Cover for YOO: Growing Up Nisei: Race, Generation, and Culture among Japanese Americans of California, 1924-49

Growing Up Nisei

Race, Generation, and Culture among Japanese Americans of California, 1924-49

The place occupied by Japanese Americans within the annals of U.S. history has consisted mainly of a cameo appearance as victims of incarceration after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. In this provocative work, David Yoo broadens the scope of Japanese-American history beyond its usual confines to examine how the second generation—the Nisei—has shaped its identity and negotiated its place within American society. Framed by the Immigration Act of 1924, which effectively curtailed migration from Japan to the United States, and the Tokyo Rose treason trial of 1949, Growing Up Nisei traces the emergence of a dynamic Nisei subculture and shows how the foundations laid during the 1920s and 1930s helped many Nisei adjust to the upheaval of the concentration camps. Yoo demonstrates that schools, racial-ethnic churches, and the immigrant press served not merely as waystations to assimilation but as tools by which Nisei affirmed their identity in connection with both Japanese and American culture. Rather than a simple choice between two alternatives, identity formation for the Nisei who came of age during the war entailed negotiating multiple meanings related to race, gender, class, generation, the economy, politics, and international relations. A thoughtful consideration of the gray area between accommodation and resistance, Growing Up Nisei attests to a complexity of experience and context that foregoes one-dimensional cardboard figures and moves toward a portrayal of Japanese Americans as fully human.


"Yoo has wrought a lively and innovative portrait of California's Nisei, the second generation Japanese Americans. Treating the decades between the passage of the 1924 Immigration Act and the 1949 trial of Iva Toguri, Yoo's account is knit together by a careful examination of Nisei discourses on identity that occurred in and around key community institutions: ethnic schools, churches, and the vernacular press."--California History

"Sharply focused and well written, this scholarly monograph analyzes the 'niche culture' developed by California's Nisei community between the Immigration Act of 1924, which ended further Japanese migration, and the post-World War II adjustment to the incarceration of the Japanese-American community."--Multicultural Review

"What did it mean to live as a young Japanese American in California from the 1920s through World War II? This is the question that David Yoo seeks to examine in his carefully researched and thoughtful social history."--Western Historical Quarterly

"[Yoo's] well-crafted study offers readers the felt thoughts of a minority generation and, importantly for official history, demonstrates again that the internment was not an aberration but an outgrowth of long-standing discriminatory efforts aimed at Japanese Americans."--The Japan Times

"A marvelous contribution . . . the voices of Nisei men and women emerge with irony, vigor, and poignancy -- fully human -- within the context of their times."--Valerie Matsumoto, the author of Farming the Home Place: A Japanese American Community in California, 1919-82

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