Elizabeth Miki Brina: “The historical and the personal are intertwined.”

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Biography, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2021-07-17 00:10Z by Steven

Elizabeth Miki Brina: “The historical and the personal are intertwined.”

Guernica
2021-05-10

Elizabeth Lothian, Digital Director


Photo credit: Thad Lee

The author of Speak, Okinawa talks about learning her family history, writing from guilt, and questioning her father’s values.

Elizabeth Miki Brina’s debut memoir Speak, Okinawa is a nuanced investigation of self, lineage, and inheritance. Born in the 1980s to an Okinawan mother and a white, American, ex-military father, Brina struggled with the duality of her identity. She connected more with her father—the dominant force in her family triad—often in an attempt to fit in with the 99 percent white suburb in which she grew up, and this made her feel distant from her already isolated mother.

It is only years later, after moving out of her parents’ enveloping orbit, that Brina comes to question why she feels so disconnected from her mother and Okinawan ancestry. She then sets out to explore her heritage—half that of the colonized and half that of the colonizer. We take this journey with her as she recounts the history of Okinawa. These chapters, voiced brilliantly in the first person plural “we,” tells the reader of Okinawa’s conquest by China and Japan, the horrors it faced in World War II—nearly a third of its population was killed in one battle alone—and the subsequent US military occupation of the island, which continues to this day.

As Brina learns the history of her maternal lineage, she comes to better understand not just her mother but herself. She is then forced to reckon with the role her father played in dictating her worldview and to try and unknot how America, as both a political entity and a cluster of ideals, has marginalized other ways of being…

Read the entire article here.

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Speak, Okinawa: A Memior

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Books, Monographs, United States on 2021-07-13 21:18Z by Steven

Speak, Okinawa: A Memior

Knopf (an imprint of Penguin Randomhouse)
2021-02-23
304 Pages
5-5/8 x 8-1/4
Hardcover ISBN: 9780525657347
Paperback ISBN: 9781984898463
Ebook ISBN: 9780525657354
Audiobook ISBN: 9780593348925

Elizabeth Miki Brina

A searing, deeply candid memoir about a young woman’s journey to understanding her complicated parents—her mother an Okinawan war bride, her father a Vietnam veteran—and her own, fraught cultural heritage.

Elizabeth’s mother was working as a nightclub hostess on U.S.-occupied Okinawa when she met the American soldier who would become her husband. The language barrier and power imbalance that defined their early relationship followed them to the predominantly white, upstate New York suburb where they moved to raise their only daughter. There, Elizabeth grew up with the trappings of a typical American childhood and adolescence. Yet even though she felt almost no connection to her mother’s distant home, she also felt out of place among her peers.

Decades later, Elizabeth comes to recognize the shame and self-loathing that haunt both her and her mother, and attempts a form of reconciliation, not only to come to terms with the embattled dynamics of her family but also to reckon with the injustices that reverberate throughout the history of Okinawa and its people. Clear-eyed and profoundly humane, Speak, Okinawa is a startling accomplishment—a heartfelt exploration of identity, inheritance, forgiveness, and what it means to be an American.

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Looking at Okinawa: Race, Gender, Nation

Posted in Arts, Asian Diaspora, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Live Events, United States on 2017-03-31 00:10Z by Steven

Looking at Okinawa: Race, Gender, Nation

2017 UC Berkeley Graduate Student Conference: On Belonging: Gender, Sexuality and Identity in Japan
University of California, Berkeley
Moffitt Undergraduate Library
340 (BCMN Commons Seminar Room)
Berkeley, California
2017-04-09, 10:00-16:00 PDT (Local Time)

Ishikawa Mao, Photographer

Wendy Matsumura, Assistant Professor of Professor
University of California, San Diego

Annmaria Shimabuku, Assistant Professor of East Asian Studies
New York University

This is a one-day event being held in order to create a dialogue on issues of race and gender in the study of Okinawa, and to contemplate the relationship between the study of Japan and the study of Okinawa.

We will initiate this dialogue with a lecture by photographer Ishikawa Mao, whose work explores the complex relationships of gender, race, and national identity in Okinawa and Japan. Her works have included including candid photographs of African American servicemen and their Okinawan and Japanese wives and girlfriends in Okinawa in the 1970s; and portraits of Japanese and Okinawan people with the national flag of Japan, interacting with it in various ways to demonstrate their complicated and often troubled relationship with the nation of Japan. Ishikawa is to give a slide show and talk about her work, focussing on her photographs of African American servicemen.

