Japanese American Urban Lives in Prewar Tacoma
- PUBLISHED: December 2020
- SUBJECT LISTING: Asian American Studies, Pacific Northwest / History
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 312 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 16 b&w illus., 5 maps
- ISBN: 9780295748214
- Publisher: University of Washington Press
Tacoma’s vibrant Nihonmachi of the 1920s and '30s was home to a significant number of first generation Japanese immigrants and their second generation American children, and these families formed tight-knit bonds despite their diverse religious, prefectural, and economic backgrounds. As the city’s Nisei grew up attending the secular Japanese Language School, they absorbed the Meiji-era cultural practices and ethics of the previous generation. At the same time, they positioned themselves in new and dynamic ways, including resisting their parents and pursuing lives that diverged from traditional expectations.
Becoming Nisei, based on more than forty interviews, shares stories of growing up in Japanese American Tacoma before the incarceration. Recording these early twentieth-century lives counteracts the structural forgetting and erasure of prewar histories in both Tacoma and many other urban settings after World War II. Lisa Hoffman and Mary Hanneman underscore both the agency of Nisei in these processes as well as their negotiations of prevailing social and power relations.
Authors & Contributors
Lisa M. Hoffman is professor of urban studies at the University of Washington, Tacoma and author of Patriotic Professionalism in Urban China: Fostering Talent and coeditor of Spaces of Danger: Culture and Power in the Everyday. Mary L. Hanneman is associate professor of Asian studies and history at the University of Washington, Tacoma, and author of Japan Faces the World, 1925-1952 and Hasegawa Nyozekan and Liberalism in Modern Japan.
Becoming Nisei provides more much-needed proof of the importance of Japanese and Japanese Americans in the United States. It places their past solidly in all of our memories—not just theirs—and gives us a window into who they are today.- Northwest Asian Weekly
[A]n incisive look at the experiences of second-generation, or Nisei, Japanese people growing up in pre-WW II Tacoma.- Choice
Based on forty-two interviews with former Nisei (second-generation Japanese American) Tacoma residents combined with rigorous archival research, Becoming Nisei offers a unique translocal and transnational approach to the often-overlooked interwar period in the twentieth-century Japanese American experience.- Pacific Historical Review
[A] powerful community study that employs theories of memory and storytelling, and contributes spatial analysis and histories of childhood and education to the existing literature on Japanese american identity formation. By framing their narrative in the prewar period, the authors add significant dimension to histories of Japanese American incarceration and resettlement, particularly in the understudied region of the Pacific Northwest.- Pacific Northwest Quarterly
This rich and detailed resource adds new dimensions to our state's and our city's understanding of Japanese American history. Thanks to the work of Hoffman and Hanneman, we will continue to learn from these Nisei for decades to come.- Tamiko Nimura, HistoryLink.org historian
An innovative and revealing book. The authors use the history of the Tacoma Japanese school to offer a more well-rounded perspective on the prewar Nisei experience.- Greg Robinson, author of After Camp: Portraits in Midcentury Japanese American Life and Politics