It was a day to remember when a large crowd turned out for a book signing and program at a Day of Remembrance event Feb. 18 at the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience in Seattle.
The stars of the show were all from the Seattle area: author Ken Mochizuki and illustrator Kiku Hughes for their book Those Who Helped Us (2022); author Frank Abe and illustrator Ross Ishikawa with We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American Resistance to Wartime Incarceration (2021); and Lawrence Matsuda of Fighting for America: Nisei Soldiers (2015; with upcoming reissue).
The celebration of the widely acclaimed books, about the Japanese American World War II experience, are produced in the “graphic novel” style that resemble comic books aimed for students in middle schools, but also for readers of all ages. The earlier edition of Fighting for America was co-published by Wing Luke Museum and the Seattle NVC Foundation, the other two books were co-published by Wing Luke Museum and Chin Music Press.
The event was scheduled for three hours and many lingered longer in the museum’s Ford Foundation Community Hall. The museum’s Marketplace shop was busy selling books, as was a pop-up bookstand in the Community Hall.
“The authors and illustrators across all three graphics have created powerful new ways to share about the incarceration experience. Even familiar stories feel fresh and new,” said Cassie Chinn, Deputy Executive Director and museum project lead for the books.
“Demand for the books has exceeded our expectations, and we’re excited that Fighting for America will be reissued in the coming year in partnership with the Seattle NVC Foundation and Chin Music Press to help share out those important stories all the more,” Chinn said.
People at the event came from near and far. Ask someone why they attended the event, and you’ll discover that the spirit of helping is alive and well.
Rick Johnson, co-owner of Ashford Creek Gallery / Museum near Mount Rainier, had a stack of signed Those Who Helped Us books. “I have a museum in our gallery and a portion of it is dedicated to the Japanese American incarceration,” he said. “I either sell these books at my cost or give them away to interested folks, such as teachers. I ask that they please pass the history along to others.”
Seattleite Lei Ann Shiramizu, retired owner of Momo boutique in Japantown, is now an online administrator for Origami Magazine (@origami.magazine) on Instagram. “I’m here to share the rare confluence of five powerful voices, authors and illustrators, gathered at The Wing,” she said. “I want folks to know about the books they’ve created, the personal stories of the Japanese incarceration. It makes history relatable and not just textbook learning. I’m also attending the book signing to spread word about The Wing as a champion of community building. They are an amazing organization and an asset to the CID and Seattle.”
[NOTE: The group photo of the authors and illustrators is by Debbie Kashino. The other photos are by Bill Kossen, an NVC Foundation lifetime member and the son of Carl Kossen, who was an NVC lifetime member and a “helper” in Those Who Helped Us.]