Shirakawa by Stan Flewelling
Stories from a Pacific Northwest Japanese American Community

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Synopsis

The White River Valley is part of a fertile crescent between Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, the largest metropolitan region in the Pacific Northwest. As the cities grew, the Valley was their breadbasket. Japanese migrants called the area Shirakawa, an exact translation of the English 'White River'. They first arrived in the late 19th century and worked as itinerants, but some Japanese workers leased farms in the Valley and settled in. They brought wives from the old country and encouraged countless other fortune-seekers to follow. By the 1920s, the Japanese were the majority ethnic group in the Valley farm belt and over half of all Japanese farms in Washington State were in the White River Valley. Part community history, part anthology, "Shirakawa" details how the first-generation Issei overcame waves of organized opposition to forge a viable, cohesive community.It is the story of their efforts to develop job opportunities, family support systems, cultural outlets, community organizations, and centers for worship and education. Above all, it tells how they paved the way for their American-born children, the Nisei, and descendant generations to succeed as citizens and bring honor to their heritage.Out of this environment came leaders like Tom Iseri, chairman of the Japanese American Citizens League, Pacific Northwest District, and Gordon Hirabayashi, famed resister of the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans. More than forty Nisei who grew up in the White River Valley were interviewed for the book, and their voices resound in its pages. Just as "Shirakawa" chronicles the growth of a community, it also examines its swift demise after Pearl Harbor. The government swept Issei leaders out of the community and into detention camps. "Shirakawa" follows their fate, using rare documents from the National Archives to try to understand the unwarranted allegations of subversion against them.
 

About Stan Flewelling

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Published July 1, 2002 by University of Washington Press. 250 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference.