Letters to Memory
A memoir by Karen Tei Yamashita
September 5, 2017 • 6 x 9 • 200 pages • 978-1-56689-487-6
This dive into the Yamashita family archive and Japanese internment runs a documentary impulse through filters that shimmer with imagination.
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..
About the Author
Karen Tei Yamashita is the author of Letters to Memory, Through the Arc of the Rain Forest, Brazil-Maru, Tropic of Orange, Circle K Cycles, I Hotel, and Anime Wong, all published by Coffee House Press. I Hotel was selected as a finalist for the National Book Award and awarded the California Book Award, the American Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association Award, and the Association for Asian American Studies Book Award. She has been a US Artists Ford Foundation Fellow and co-holder of the University of California Presidential Chair for Feminist & Critical Race & Ethnic Studies. She is currently Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
“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
“[Letters to Memory] is a challenging, varied work, in moments deeply personal and impressionistic and in moments pulling back into a voice of epic omniscience.” —Boston Globe
“[Yamashita] interrogates the cruelty of internment and the random nature of immigration, war, birth and death and disease through her own probing, lively correspondence. . . . The irony and dark humor of Yamashita's interrogations, of her nimble prose and sentences, illuminate the tragedies.” —Los Angeles Times
“Yamashita goes beyond her family’s story as internees to unpack what that experience became as they dealt with the ordeal of building new identities and re-establishing their communities in the face of great loss and ongoing racism. It also very personally deals with the author’s emotions regarding this legacy. This is the work of establishing these deeds as an ongoing, living part of America’s being.” —Literary Hub
“More than just a memoir, this book teaches by example a new kind of relationship you can have with your familial, national, and cultural story. This is an important book.” —Porter Square Books
“A timely, thoughtful examination of an often unspoken period of American history.” —The Margins
“Letters to Memory is a work of genius. . . . A groundbreaking exploration and example of how we can build a sense of self through interaction with our pasts.” —Order of Importance
“Always in the foreground is the meta nature of Yamashita’s enterprise; we are not to experience a story but are prodded to pay attention to the ways of approaching, circling it. . . . An intriguing experiment in memoir.” —Star Tribune
“Letters to Memory is not only for history buffs searching out new perspectives, but for anyone wanting to better understand humanity.” —NewPages
“Allusive, quirky, questioning, [Letters to Memory] is a challenging text; for all its brevity, the less-than-200 pages are dense with assumptions of cultural literacy, community insight, historical background. And yes, don’t be deterred: for ‘gentle, critical, or however’ readers ready for intellectual stimulation,[Letters to Memory] awaits your inquisitive participation and rewarding collaboration.” —Christian Science Monitor
“Epistolary, but in a form of its own, this book preserves the collective memory of the Yamashita family: removed from Oakland, first to a racetrack, then to a concentration camp. Yamashita evokes the time of displacement, the dust, Christian charity and Christian racism, the problematics of documenting struggle, and the importance of art, laughter and waffles.” —The Rumpus