A weekly magazine-style radio show featuring the voices and stories of Asians and Pacific Islanders from all corners of our community. The show is produced by a collective of media makers, deejays, and activists.
Host Miko Lee highlights author Alden Hayashi’s Two Nails, One Love, recent book reading event sponsored by Kearny Street Workshop, Tsuru for Solidarity and National Japanese American Historical Society.
National Japanese American Historical Society (use code LoyalMember tor receive 10% discount on the book)
Two Nails, One Love Show Transcript
Miko Lee: tonight on apex express. I’m your host, Miko Lee, and you are going to hear from a recent. Virtual reading and discussion that we just did this past week. You’ll get to hear the lovely Alden Hayashi reading from his latest book, two nails, one love, and this was a virtual reading that was done in collaboration with Kearny street workshop, with Tsuru, for solidarity and with the national Japanese American historical society. So you’ll hear an opening introduction and then Alden reading from his book and then an interview that I have with Alden. And it’s a really fun and interesting conversation and follows up with a lot of the issues that we have been talking about on apex express, particularly with our series around the Japanese American incarceration after world war II. Alden tells a really personal story. That’s heartfelt and shares his experience.
Two nails. One love is a semi-autobiographical novel about a strange mother son relationship that evolves and eventually heals as the son realizes just how much his life has been affected by his mother’s traumatic past. The novel covers, broad themes about discrimination, both racial and LGBTQ. About ethnic identity and about immigration so we think you’ll really enjoy tonight’s reading we invite you to listen to tonight’s episode but first we’re going to hear a lovely musical introduction of go Nakamura covering the cures, just like heaven.
Miko Lee: That was Goh Nakamura, covering the cures, just like heaven. And now onto our reading. You’re first going to hear from Jason Bayani from Kearny street workshop.
Jason Bayani: Hello, everyone, how y’all doing. Hope you’re having a good night. Thank you all for joining us tonight. We are proud to be hosting. I’ll do it all then MIS she’s in celebration of Alton MRI, that was celebration of Alden Mia. She’s two nails, one love alongside our community partners national Japanese, American historical society, and Subaru for solidarity.
Before we kick things off, I’d like to Acknowledge a few things. We’d like to make the following acknowledgements. We acknowledge that we’re in a global pandemic that disproportionately affects the lives of the poor, the incarcerated black indigenous folks and people of color. [00:08:00] We want to recognize healthcare and essential workers for sustaining our livelihoods.
We understand as we continue to deal with COVID, that folks may be impacted in different ways. We wish you and your loved one’s health and safety during this time. And thank you for spending tonight with us. This is a virtual event, but we would not be here nor have this technology without benefiting from colonization and the unseated Aloni land that many of us live on today.
Alden Hayashi: Thanks.
Jason Bayani: Thank you. All right. So just to give you a rundown for the night, we’ll be featuring a short reading with Alden and then a conversation between Alden and apex expresses Miko Lee and then we’ll have a Q and A. But before we also start again, I’d like to bring up our community partners first step I’d like to bring up the I’d to bring up Rosalyn from national Japanese American historical society who is selling the books nights. So please get your copy of the book and definitely buy it to national Japanese American historical society.
Lilith: I’m the new collections manager at the national Japanese American historical society, or we’re located on post street in Japan town in San Francisco, and we’re celebrating our 40th anniversary this year. Throughout those 40 years, the society has been dedicated to the collection preservation interpretation and dissemination of historical information and cultural record of the Japanese American experience for not just ourselves and our community, but to engage with.
Sure of solidarity with all sorts of communities, both locally, nationally, and globally. And we strive through this work to. Be a catalyst for change through cross-cultural awareness and by learning from the past and seeking to influence the future with those experiences. And that’s why it’s so wonderful that we’ve been able to partner with Kearny street workshop and H L a here today for this really wonderful and poignant novel.
Great part of what we do, being able to support ongoing cultural works within the Japanese American community. So we’re very excited about that. We really wanted to Kearny street workshop inviting us to co-sponsor and we’re so proud to be supporting this work. If you wish to purchase a copy of the book, you can do so through our website and we’ll send it out to you directly direct mail to your home or office, it’ll be shipped to you in about two weeks, or if you happen to be in San Francisco or the bay area, you can swing by our gallery on post street in Japan town and pick up the book there acknowledging that we are in the middle of pandemic.
