JACL: In Quest of Justice by Bill Hosokawa

JACL: In Quest of Justice

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The Japanese American Citizens League commissioned this history of its first 50 years in part to tell ""the 'real' story of JACL and the Evacuation"": i.e., to defend the organization for having cooperated in the WW II incarceration of Japanese Americans. And though the book is largely institutional history (leading personalities, convention-by-convention progress, strictly internal rifts), and also partially a reprise of earlier Hosokawa/JACL volumes (Nisei, East to America), there is nonetheless drama here for the finding. The Japanese American Citizens League, as Hosokawa never quite spells out, comprised only Nisei, the first generation born in the US, because their immigrant parents, the Issei, were not eligible for citizenship; the Nisei, coming to adulthood (and JACL membership), felt obliged to prove their good-citizenship--and not only to abandon Japanese ways (like other immigrant groups), but also to separate themselves from Japanese imperialism. The Issei, moreover, were clannish (as well as tied to Japan), while the children of the Nisei, the Sansei, made a perhaps-unparalleled leap into the mainstream of American society--on account, primarily, of the dispersal ensuing from Evacuation. But growing up in a clime hostile to ""unquestioning patriotism,"" they blamed their parents' generation, and the JACL, for WW II non-resistance. On its own terms, Hosokawa does make ""the decision to cooperate"" intelligible: the feeling that ""there was no alternative""; the fear (in the words of veteran JACL spokesman Mike Masoaka) ""that the American people would consider us traitors and enemies of the war effort if we forced the Army to take drastic action against us."" To prove their loyalty, the JACL also fought for Nisei to be subject to the draft--and even encouraged enlistment in all-Nisei combat units. In the aftermath, the psychology, at least, proved to be correct: ""exemplary"" homefront behavior and battlefield distinction brought Japanese Americans public sympathy and, postwar, legislative relief from discrimination. But there was anti-JACL violence in the camps; the JACL was slow to support other minorities; young JACL dissidents objected to the subtitle, ""The Quiet Americans,"" for Hosokawa's book on the Nisei. On the issue of prudent accommodation vs. inflammatory resistance, he recognizes that some intermediate measures might have been taken. That aspect is the tickler--beyond the book's immediate interest to those involved.

Pub Date: July 12th, 1982
Publisher: Morrow