Hisaye Yamamoto Biography
Hisaye Yamamoto was born on August 23, 1921, in Redondo Beach, California, according to Google’s Doodle page.
Her parents were immigrants from Japan. She was one of three children, along with her two brothers.
“Her parents were immigrants from the Kumamoto Prefecture in Japan and farmed strawberries to make a living in the United States”.
“Since they were not allowed to own agricultural land under the California Alien Land Law of 1913, Hisaye’s family moved from place to place while she and her brothers were growing up”, according to the American Writers Museum.
According to the American Writers Museum, “Hisaye’s mother (pictured on the left) encouraged her daughter to write when she was young. Many of Hisaye’s short stories explore the issues faced between immigrant parents (Issei) and their children born in the United States (Nisei).”
Yamamoto told the museum, “I remember one of my favorite things in school was having the teacher read to us. I remember Wizard of Oz and Doctor Doolittle and stuff like that. I just loved it. I would check out as many books as they let me. So, I guess I thought the writing was it, writing books.”
Hisaye Yamamoto Family
According to the American Writers Museum, Yamamoto began publishing her writing as a teen. “By the age of 14, she had her own column in the local journal Kashu Mainichi. She wrote under the pseudonym Napoleon,” the museum wrote. She told the museum, “On weekends [the Japanese newspapers] would have a feature page, where people would send in all kinds of things. They’d print anything, so that’s how I got started.”
Yamamoto and her family were sent to a Japanese internment camp during World War II. According to Google, “Following the outbreak of World War II and due to Executive Order 9066, Yamamoto’s family was among the over 120,000 Japanese-Americans forced by the U.S. to relocate to government prison camps (aka Japanese internment camps), where they faced violence and harsh conditions.
She and her family were interned at the Poston, Arizona, camp, in 1942 according to the Chicago Review. She and her brothers were moved to Massachusetts in 1944, but she was returned to Poston after one of her brothers was killed while serving in the military in Italy.
She added, “The U.S. has a long way to go in its treatment of minorities, including the descendants of the original inhabitants.”
Hisaye Yamamoto Wikipedia
After being released from internment, Yamamoto, who graduated from Compton College, began her professional writing career as a columnist for the Los Angeles Tribune. The newspaper was Black-owned, according to the Los Angeles Times.
After her story ran, the Shorts were killed in an apparent arson fire. Yamamoto castigated herself for failing to convey the urgency of their situation.”
The Times quoted her as saying in a 1985 essay, A Fire in Fontana, “I should have been an evangelist at Seventh and Broadway, shouting out the name of the Short family and their predicament in Fontana… Instead, she pronounced her effort to communicate as pathetic as ‘the bit of saliva which occasionally trickled’ from the corner of a feeble man’s mouth”, the Times wrote.
Hisaye Yamamoto Books
Yamamoto published several collections of short stories from 1948 until 1986, including Seventeen Syllables, The High-Heeled Shoes: A Memoir, Wilshire Bus, Underground Lady and A Day in Little Tokyo. King-Kok Cheung, a UCLA professor, and literary critic, wrote in Articulate Silences that Yamamoto was, “one of the first Japanese American writers to gain national recognition after the war when anti-Japanese sentiment was still rampant.”
Japanese American Dramatist Wakako Yamamuchi told the Times, “She wrote in a true voice. She wrote about what she knew and that was about us — Asians, Japanese Americans. Her stories were wonderful, beautiful legacies.” Yamamoto told the Chicago Reader in 1993, “I guess I’m just writing to please myself, express myself, mainly, since I don’t know anybody’s ever going to read it. I’m just trying to put down whatever is stuck in my craw as best I can.”
She was honored with the 1986 American Book Award for Lifetime Achievement, the 1989 Book Award from the Association of Asian American Studies and was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010 by the Asian American Writers Workshop.
Hisaye Yamamoto Husband, Children
Yamamoto was married for 48 years to Anthony DeSoto until his death in 2003, according to her obituary. She and her husband had five children, Paul, Kibo, Yuki, Rocky and Gilbert, along with seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, her obituary said.
In the announcement of that award, the Asian American Writers Workshop wrote, “Not unlike the fiction of Flannery O’Connor, Yamamoto’s stories are brutal, efficient fables of race, saturated with the social subtext of the American small town. Her work focuses on the normal lives of Japanese women — fully-formed characters described by Grace Paley as ‘gutsy and fragile’ — and the uneasy relationship between Japanese immigrants and their children, many of whom grew up speaking only Japanese until kindergarten but found themselves increasingly distanced from their parents’ way of life.”
Hisaye Yamamoto Cause of Death
Yamamoto suffered a stroke in 2010 and died a year later, on January 30, 2011, in Los Angeles, according to an obituary written by the Los Angeles Times.
Yamamoto said in an interview in 1999 about her experiences in the Japanese internment camps, “I have a lot of anger inside me … I get it out in my writing. … I don’t think I’ll ever get over being angry about the internment, because under the proper circumstances, tears still come to my eyes, you know? … I see that stuff like that has gone on throughout man’s recorded history, so it’s just general anger about injustice…”
Doodler Alyssa Winans said about her work honoring Yamamoto in 2021, “Reading Yamamoto’s work and working on this Doodle amidst all the recent news about rising violence-hit especially hard. It’s difficult to see elements of history repeating themselves, and my heart goes out to all the individuals and families that have been affected. As someone of mixed background, I have a complex relationship with different aspects of my culture, so I feel honored to be able to work on a Doodle for APAHM. I am always glad to see a space where Asian American and Pacific Islander voices, causes, and culture is elevated and celebrated.”