So we do want to make sure that everyone’s safe and they have the option of not having to come in and breathe the same area as us, if they so wish. There’s some links in the chat. And if you do wish to engage with us as things go on we are going to have posted in the chat, a video rundown of our current exhibit that’s on at the post street gallery a retrospective of jam workshop posters celebrating the show that senior year celebration here in San Francisco from 1977 to 1999.
And coming up, we’re going to be hosting 80th mark, gonna be marking the 80th anniversary of executive order 9066. Bay area day of remembrance program entitled, known as free until we all are free on the 19th of February at 5:00 PM Pacific time, the event is free, but we do ask that you register for that.
So if you do wish to join us at for other of those exhibits or events, please do, and I’ll turn the session over to whomever is next.
Jason Bayani: All right. Thank you, Louis. I like to bring up Lisa from Tsuru for solidarity. Say a couple of words that let me put the spotlight on you, Lisa.
Lisa Doi: And thanks so much for having us things for doing this event. I’m looking forward to getting my copy of the book, a hard copy of the book from the national Japanese American historical society. And looking forward to hear hearing Aldean in discussion about this book. So my name is Lisa Doi. I’m one of the organizers with to-do for solidarity to do was started in 2019 by a group of Japanese Americans who were incarcerated as children. And initially we were organizing against the Trump administration’s use of immigrant detention facilities per families, and the separation of families and children who were seeking asylum in the.
Over the past two years. So we’re nowhere close to celebrating a 30th or 40th anniversary yet. But over the past two years, we’ve tried to broaden our work in a few ways. We’re still engaged in and trying to stop the ongoing practices of detaining and separating families in the immigrationsystem. But we’ve also expanded more broadly into immigration in regards to policing prisons, adult immigration detention, and just conversations about, what are the practices that really will keep our communities safe.
And we’ve also been expanding our work as well into supporting black led movements for reparations. And in all of this work, we try to draw connections between the past and the present to take a bigger look at systems of violence in the us. And one of the sort of motivating reasons for why we do this work Around healing.
And I think in the past several decades within the Japanese American community, there’s been a greater discussion of, and processing the intergenerational trauma of the Japanese American wartime incarceration. And this is, in many ways really exciting to be part of a very ongoing process.
And I also think it’s important for me to think about the ways that not only is there intergenerational trauma, but there’s also intergenerational healing and intergenerational resilience. And I think that’s one of the things that I found sort of resonance between the work of to-do and Alden’s book.
By no means I’m an expert, but I previously heard in in discussion about the book and how right. The process of writing even though it’s fictional, helped him think about his own relationship with his own mother. And I think to me, that’s one of the ways where, this process of intergenerational healing can continue.
Even after those people, our loved ones, our families, previous generations may no longer be here. It’s something that we still have the skills for within ourselves. So within Sudu healing, Like a lot of things. One of the things we do is we have healing circles, which is a program and practice of intentional listening and sharing.
But we also view our direct action work as healing itself. And it’s something we’re actually diving into in 2022 to think more deeply about how do we build a practice of healing through direct action. And so I think both two nails, one love, and Sudi remind me of this sort of multi-dimensional collective personal and timeless ways that healing can look different and shared to a range of people.
If any of that sounds remotely interesting to you please check us out at our website, which is suited for solidarity.org or on social media. And we’re having an upcoming event on March 5th and March 12th. We’re doing an abolitionist skills training. That’s really focused on the power of storytelling, direct action and the arts.
You do not need to have any previous experience with abolition. You don’t even need to identify as an abolitionists if you’re just curious and learning more about what that might mean or, curious for a space where you can think about narrative and direct action and art-making please consider joining us on March 5th or 12th, and I will also hand it back to whoever is next.