In the afternoon, we will hold a discussion between scholars, students, and members of the public, to be led by Professor Wendy Matsumura (UCSD) and Professor Annmaria Shimabuku (NYU), who, from the fields of cultural studies, sociology, and history, have been engaged in thinking about the role of Okinawan studies and its place in Japanese studies more generally. We will discuss what it means to study Okinawa in the American academy, and, drawing on Ishikawa’s work, we will examine the complicated role of race and gender in Japanese studies and Okinawan studies.

Sponsored by: Center for Japanese Studies (CJS), Townsend Center for the Humanities, Department of African American Studies, Asian American Studies, Department of Ethnic Studies, Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, Center for Race and Gender, and Department of East Asian Languages & Cultures

For more information, click here.

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mao ishikawa’s stunning photographs of her friends in 70s okinawa

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Interviews, Media Archive on 2017-03-29 15:22Z by Steven

mao ishikawa’s stunning photographs of her friends in 70s okinawa

i-D
2017-03-27

Paige Silveria

The cult Japanese photographer gives her first-ever English language interview, about her new book ‘Red Flower, The Women of Okinawa.’

This Tuesday, at New York’s subterranean photobook shop Dashwood, cult Japanese photographer Mao Ishikawa is signing her first monograph to be published in the United States: Red Flower, The Women of Okinawa. The newly released silkscreen book features striking black-and-white photographs of Mao and her girl friends, who worked in segregated GI bars, along with their boyfriends – the black army soldiers who frequented those bars in American-occupied Okinawa from 1975 to 1977. The images of carefree 20-year-olds as they laugh and cry, drink and fall in love, contrast sharply with the divisive tensions of the militarily controlled island…

Read the entire article here.

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Red Flower, The Women of Okinawa

Posted in Arts, Asian Diaspora, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Women on 2017-03-28 19:59Z by Steven

Red Flower, The Women of Okinawa

Session Press
2017
112 pages
Photography: Mao Ishikawa
Text: Mao Ishikawa
English Translation: Jun Sato
Design: Studio Lin, NYC
Printing: Die Keure, Brugge, BE
Color Proofing: Colour & Books, Apeldoorn, NL
Silkscreen soft cover covers and silkscreen text pages
closed 229 x 330 mm (9.02 x 12.99 inches), open 458 x 330 mm (18.03 x 12.99 inches), 3 lbs
ISBN: 978-0-692-81744-5

Mao Ishikawa

Session Press presents Red Flower, The Women of Okinawa, the first United States monograph by Okinawan photographer Mao Ishikawa. Red Flower consists of 80 b/w photographs that date from 1975 to 1977 in Koza and Kin, Okinawa, primarily from Ishikawa’s first book Hot Days in Camp Hansen by A-man Shuppan in 1982, but it also includes unpublished work from the same period. Red Flower exhibits Ishikawa’s celebration of the courageous and honest lives of women she met and befriended while working at military bars at a time when social and political tensions between the US and Japan were on high alert. It consists of five chapters of pictures, followed by her essay dedicated to the publication: girls gossiping about boys, working at bar, meeting their boyfriends at home, enjoying themselves at the beach, and their children for the future of Okinawa. Red Flower is the pivotal work for Ishikawa, since it marks the starting point of her subsequent long career as a photographer.

Her attendance of Shomei Tomatsu’s class at WORKSHOP photography school in spring 1974 seems to have had a strong influence on her style; their close association as friends and teacher/student continued till his death in 2012. Martin Parr identifies her work as ‘post-Provoke’ in The Photobook: A History Volume III (page 90), observing the strength of her photography is charged by its directness and rawness, in contrast to the stylized symbolism preferred by the previous generation of Provoke photographers. Most importantly, it is crucial to note that her work is often delivered from the result of her pure pursuit of her subject matter. Especially for this particular project, Ishikawa’s engagement to the subject was enormous; she worked as a server at the bars along with the other girls and had relationships with boys she met there for two years. Thus, her personal involvement enables her to capture the actual events and scene without theorizing or romanticizing. In Red Flower, Ishikawa reveals her very honest personal documentary in all sincerity, while still maintaining enough detachment from the subject to be able to perfectly capture the scenes with her sharp eyes.

Okinawa has been one of the most popular subjects in the history of Japanese photography, having attracted many renowned Japanese photography masters such as Tomatsu Shomei, Daido Moriyama, Nobuyoshi Araki, and Keizo Kitajima. Born and raised in Okinawa, Ishikawa is, however, the only female photographer for still vigorously making work of Okinawa (and living in Okinawa) in spite of whatever taboo or challenges she came across along the way.

