say."

Though pilgrimages across the country may get costly, "This is the way you've got to do it," Mas Hongo said. "It's expensive but this is the mission."

Six years ago, another person began to contribute to the group when he walked into the store. Leonard Chan immediately decided he wanted to be a part of the project.

Chan set up the organization's Website and now works on the group's monthly newsletter, which currently has over 350 subscribers (and another 500 website readers) and examines current events relative to the APA community. The November/December issue includes an editorial on a recent speech by President George Bush.

"Some things I feel more passionate about," Chan mused. "I hear something and say 'Hey, people better listen up and hear this. It relates to what we do,' especially in lines with the civil liberties issues of what the organization originally started with."

Chan also oversees the interns and writes grant proposals for AACP. With all the new ideas he has brought to the group, he still feels a nostalgia for the group's initial project.

To Continue
"My interest has always been in bringing the organization back into curriculum development - publishing," Chan said.

With AACP's recent publishing endeavors, the organization is in some respects heading back to its roots - a start that led to turmoil within the Japanese American community, but also launched a crusade for many with the vision of a raised consciousness of Asian American history and issues.

As for Florence Hongo's future plans, she doesn't plan on stopping her missionary efforts any time soon.

"As long as I'm still moving I guess I'm going to continue to do what I can," she said.


The following books are discounted for subscribers to our newsletter. The discounts on these books end February 7, 2004.

Notes from the Divided Country

By Suji Kwock Kim
2003, 74 pages, paperback.

Comment by Edward Hirsch -
"I am deeply moved and instructed by Suji Kwock Kim's Brilliant debut collection, which moves fluently between the living and the dead, the Korean past and the Asian American present. Notes from the Divided Country is a heartfelt and blood-soaked work of flights and explorations, of personal probings and historical exposures, of suffering and responsibility, of tribute and witness, of American soul-making."

View Additional Information
ORDER -- Item #3200, Price $15.95

To Be the Poet

By Maxine Hong Kingston
2002, 144 pages, hardback.

A manual on inviting poetry, on conjuring the elusive muse, To be the Poet is also a harvest of poems, from charms recollected out of childhood to bursts of eloquence, wonder, and waggish wit along the way to discovering what it is to be a poet.

View Additional Information
ORDER -- Item #3149, Price $19.95

Haiku Picturebook for Children

By Keisuke Nishimoto
Illustrations by Kozo Shimizu
1998, 32 pages, hardback.

Haiku Picturebook for Children is a wonderful introduction for kids to the art of haiku poetry. Keisuke Mishimoto has chosen poems from some of Japan's most famous masters of haiku and matched it with well known artist Kozo Shimizu's beautiful work to create a truly magnificent book.

View Additional Information
ORDER -- Item #2871, Price $13.95

Cool Melons - Turn to Frogs!
The Life and Poems of Issa

Story and Haiku Translation by Matthew Gollub
Illustrations by Kazuko G. Stone
1998, 37 pages, hardback.

Cool Melons- Turn to Frogs! is a unique introduction to haiku poetry, and the life of Issa (b. 1763), Japan's premier haiku poet. The story is told through narrative, art, and translations of Issa's most beloved poems for children. Matthew Gollub's poignant rendering of Issa's life, along with Kazuko Stone's sensitive watercolor paintings make Cool Melons a classic introduction to Issa's work for readers of all ages.

View Additional Information
ORDER -- Item #2727, Price $16.95

Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants
on Angel Island, 1910-1940

By Him Mark Lai, Genny Lim, and Judy Yung
Fifth printing 2002, 174 pages, paperback.

Island is one of the most compelling books on the subject of the Angel Island immigration and detention center. Angel Island, which is located in San Francisco Bay, is often considered the Ellis Island of the West.

The book is comprised of poems, both in English and Chinese, left behind on the walls of this facility. Included with these poems are interviews with surviving immigrant detainees and a short history chapter with pictures. Island is a revealing snapshot of the Chinese immigration experience in America during the early 20th century.

View Additional Information
ORDER -- Item #1264, Price $19.95

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