Nisei writer Wakako Yamauchi was born Wakako Nakamura in Westmoreland, California, in 1924 to Yasaku Nakamura and Hamako Machida, both issei farmers. Living in the Imperial Valley of California, the Nakamura family moved often in search of work, due mostly to the Alien Land Law, which prohibited Japanese from owning land. In 1942, when Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, the Nakamuras were forced to relocate to internment (or concentration) camps; Yamauchi was seventeen and in her last year of high school when she was evacuated to Poston, Arizona.
While at Poston, she rekindled her friendship with another great, future nisei writer, Hisaye Yamamoto DeSoto. The two worked at the Poston Chronicle, the camp's newspaper, where Yamauchi worked as a cartoonist and Yamamoto as a writer. Toward the end of World War II, Yamauchi, released from camp, worked in Chicago, but returned to camp in the final weeks of the war because of her father's death. Once the camps closed, Yamauchi and her mother moved to San Diego where the artist took painting classes. In 1948, she married Chester Yamauchi, and in 1955, they had a daughter, Joy.
Propitiously in 1959, Yamauchi was approached by Henry Mori, editor of Rafu Shimpo, to draw pictures for the holiday supplement. Yamauchi agreed if Mori would publish her stories. He assented, and Yamauchi wrote stories almost consistently for the paper from 1960 to 1974. Encouraged by Yamamoto to send one of her stories to Frank Chin for Aiiieeee!, Yamauchi sent “And the Soul Shall Dance, ” which was quickly accepted and brought her writing to the attention of a director who asked her to adapt it for the stage. Divorced in 1975 and devoting more time to writing, Yamauchi accepted and embarked