Angry Reader of the Week: Karen Ishizuka

"We need all voices, but it's clear that only some are listened to."

Hello, my friends. Gather 'round, because it's time to meet the Angry Reader of the Week, spotlighting you, the very special readers of this website. Over the years, I've been able to connect with a lot of cool folks, and this is a way of showing some appreciation and attention to the people who help make this blog what it is. This week's Angry Reader is Karen Ishizuka.

Who are you?

Is this a trick question -- like in Philosophy 101 when every response answers "what" not "who" you, in essence, are? After decades of angst, I can now finally say: I am the Proud Angry Reader of the Week. Oh yeah, and the author, most recently, of Serve the People: Making Asian America in the Long Sixties (Verso Books, 2016).

What are you?

Third generation Japanese American. Fellow traveler -- both religious and political. Sister -- both biological and spiritual. Mother, grandmother, partner, friend. Writer, thinker, reader, lover. Former social worker, film producer, media arts center administrator, museum curator. Newly minted Ph.D.

Where are you?

I live in Culver City, California although my mind, spirit and body are often elsewhere.

Where are you from?

"Where are you from?"
      "Santa Monica, California."
"Where are your parents from?"
      "Los Angeles, California."
"Well then, where were you born?"
      "Cleveland, Ohio."
"I mean before that!"

What do you do?

Listen to stories of API movers and shakers and grunts on the ground and relate them as best as I can to ourselves and anyone who will listen. Residing outside the power structure that determines what becomes official history, APIs and other disenfranchised groups have always relied on oral histories to recover and reconstruct our collective pasts against the hegemony of dominant narratives. While silence was a strategy for self-preservation in the face of abject racism for our grandparents, for us, it is a recipe for erasure.

What are you all about?

Getting the Asian American and Pacific Island experience into the canon of U.S. history and culture. The history we learn about in school is written by the victors. So we need to ask, what becomes "history" and from whose point of view? There are some 300,000 books published a year in the U.S. alone. We -- progressive people of color -- need to be among them. Just like the adage that if we don't speak out against injustice, by the time they come for us, there will be no one left to speak up -- if we don't write our histories, you can be damn sure some white male will. Speaking of which...

What makes you angry?

Right now, at the top of the list are:

1) Latter-day Christopher Columbuses who think they discovered camp, or the 442nd, and the American public who believes them. Former incarceree Michi Weglyn wrote Years of Infamy: The Untold Story of America's Concentration Camps back in 1974 but award-winning white journalist writes Infamy: the Shocking Story of the Japanese American Internment of World War II in 2015 and it instantly becomes an LA Times Bestseller, and lauded as a New York Times Editor's Choice and SF Chronicle Best Book of the Year, like it's something new?! We need all voices, but it's clear that only some are listened to.

2) Everyone (API and others) who insist on diminishing the mass WWII incarceration by calling them nicer words like "relocation," (as if undergoing to a job transfer) "evacuation," (as if being saved from a natural disaster) or "internment," (which applies only to nationals of countries at which the US is at war). The continued use of euphemisms not only mitigates the unconstitutionality of the event, it makes it easier for similar injustices to be rationalized under the banner of "national security." The corporate perspective of "downsizing" minimizes the fact that you were fucking fired.


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