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Reassessing Japanese American Collective Memory Through Gene Oishi’s Internment Narratives

Nicolangelo Becce    Università degli Studi Roma Tre, Italia    



Seven decades after Japanese Americans were interned during the Second World War, former journalist and internment survivor Gene Oishi published Fox Drum Bebop (2014). The protagonist, Hiroshi, had been introduced in Oishi’s previous memoir, In Search of Hiroshi (1988), as “quasi-fictional” and “neither American nor Japanese, but simply me”. Yet, in the same memoir, Oishi had also described his inability to write about ‘Hiroshi’, thus settling on ‘Gene’ as a main character and waiting 28 more years before publishing a book about his true self. A comparison between the two books highlights that In Search of Hiroshi was written as an attempt at telling a story that would implicitly support the ‘model minority’ myth by offering an account of the internment experience as a direct response to the sociopolitical constraints related to the request by Japanese Americans for redress from the U.S. government. On the other hand, the more recent Fox Drum Bebop represents a fictional retelling of Oishi’s memoir which reveals the limits of the collective memory of the internment as developed during the redress years by openly defying the ‘model minority’ stereotype while at the same time once more denouncing the injustices suffered by the Japanese American community during the war. This essay focuses on Oishi’s double narrative as a reassessment of the collective memory of the internment experience and of its lasting effects on Japanese Americans.

July 29, 2021
May 24, 2021
April 1, 2021

Keywords: Japanese American LiteratureModel MinorityMemory StudiesGene OishiJapanese American Internment

Copyright: © 2021 Nicolangelo Becce. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.