Dream of the Water Children: The Black Pacific

Mizuko – and Negishi Cemetery

a headstone at Negishi Cemetery. Photo from Debito.org credited to “CF.”

 

In 1853, Commodore Perry intruded the Japanese and Okinawan islands with demands, and finally landing and then the following year again, after repeated threats and failed negotiations with the Japanese Bakufu, demanded a gravesite for one of their sailors who died on board one of the American ships. This was the birth of the Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery in Kanagawa Prefecture,  just down the road from the future famous Elizabeth Saunders Home for Mixed Race Children, which was a well-known place where mixed-race babies were given up to during the World War II era. During subsequent years, through many battles with Russian and Chinese military, as well as trade relations, the number of foreigners dying in Japan, alongside Japanese soldiers, became too large and the cemetery grew to house the graves of many kinds of foreigners in Japan.

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Mizuko 水子 – “Water Children”

Jizo statues stand in many places and in many forms around Japan. Photo by Angie Star.

 

The title of my book: Dream of the Water Children: Memory and Mourning in the Black Pacific, contains terms that are in the in-between space between language, history, and worldviews.  In this post, and the next post, I will focus on the term: water children.  What is this?  In my own use of the term for my book, what does this mean?

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Critique of Review of “Proof of a Man” by Ratgirl

In my older blogpost on mixed race Black-Japanese-themed movies, I linked and referred to the blogpost by Paghat the Ratgirl.

Although I commend the blogger for writing about a topic that is almost unheard of in the United States, I have critiques of much of the tone and critique.  Especially since it is obvious to me, that this person does not understand the diversity of elements around Amerasian experience, histories, and the ways in which people internalize, survive, resist, repress, explode, resent, formulate.

My feeling is that I hope people do not read things just as a way of ingesting a “truth” but to investigate essays such as this, on their own—especially around topics that the writer are not too familiar with, except through cursory readings and people they may know.  History and life are larger than any one particular.  My point is that calling things “stupid” and “idiotic” tends to point to some kind of show-boating and ignorance.

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Aoyama Michi Music Video: My First Black-Japanese Amerasian Entertainment

Growing up in Japan in the 1950s and 60s, there were a handful of mixed-Japanese (haafu– as we are called nowadays) shown on television. Even more rare were Black-Japanese. I, as you know, use the term “Amerasian” to refer to most of us (not all) mixed-Japanese in the postwar period, as our identities were directly linked with war, the U.S. and Allied Occupation of Japan, and the globalized nation-making period where race played an integral part.  Issues of ‘haafu’ differ today, as Japan has been thoroughly divested of a direct relationship to war and occupation–although it is profoundly linked with the present-day idea and life of Japanese-ness.  For us mixed-Japanese Black Amerasians, the appearance and sounds of Black-Japanese entertainers was both an incredible surprise and joy, but also a reminder of the disdain people had for mixed-Japanese during that time. Of course there were some Japanese who thought it nice and normal, or good. But the majority turned away with a disgusting look upon seeing us.  Sometimes even our own mothers.

And. . . . . . .

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For this Mother’s Day この母の日に

 

 

ママ、1929年  (?)  に生まれ、2011年 9月17日にあの世へ去って行きました。この母の日、日々と変わらず、ママの優しさと怒鳴り声が心を休ましてくれる。どうもありがとう。

On this Mother’s Day, Like any day, My mother’s kindness as well as her commanding words, renders my heart calm. Born in 1929(?), and passing to the other world on September 17, 2011.  Thank you Mama.

In honor this year, I repeat my poem for her, that was featured in the Generation Nexus: Peace in the Postwar Era exhibit at the Presidio in San Francisco from November 2013 to April 2014: http://njahs.org/640/portfolio/generation-nexus-peace-in-the-post-war-era/, and published first, in Kartika Review, Spring Issue 2012: https://issuu.com/kartikareview/docs/kartika_issue12, and in Inquiring Mind – Issue on War & Peace Poetry: http://www.inquiringmind.com/Articles/WarPeacePoems.html.

 

                   For Kiyoko, Epitaph/Chikai *

Mama’s silent hand in mine         we remember traverse

history’s ten million wars.

Her Last breath            passes through me

survival’s constant fire.

I, her             Occupier’s baby

tremble in        black    yellow       through tombs

        ancient colors

falling

bombs          Mama          persimmon blossoms.

Time after time            Kiyoko becomes

sword

           desire

         wounds

   rain.

 

* Chikai: Vow, promise (in Japanese language). Without Kanji characters and written in hiragana or katakana, this can have the meanings near, close as well as basement or cellar. So ‘Chikai’ means: a promise, a vow, near, closeness, the cellar (which connotes things put below and kept as momentos, memories, the forgotten, the forsaken). Historical and personal continuities, relics, secrets, baggage, intimacy, preciousness.

