Saturday, June 17, 2017

Shipped from Alaska

Last week I received a pleasant surprise in the mail – a book signed by the author, Karleen Grummett. The gift of Quiet Defiance: Alaska's Empty Chair Story was arranged by Marie Matsuno Nash, a friend who lives in Anchorage. 

The author appears in a group photo of the Empty Chair Committee, a group who spearheaded the effort to create a public remembrance – an empty chair along with the names of 53 Japanese and Japanese Americans from Juneau – as a reminder of what happened during World War II.

I was especially touched by the empty chair left where class valedictorian, John Tanaka, would have been seated during the ceremony at Juneau High School's Class of 1942 graduation and how school officials held a special ceremony for Tanaka before he was forced to leave town.

Tanaka, his mother and younger siblings, were assigned to live in Idaho's Minidoka War Relocation Center. His father, an Issei, was arrested just after Dec. 7, 1941 and lived separated from the family for several years.

Marie Matsuno Nash,
2014 Minidoka Pilgrimage
The book serves as a complement to the documentary film, The Empty Chair, released in 2014 when the memorial was dedicated. The film features John Tanaka's sisters, Alice Tanaka Hikido and Mary Tanaka Abo. I recommend the film and the book as inspiration for what a difference a community's mindset can make.

Thank you, Marie.

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