New Women of Empire
Gendered Politics and Racial Uplift in Interwar Japanese America
- PUBLISHED: June 2022
- SUBJECT LISTING: Asian American Studies, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, History / American History
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 206 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 13 b&w illus.
- ISBN: 9780295750514
- Publisher: University of Washington Press
Strong, bold, and vivacious—Japanese American young women were leaders and heroines of the Roaring Twenties. Controversial to the male immigrant elite for their rebellion against gender norms, these women made indelible changes in the community, including expanding sexual freedoms, redefining women's roles in public and private spheres, and furthering racial justice work. Young men also reconceptualized their ideas of manliness to focus on intellectualism and athleticism, as racist laws precluded many from expressing masculinity through land ownership or citizenry.
New Women of Empire centers the compelling life histories of five young women and men in Los Angeles to illuminate how they negotiated overlapping imperialisms through new gender roles. With extensive youth networks and the largest Japanese population in the United States, Los Angeles was a critical site of transnational relations, and in the 1920s and '30s Japanese American youth became politicized through active participation in Christian civic organizations. By racially uplifting their peers through youth clubs, athletics, and cultural ambassadorship, these young leaders reshaped Japanese and US imperialisms and provided the groundwork for future expressions of model minority respectability and Japanese American feminisms.
Authors & Contributors
Chrissy Yee Lau is assistant professor of history at California State University, Monterey Bay.
The world of Nisei women and men comes alive with exceptional dynamism as Lau combines her historical sensibility with rich archival materials to recreate Japanese American youth culture born at the interstices of Japanese and American empires.- Mire Koikari, author of Gender, Culture, and Disaster in Post-3.11 Japan
Framed in an inter-imperial context, this study gives gendered complexities to a history of Japanese Americans—especially reform-minded women and men—humanizing these youth leaders with attention to their diverse aspirations and choices. A notable achievement!- Eiichiro Azuma, author of In Search of Our Frontier: Japanese America and Settler Colonialism in the Construction of Japan’s Borderless Empire
This well-researched, highly accessible study of Japanese American youth in interwar Los Angeles illuminates how Christian Nisei formed gendered, transpacific identities and attachments. As Lau persuasively shows, Nisei "New Women" laid a clear path toward both the "model minority" myth and Asian American feminism.- Naoko Wake, author of American Survivors: Trans-Pacific Memories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Showcases key turning points and strategies for Japanese American self-respect and uplift. Their fascinating stories bring the book's focus on gendered politics and transpacific womanhood to life.- Shiho Imai, author of Creating the Nisei Market: Race and Citizenship in Hawai'i's Japanese American Consumer Culture