Previously Ishikawa made two publications on the same subject. Her first book, Camp Hansen is not, in fact, her monograph since another photographer, Toyomitsu Higa took the photos in the second half of the book. Also, it was regretfully banned due to claims from two girls in the book shortly after it was released, so it is extremely rare and expensive. The other volume of Ishikawa’s Okinawa work was published on the occasion of her exhibition at Yokohama Civic Art Gallery Azamino in 2013. Since it mainly functions as reference to her general work, and it was laid out with large white framing surrounding smaller format photos, it loses the boldness, honesty and urgency which are characteristic of her work. Red Flower features full-bleed images in a large format with intense black and white printing, and successfully makes the original lively spirit and tension of Ishikawa’s legendary Camp Hansen work available again for wider public appreciation.

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Uchinanchu: The Art of Laura Kina

Posted in Arts, Asian Diaspora, Live Events, Media Archive, United States on 2016-09-28 20:35Z by Steven

Uchinanchu: The Art of Laura Kina

Kwan Fong Gallery of Art and Culture
California Lutheran University
120 Memorial Parkway
Thousand Oaks, California 91360
2016-05-23

On view: June 10–October 30, 2016
Artist’s Talk: Thursday, September 29, 2016 | 6 p.m. PDT


Image: Laura Kina, Hello Kitty, acrylic on canvas and denim, assorted fabrics, t-shirts from the artist’s daughter Midori Aronson, 57 x 56 inches, 2015.

Uchinanchu is the term for Okinawan immigrants and their descendants from the Japanese island living in Hawai’i. This exhibit presents patchwork and textile-based paintings by Laura Kina through moving autobiographical pieces that examine mixed race identities, indigenous communities, colonization, and globalized pop culture–all in the form of traditional craft practices. Images feature deconstructed articles of clothing, from fleeting moments and memories of specific events to time-honored symbols.

Kina explains,

“My artwork focuses on themes of distance, belonging and cultural reclamation… Taken together, the works are about islands of diaspora and explore themes of transnational family ties and heritage tourism, mixed-ness, ethnic pride and solidarity, military and colonial histories, and current geopolitical military/environment issues in Okinawa and Hawai’i.”

Kina is Vincent de Paul Professor of Art, Media, & Design at DePaul University in Chicago and co-founder of the biennial Critical Mixed Race Studies conference. She co-authored War Baby/Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art (University of Washington Press, 2013) and acts as reviews editor for Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas. She is working on a forthcoming anthology Queering Contemporary Asian American Art. Her work has been widely exhibited in galleries and museums nationally and internationally, including in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and the Japanese American National Museum.

For more information, click here.

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Transpacific Antiracism: Afro-Asian Solidarity in 20th-Century Black America, Japan, and Okinawa

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2015-09-19 00:58Z by Steven

Transpacific Antiracism: Afro-Asian Solidarity in 20th-Century Black America, Japan, and Okinawa

New York University Press
July 2013
254 pages
4 halftones
Hardcover ISBN: 9780814762646
Paper ISBN: 9781479897322

Yuichiro Onishi, Assistant Professor of African American & African Studies and Asian American Studies
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Transpacific Antiracism introduces the dynamic process out of which social movements in Black America, Japan, and Okinawa formed Afro-Asian solidarities against the practice of white supremacy in the twentieth century. Yuichiro Onishi argues that in the context of forging Afro-Asian solidarities, race emerged as a political category of struggle with a distinct moral quality and vitality.

This book explores the work of Black intellectual-activists of the first half of the twentieth century, including Hubert Harrison and W. E. B. Du Bois, that took a pro-Japan stance to articulate the connection between local and global dimensions of antiracism. Turning to two places rarely seen as a part of the Black experience, Japan and Okinawa, the book also presents the accounts of a group of Japanese scholars shaping the Black studies movement in post-surrender Japan and multiracial coalition-building in U.S.-occupied Okinawa during the height of the Vietnam War which brought together local activists, peace activists, and antiracist and antiwar GIs. Together these cases of Afro-Asian solidarity make known political discourses and projects that reworked the concept of race to become a wellspring of aspiration for a new society.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes on Japanese Sources and Names
  • Introduction: Du Bois’s Challenge
  • Part I: Discourses
    • 1. New Negro Radicalism and Pro-Japan Provocation
    • 2. W. E. B. Du Bois’s Afro-Asian Philosophy of World History
  • Part II: Collectives
    • 3. The Making of “Colored-Internationalism” in Postwar Japan
    • 4. The Presence of (Black) Liberation in Occupied Okinawa
  • Conclusion: We Who Become Together
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • About the Author
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My Music Is My Soul, My Language Is My Armor

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive on 2015-09-14 00:48Z by Steven

My Music Is My Soul, My Language Is My Armor

Psychology Today
2014-12-02

Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, Ed.D.
Stanford University

Byron’s story of identity, healing, and empowerment

“One night at a pub I heard the sound of traditional Okinawan folk music, and it was like being hit in the head with a hammer. The impact was like a bolt of lightning! The song told the story of how in life there are things that each of us is born to do. I realized that I had been trying to erase the reality that I was born and raised here on this island. Suddenly listening to the music my hardened heart melted and I was freed.”

