From the cover flaps -
Eleven voices representing some 50,000 women carry the reader from the culture and society of the Meiji Era in turn-of-the-century Japan to their new lives and struggles in the United States.
Kiyo Miyake recalls a mother whose life as a missionary wife in a remote area of Hokkaido became a role model for her own when Kiyo came to the U.S. with her new husband to live in the Japanese-owned farming colony of Livingston, California. Then, years later when the U.S. government interned the Miyake family in a relocation camp during World War II, Kiyo once again emulated her mother as she used her counseling skills to help her fellow evacuees find ways to cope with family and community life in stressful times.
In stark contrast, Setsu Yoshihashi's recollections of family life are ones of harsh and painful rejection as the result of rural customs. Setsu's emotionally bleak life continues in the U.S. when she and her husband are unable to change the traditional Japanese relationship between husband and wife. Like many issei (first-generation immigrant or pioneer) women, Setsu finds hope and strength in raising five children.
Each of these women's life stories is individually compelling, but Issei Women also is a narrative of collective lives. Teiko Tomita explains kuro, or hardship, through the loss of a child in the most difficult of circumstances. Kuro becomes one of several common themes that reverberate in the memories of these women. Collectively, their stories also express the belief that their strength began with values learned in Meiji Japan, and that these values echo in the lives of their children and grandchildren.
Issei women came to view themselves as pioneers who carved new lives for themselves in the American West in a very different but no less important context than those who crossed the Great Plains in covered wagons.
EILEEN SUNADA SARASOHN, a sansei or third-generation Japanese American, was born in the Tule Lake Relocation Camp in California. She currently teaches history at Sacramento City College. She also is the editor of The Issei: Portrait of a Pioneer, a collection of thirty-two interviews of surviving issei men and women.
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