Hisaye Yamamoto was born in San Francisco, California in 1921. She attended Stanford University where she received her B.A. in English Literature in 1943. After graduation, she worked as a secretary for the United States Army Air Force. In 1946, Yamamoto married Robert A. Johnson, a fellow student at Stanford. They had three sons together.
She began writing while working as a social worker in Oakland, California. Hisaye Yamamoto wrote her first novel, “The Housewife,” in 1959. She went on to publish several novels and collections of short stories over the next few decades. Hisaye Yamamoto won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1990 for her book The Woman Warrior.
Yamamoto died in New York City on January 30, 2011. She left behind five children.
Background and career
Yamamoto was born to Isseis in Los Angeles, California. She grew up in Redondo Beach and attended Palos Verdes High School. Yamamoto graduated from UCLA in 1950 and received a B.A. degree in English Literature in 1952. In 1956, she earned a master’s degree in education from San Francisco State College.
In 1958, Yamamoto married Takashi Yamamoto, whom she met during college. They had three children together.
After graduating from college, Yamamoto worked as a teacher in Japan. During her time there, she published numerous articles and short stories in magazines such as Shinchō, Bungeishunju, Chūkan Eiga Geijutsu, and others.
She returned to the United States in 1962, settling in Berkeley, California, where she taught English literature at UC Berkeley. She continued to write fiction and essays throughout the 1960s and 1970s, including several novels, many of which were translated into French and German.
In 1974, she moved to New York City, where she lived for the rest of her life. Two of her books, A Woman Who Rides the Wind and An Island Beneath the Sea, won awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Yamamoto died of cancer on December 4, 2013, aged 81.
World War II and the internment of Japanese-Americans
On December 7th, 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack against the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. This act of war marked the beginning of World War II and ultimately led to the incarceration of approximately 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry in camps across the country.
The events surrounding the attack are still being investigated today. However, many historians believe that the decision to imprison Japanese Americans during wartime was based on racial prejudice rather than national security concerns.
In the aftermath of the attack, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the Secretary of War to designate areas within the continental United States where military control could be exercised. These areas included what we now know as the West Coast, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and parts of Canada.
Although the government claimed that the move was necessary to protect the public safety, there is evidence to suggest otherwise. For example, California Governor Culbert Olson stated that he did not want Japanese immigrants because they were “racially inferior.”
During the war, Japanese Americans were relocated to ten different locations throughout the western part of the country. Many of them were placed in concentration camps, while others were sent to live with relatives and friends.
While incarcerated, Japanese Americans were subject to strict rules, including curfews, searches, food rationing, and restrictions on travel. They were also forbidden from owning firearms and prohibited from associating with anyone who was considered a threat to the government.
As the war progressed, the government began to deport those deemed disloyal to the United States. By 1942, nearly 110,000 Japanese Americans were removed from the West Coast, and most of them were never allowed to return home.
Life after the war
World War II came to an abrupt end in 1945, ending the Japanese occupation of many countries across Asia and Africa. For those who lived under the rule of Japan’s Imperial Army, life could be difficult. Many people suffered greatly during the war, including prisoners of war, civilians caught up in the conflict, and even former soldiers like Yamamoto.
Yamamoto found herself in such a situation. She was born in Hawaii, and moved to San Francisco with her family. Her father worked for a shipping firm, and her mother stayed home to raise the children. In 1942, Yamamoto joined the United States Navy, and served aboard a submarine, though she did not see combat. Following the war, Yamamoto went to college and earned a degree in journalism.
In 1949, Yamamoto met Anthony DeSoto, whom she later married. They had five children together; one died shortly after birth. Yamamoto became active in civil rights activism, and remained involved in politics throughout her life. She wrote columns for several newspapers, including the Los Angeles Tribune.
After the war, Yamamoto and her husband moved to Los Angeles, where he opened his own restaurant. However, it failed within three months. Yamamoto took part in protests against the Vietnam War, and participated in marches organized by Martin Luther King Jr., among others. She continued to speak out about issues facing minorities, particularly women.
She retired from the Los Angeles Tribune in 1994.
Writing style and influence
Yamamoto’s writing style is marked by a lyrical quality, a sense of humor, and a tendency toward irony. Her work is characterized by a spareness of language, a precision of detail, and a focus on the nuances of human nature.
Her stories are often compared to Japanese poetry, particularly haiku, and she has been called “the most important female writer of modern Japan.” In addition, she has been credited with bringing a feminist perspective into contemporary Japanese literature, and has been called “a major figure in postmodernism in Japan.”
She has also been praised “For her subtle realizations of gendered and sexual relationships,” and her stories have been compared and contrasted with those of Katherine Mansart, Flannery O’Conner and Grace Paley.
Seventeen Syllables and Other Stories
This collection contains 17 short stories, each of which deals with the immigrant experience of Issei and Nisei people living in America. Some are humorous while others are tragic, and the author explores the difficulties faced by his fellow Japanese Americans.
Yamamoto the best plays
Hisaye Yamamoto, the Japanese author whose works include “A Woman Named John,” “The High Heel Shoes” and “The Legend of Miss Sasakawa,” died Wednesday morning at age 94. Her death was announced by the Japan Times. She lived in New York City since 1985.
Born in Tokyo in 1923, Yamamoto graduated from Columbia University in 1944 and earned a master’s degree there in 1947. She later worked as a journalist and taught English at several universities.
Her first novel, “The High Heel Shoe,” was published in 1951 and became one of the most popular books among young women. Two years later, she wrote “A Woman Named John.” Both stories are about white people coming into contact with people of color.
In 1964, she published “The Legend of Miss Sashagawara,” based on the life of a woman who fought against discrimination. She went on to write four more novels about Japanese Americans.
She received the American Book Award in 1987 for lifetime achievement.
Yamamoto’s talent was recognized early. Her writing appears in many anthologies, including the New York Times Best Seller anthology, Women Writing About Their Lives, and was recently included in the anthology, A Woman Like Me: 25 Years of Short Fiction By Asian Americans. Yamamoto scholar King-kok Cheung wrote, ” stories exemplify precision and restrained style.”
In addition to the award for lifetime achievement, Yamamoto was awarded the American Book Award for Lifetime Achievements in 1986, and the first edition of Seventeen Syllables and other Stories, published in 1988, was given the Award For Literature from the Association of Asiatic American Studies. She was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award in 1989 for her novel, Black Robe Girl, and won the John Dos Passos Prize for Distinguished Writing in 1990 for her short story collection, The Pool.
Yamamoto was one of the first Asian American writers to receive critical attention outside of the Asian American literary scene. She was interviewed about her work by Richard Kim, author of The Korean Storyteller, and by Kwame Dawes, author of The End of White America. She was also interviewed by Linda Sue Park, author of When I Was Little I Thought I Wanted To Be…, and by James Lee, author of The Man Who Loved Red China.
Yamamoto suffered a stroke in 1999, and died in Los Angeles on Jan. 30, 2011, at age 89.