Letters to Memory

Letters to Memory
A memoir by Karen Tei Yamashita

This dive into the Yamashita family archive and Japanese internment runs a documentary impulse through filters that shimmer with imagination. 

September 2017

6 x 9 | 184 Pages
Trade Paper

Thanks to a 2013 ADA Access Improvement Grant administered by VSA Minnesota for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, this title is also formatted for screen readers which make text accessible to the blind and visually impaired.

To purchase this title for use with a screen reader please call (612) 338-0125 or email us at info@coffeehousepress.org.

All orders will ship in September.

ISBN: 978-1-56689-487-6.


Available on backorder


Letters to Memory is an excursion through the Japanese internment using archival materials from the Yamashita family as well as a series of epistolary conversations with composite characters representing a range of academic specialties. Historians, anthropologists, classicists—their disciplines, and Yamashita’s engagement with them, are a way for her to explore various aspects of the internment and to expand its meaning beyond her family, and our borders, to ideas of debt, forgiveness, civil rights, orientalism, and community.

These special reissues are also available:
Through the Arc of the Rainforest
Tropic of Orange



“Shaped and voiced with literary flair, this is clearly a book Yamashita felt compelled to write, and her sense of purpose makes this historical excavation feel deeply personal.” Kirkus

“While this account may provide context for some of the themes found in Yamashita’s fiction, the author’s personal reflections on a dark period of American history will resonate with a larger audience concerned with how some U.S. organizations have targeted specific communities.” —Library Journal, *starred review*

“Yamashita positions these stories within larger questions—what is the meaning of evil, justice, war, and forgiveness? . . . Yamashita’s hopscotch approach makes the deeper claim that there is no explanation and no possible reparation for events like slavery, internment, or the bombing of Hiroshima—only the disorienting reality they produce and the legacy of pain, distrust, and shame they leave behind.” —Publishers Weekly

Letters to Memory is not only for history buffs searching out new perspectives, but for anyone wanting to better understand humanity.” —NewPages