Sunday, March 29, 2020
‘Righting a Wrong’ Examines Minidoka
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A Japanese American grocer in 1942. Photo taken by Dorothea Lange. Courtesy: National Archives
 
Wednesday, January 29, 2020
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

The Community Library and its Regional History Museum will embark on an exploration of Minidoka and Japanese American incarceration during World War II on Friday, Jan. 31.

The event will kick off from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31, with a 4 p.m. with a reception celebrating the opening of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition “Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans and World War II” poster exhibit.

The exhibition will be held the library’s Regional History Museum in Ketchum’s Forest Service Park and will include Japanese-themed refreshments.

The poster exhibit will be accompanied through February and March by exhibits, discussion groups, lectures and films—all free to the public.

Among the events is a chance for the public to participate in the library’s 2020 Winter Read. Modeled after last year’s The Big Read, the community is invited to read a book together and engage in conversation about Jamie Ford’s “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.”

Free copies of the novel will be distributed during the kickoff.

“We were so thrilled with the participation in last year’s Big Read we wanted to continue it,” said the library’s Executive Director Jenny Emery Davidson. “We’ve been talking for many months with those at Minidoka about this important historic site that remains invisible to many.”

Ford’s novel centers on Japanese American families in the American West who were incarcerated in camps like Minidoka, 80 miles south of Ketchum, during World War II. Ford will talk at the library in March.

One of the novel’s settings is Minidoka, a National Historic Site where more than 9,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated between 1942 and 1945 solely on the basis of their race and alleged threat to national security. Families lived together in barracks and helped Magic Valley farmers pick potatoes. They went to school and played baseball while living behind barbed wire.

The Winter Read will coincide with other opportunities to learn the history of camps throughout the country to learn how these experiences impacted Japanese American culture in the West and our perceptions of liberty and identity today.

“Jamie Ford’s novel reminds us of a shameful episode in American history. His story cautions us to examine the present moment so that these injustices are recognized and not repeated,” said Martha Williams, the library’s program and education manager. “When these Japanese Americans--many of whom were U.S. citizens--were released, they didn’t have lives to return to.”

The Smithsonian exhibit will be on display from Jan. 31 to March 21. Constructed by the National Museum of American History, it examines the impact of Executive Order 9066 that led to the incarceration of more than 110,000 Japanese Americans following the attack on Pearl Harbor. It looks at immigration, prejudice, civil rights, heroism and what it means to be an American—themes that are as relevant today as 75 years ago.

Posters ask eight core questions about how American society and government let this happen and how it could happen again.

The Regional History Museum is also showing a film made by Dave Tatsuno, the father of Ketchum ski instructor Rod Tatsuno, titled “Movies and Memories.” Tatsuno made the film while incarcerated with his family for three years at the Topaz Relocation Center in Utah. He used an 8 mm camera he had smuggled behind barbed wire.

The film, given to the Library of Congress in 1996,  is the only full color movie documenting the experiences of interned Japanese Americans during World War II.

A separate exhibit titled “The Bitter and Sweet: World War II Stories of Japanese Americans in the West” will be featured in the library foyer during February and March. The exhibit will feature artifacts from local and regional Japanese American families before, during and after World War II.

At the same time the lecture hall will host “The Story of Minidoka: National Historic Site Banners.”

In addition:

Jan. 30, 4 p.m. Jenny Emery Davidson will lead a Winter Read Book Club discussion about “The Buddha in the Attic” by Julie Otsuka.

Feb 6 and 13, 4 p.m. Jenny Emery Davidson will lead a Winter Read Book Group about “Farewell to Manzanar” by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston.

Feb. 6—6 p.m. There will be a Minidoka Civil Liberties symposium presented in collaboration with the National Park Service, the nonprofit Friends of Minidoka, Boise State University and ACLU Idaho. Civil rights investigator Jessica Asai will keynote the symposium speaking about the legacy of Minoru Yasui, one of four Japanese Americans who took her fight concerning the legality of detention during World War II all the way to the Supreme Court.

Feb. 19, 6 p.m. Sun Valley Community School students will host a book discussion on “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.”

Feb. 26, 6 p.m.—The National Park Service will screen the film “Minidoka: An American Concentration Camp.” The film will be followed by a Q&A with Hanako Wakatsuki, chief of interpretation at Minidoka National Historic Site.

March 3, 5:30 p.m. Winter Read interns from Wood River High School and Sun Valley will lead a book discussion on “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.’

March 6, 4 p.m. A panel discussion with families who will share their stories of immigration, incarceration, military service and community. It will be moderated by Mia Russell, executive director of Friends of Minidoka.

March 12, 6 p.m. Jamie Ford, author of “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet,” will discuss his book. The event will be livestreamed at www.comlib.org/livestream.

March 20 and 27, 4 p.m.--Jenny Emery Davidson will lead a Winter Read Book Group on “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” by Jamie Ford.

Jenny Emery Davidson said she hopes participants will come away with a deeper understanding of our complicated national history and how it intersects with our local landscape of south-central Idaho.

“The (Smithsonian poster exhibition) and the rest of the Winter Read 2020 programming provides us with an exciting opportunity to share stories—local and national—of social justice, civic engagement and identity,” added Nicole Potter, Regional History Museum librarian.

 

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