 

My Early Puzzling racial questions……..

diz-carla-mama-me
Mama, myself, and my friend Diz and his sister Carla, in front of my Dad’s new Mercedes just outside of Tachikawa Air Force Base, Japan in 1961.

When I run into and get to know mixed-race American-Japanese people in the U.S., most of the time, they mention histories of being confused about who they were, their identity. Although, let’s say out of fifty persons I knew, seven or eight of them did not tell me that they questioned their identity, about confusion, the others did. I am one who never had any questions of who I was. But I also began noticing that those who questioned their identity, were mostly born in the United States, or left Japan as a child, before they could form too many sentences. Since American-ness is a place of individuals disconnected from communities, where people must craft their intimacies and friendships and relations, it began to dawn on me that this was not a surprise.

Equally so, was that I was quite sure of who I was and never questioned who I was or what I was.

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Beiging & Dream: Two of my WORKS to be PUBLISHED this year!

 

beiging-of-america-promo

Very Very Happy to Report:  two of my works will be published this year!!  Both are *Definitely* on Track, on Time, and will happen (barring destruction of the publishing house).

In June, I will have a chapter in the anthology of mixed-race people in America, entitled: The Beiging of America: Personal Narratives About Being Mixed Race in the Twenty-First Century. It has some very powerful authors in it, of many racial and national backgrounds, sexual and gender identities, of various generations.

Final proof is being edited as we speak.

Mama and I in front of our house in Albuquerque, 1963.
Mama and I in front of our house in Albuquerque, 1963.

In November, after six long years of creative struggle after turning in my book to the publisher, my long-awaited book: Dream of the Water Children: Memory and Mourning in the Black Pacific, will be released. Yes!

The Final proofs and images are being edited and are being put in after being finalized, and waiting for the Introduction and Afterword to be finalized as well.  After this, there will be a final go-over by the chief editor and myself, and then it will be printed!

To be honest, since my publisher, for both of these works, is a small independent publisher, the marketing and promotion will mostly fall on me.

Please contact me if you can write a REVIEW for publishing in another publication or online site (or know of someone who is interested and can get published), or if you can plan a promotional reading by me (alone or on a panel or in a group), or help out in any other way.

Let me know if you need more info.

 

 

MY BOOK: Update! – ENTIRE PROOF going through!

Mama, Dad, myself, above and below bombs.

My BOOK is, for the FIRST TIME in six years of being in the works with the publisher, is ON TRACK!  

For the first time, the ENTIRE manuscript has been proofed and is being reviewed for final edits and placement of photos.  This has never happened!  So it is going to be ready by next fall!

The many photos need to be placed throughout the book in the right places, the captions need to be cleaned up, and then the Index needs to be done.

While this is going on, those doing extra chapters such as the Introduction, will be able to read the manuscript and write their pieces for the Front Matter.

So it feels GOOD to finally be in the “BOOK IS HAPPENING” stage, and no longer in the start-and-stop phase.

 

Re-Post: Black and White GIs in Military prisons in Postwar Japan: Black Glasses Like Clark Kent

blackglasses-clarkkent

The book by Terese Svoboda, Black Glasses Like Clark Kent (Graywolf Press 2008), tells the personal true story of Svoboda’s journey, beginning with her Uncle who becomes depressed, then takes his own life.

Her uncle served in the US Occupation of Japan, working as a Military Stockade guard.

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“Babysan” by Bill Hume; and Japan Society Review by Kim Brandt

babysan-cover

 

One of the most interesting and revealing pieces of art and history, as well as what I think to be among the most “valuable” from the U.S.-Allied Occupation of Japan, is Bill Hume’s cartoon book: Babysan: A Private Look at the Japanese Occupation.

A great review of this book can be found at the Japan Society, written by Kim Brandt:

http://aboutjapan.japansociety.org/learning-from-babysan

This book gives a great glimpse into how American soldiers viewed their stay in Japan, as Occupiers, as boys who have left home, as military personnel, who were largely becoming intimate with a “Japan” through their relationships with their own ideas about “Oriental” women and Japanese women themselves. In my own work, I focus much on the more intense violent interactions in order to make points related to uneven relations, nation-building, and the tactics and thinking that create the will, desire, and the unspoken aspects of military occupation and empire-building in our world, whether past or present, and most likely the same building blocks that will be re-created in structural procedures and people’s minds in the future. Babysan looks at these these things in the intimate everyday, through their loneliness, need for affection and sex, and their position as conquerors, as male.

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