Byron has captivated me with his story since we first met in 1999, two mixed race guys, one an elder researcher, the other a young searcher in the throes of an identity quest. Born and raised in Okinawa by a native woman and her family, his face is marked by the genes of his father, an American whom he never met and whose name remains a mystery. With looks that branded him as an American, associating him with an occupying army and military bases and making him a scapegoat for hostility, Byron’s youthful life was full of strife and he had to fight to stay alive and maintain his dignity. He struggled to find himself, even venturing to Los Angeles to become an American rock star.

But when he had his great awakening he put away his electric guitar and devoted himself to the study of the sanshin, a 3-stringed snake skinned instrument. He set out on a road of discovery, immersing himself in the study of Okinawan traditional folk music of the islands. Music led him to language, as he wanted to understand the words of the songs he was singing. But years of neglect have taken their toll and it is a language no longer used in daily life, understood only by the middle aged, spoken only by the elderly. Byron felt anger at the society that did not value its own language, though he understood the history of incorporation into the Japanese nation, subsequent forced assimilation into Japanese language and culture, and self chosen accommodation, that had drastically reduced the use of the language. So he sought out elders and asked them to teach him…

Read the entire article here.

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Grits and Sushi: Mitzi Uehara Carter muses on being black and Okinawan

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Media Archive on 2015-09-11 18:20Z by Steven

Grits and Sushi: Mitzi Uehara Carter muses on being black and Okinawan

Metropolis Magazine
2015-09-06

Baye Mcneil


Mitzi Uehara Carter

Though Mitzi Uehara Carter was born on the opposite side of the Pacific, she’s kept herself anything but distant from her hereditary home. This Texas-native daughter of an African-American father and an Okinawan mother is currently a PhD candidate in the anthropology department at UC Berkeley, where she has recently completed her doctoral dissertation. She’s spent years doing research, including a year of field work collecting the personal stories of Okinawan families. In 2010, she started the blog Grits and Sushi to chronicle her musings on Okinawa, race, militarization, and blackness.

“I started the blog so I could have a place to think about my anthropological work and my personal life and experiences. It was a good way for me to merge those two worlds,” Uehara Carter explains. “Anthropology studies at Berkeley can be very intense and theoretical, so I wanted my blog to be a place where I could reflect on some of the field work I was doing in Okinawa, and have a landing page where I could also engage with other people dealing with similar questions about their lives, their identities, and about race.”

Grits and Sushi has since grown into a resource, an open journal, and a communal space, attracting readers from around the globe interested in things black and Okinawan, including interracial marriages, mixed-race citizens, and issues surrounding American military bases in Okinawa…

“I created these forums where I brought together black military personnel, Okinawan activists, and residents of Okinawa to have a conversation, a kind of ‘talk-story’,” she says, explaining the Okinawan term, “yuntaku.”…

Read the entire article here.

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From Okinawa to Hawaii and Back Again

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, History, Media Archive, United States on 2015-08-31 17:42Z by Steven

From Okinawa to Hawaii and Back Again

What It Means to Be American: Hosted by The Smithsonian and Zócalo Public Square
2015-08-31

Laua Kina, Vincent de Paul Professor of Art, Media, & Design
DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois


Kibei Nisei, 30 x 45 inches Oil on canvas (2012)

A Painter Follows the Currents of Her Family History

I am a hapa, yonsei Uchinanchu (a mixed-race, 4th-generation Okinawan-American) who was born in Riverside, California, in 1973 and raised in the shadow of the Cascade Mountains in Washington state. My mom’s roots stem from Spanish-Basque migrants in California and white southerners in Tennessee. My father is Okinawan from Hawaii. Because I don’t look quite white, people frequently ask, “What are you?” From an early age, even though Hawaii and Japan were enigmas to me, I have had to explain my relationship to these “exotic” places.

Growing up, we lived by my mother’s family and visited her parents weekly at their road-side motel near a Puget Sound ferry landing, but I knew little about my father’s childhood, an ocean away, on a Piihonua sugarcane plantation near Hilo. I got a glimpse on occasional vacations to visit family on the Big Island of Hawaii or my aunties in Los Angeles. The only other traces were evident in the Spam in our sushi, the fact that we called instant ramen noodles saimin, and in the echoes of Pidgin English in Dad’s accent that refused to be erased.

I am a painter, and at the heart of my paintings is the journey I’ve been on to understand how these different currents have formed my American experience. I’ve followed their flow back in time to the canefields of Territorial Hawaii and early 20th-century Okinawa, Japan…

Read the entire article here.

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