Amy W.S. Lee
Patsy Sumie Saiki was born on March 12, 1915, the daughter of immigrants from Hiroshima, Japan. Her parents, Shukichi and Chise Okada Kawatachi, who had seven children, were among the first wave of Japanese workers contracted to work in Hawaiian sugar plantations. In the 1880s, due to the lack of laborers, King Kalakaua of Hawaii signed a treaty with Emperor Meiji of Japan to allow workers to go to Hawaii and work on the plantations starting from 1885. After they had completed a contract, these workers were free to choose whether or not to stay. Saiki's parents completed their three-year contracts on a plantation, saved enough money and purchased a fifty-acre homestead in Ahualoa, Honokaa, on the Big Island.
When Saiki was fifteen, she went to McKinley High School on Oahu. Her mother died of cancer before she was graduated, but her legacy of words and compassion inspired Saiki to write. She entered the University of Hawaii, and in 1952, during her sophomore year, she won the Charles Eugene Banks Award for short story writing. She graduated with honors from the University of Hawaii, and then continued to pursue a doctorate at Teachers College, Columbia University, specializing in curriculum design. Saiki has taught at the local university and served as an administrator in Hawaii's public school system for many years.
Saiki's work has won her two Wall Street Journal fellowship prizes, and the 1996 Japanese Imperial Order of the Precious Crown, a recognition of her contribution to enhance cultural understanding between Japan and America. To pass on the catalysis she received when she won the Charles Eugene Banks Award, Saiki made an endowment to the Creative Writing Program of the