Imprisoned Apart: The World War II Correspondence of an Issei Couple

Imprisoned Apart: The World War II Correspondence of an Issei Couple

Imprisoned Apart: The World War II Correspondence of an Issei Couple

Imprisoned Apart: The World War II Correspondence of an Issei Couple

Synopsis

This is the poignant story of a young teacher and his bride who came to Seattle from Japan in 1919 so that he might study English language and literature, and who stayed to make a home. On December 7, 1941, the FBI knocked at the Matsushitas' door and took Iwao away, first to a jail cell at the Seattle Immigration Station and then by special train, windows sealed and guards at the doors, to Montana. He was considered an enemy alien, "potentially dangerous to the public safety", because of his Japanese birth and professional associations. The story of Iwao Matsushita's determination to clear his name and be reunited with his wife, and of Hanaye Matsushita's growing confusion and despair, unfolds in their correspondence, presented here in full. Louis Fiset helps us to read between the lines to understand Hanaye's displacement from everything safe and familiar and Iwao's unfaltering commitment to his adopted country, despite his imprisonment and the ignominy of suspicion of disloyalty.

Excerpt

I first "MET" Iwao Matsushita some fifteen years ago when I read his papers -- mostly letters and documents from the World War II era -- in the University of Washington archives. Impressed by their richness and the humanity they displayed I used excerpts from them in my book Asian America and intended to publish a small edition of his letters at some time in the future. Some years later, Karyl Winn, the uw curator of manuscripts, wrote me that a younger scholar, Louis Fiset, was interested in doing something with the letters. He and I corresponded, met, and became friends. At some point in this process I decided to waive my own interest in the Matsushita letters in favor of Fiset. My project had never gotten off the ground, and Fiset was on the spot and ready to go ahead.

It is now clear that this was a wise decision. Fiset devoted years to this book and has gone far beyond anything that I would have done. He has skillfully given us a rare glimpse of two Japanese American immigrant lives. Iwao and Hanaye Matsushita were Japanese nationals and, like all Asians in 1941-42, ineligible for naturalization. Unlike most Japanese Americans who were incarcerated in camps under the authority of Executive Order 9066, Iwao was subjected to internment by the Immigration and Naturalization Service as an enemy alien. There had been more than 9066 Japanese nationals in the continental United States and Hawaii in 1940, and perhaps 8,000 of them -- fewer than 10 percent --

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