Jason Bayani: Alright, thank you so much. So yeah, let’s get things kicked off then. All right. So it is my pleasure to bring up all day. And my ashy Aldean has been an editor and writer at scientific American, the Harvard business review and the MIT Sloan management review. After more than 30 years covering science technology and business, his recently delved into writing fiction as a way to honor the memories of his guarantee, parents, immigration to Y as well as preserve the stories of the lives of their many descendants. Two nails. One love is his first novel, please. Let’s welcome up. Paul did MIS
Alden Hayashi: thanks so much, Jason. And thank you to the Kearny street workshop, the national Japanese American historical society and Sulu for for solidarity. Co-sponsoring this event. I really appreciate it. I’d like to read a short excerpt from my novel.
And let me just give you a little context so that you might understand it a little better. My novel is essentially about the fractured relationship between a mother and son and how it eventually heals. As [00:17:00] the mother reviews more secrets about her traumatic childhood. The narrator is a a song seat man in his early forties songs say being a third generation, Japanese American and his mother is in her mid sixties.
The son grew up in Hawaii but now lives in New York city. The mother still lives in Hawaii and she’s come out to visit him in New York city.The next morning, mom and I quickly decide this is the day. We’ll take the ferry over to the statue of Liberty. After waiting in a long line. We’re on the ferry invigorated by the fresh air and spectacular view of Manhattan standing outside on the top. There, we watch this, the ferry passes governor’s island to the left and Ellis island to the right.
We soon see the statue of Liberty, clearly just a short distance away. [00:18:00] Mom and I stand silently. As lady Liberty slowly gets larger in our view or outstretched arm, lifting her torch, the beacon of Liberty. Then all of a sudden mom grabs my hand. I turned toward her and see peers beginning to well in her eyes.
Soon, those tears are streaming down her face, which is now crumble and overall with some powerful emotion, I’m more than startled. I’m shocked. I’ve never seen her so emotional in public. She didn’t even cry at dad’s funeral. Now, here she is on a ferry, crowded with strangers, sobbing uncontrollably. What’s wrong.
I ask in Japanese mom clutches my wrists, even tighter, her short fingernails, digging into my flesh. As she tries to collect herself. After a few minutes, she finally tells me, I can’t believe I’m seeing the statue of Liberty again, but this time it’s getting bigger and bigger. What? I have no idea what she’s talking about to my knowledge.
She’s never been to New York city before. So how could she have seen the statue of Liberty in her? I began to wonder she’s referring to some movie or TV show for maybe she’s really confused from jet rag. Then mom starts roundly half in English and half in Japanese. It’s something about her parents and June one, Assad is a Peruvian school teacher, India, the Philippines, totally bewildered.
I’m now frightened. Mom, slow down. I see. As calmly as I can. What are you trying to tell me? Don’t you understand? She means her eyes begging you to grasp something far beyond my ability. I never thought I would ever see the statue of Liberty again and here it is getting bigger and bigger. I’m still confused.
I have no idea how to respond. What words might bring some comfort to her rattled mind, but before she can explain anything. She suddenly realizes other passengers are staring at us. Wondering what kind of trauma is being played out between a mother and her son on such a beautiful autumn day. She closes her eyes as tightly as she can takes a deep breath and holds herself perfectly still.
I can almost feel her summoning the strength from every fiber in her body. As she fights to regain her composure with her eyes still shut. She gradually releases her grass on my wrists. She then reaches for a tissue from her purse to wipe the tears. Moistening her cheeks. Finally, when she opens her eyes it’s as if a switch has flipped and we want silently as a fairy docks at Liberty island later back at my apartment, mom settles on the living room sofa while I prepare some soothing.
She stares out the window, looking so completely lost in her thoughts, her mind, anywhere, but in her son’s cramped apartment on Manhattan. When the tea is done, I bring over a cup for her and she quickly snaps back to the present. I really don’t know what got over me. She says embarrassed and perplex. You seem a lot better now I tell her, but I’m worried you were seeing so many kinds of crazy things.
Things I didn’t understand, mom takes a healthy sip of tea and looks directly at me or brung her large brown eyes heavy. I wasn’t going crazy on the ferry. She says, I had seen the statue of Liberty before, but it was only a young child with them. This is during the height of the war. And when a ship put out of the Harbor headed for Japan, I watched the statue of Liberty as it became smaller and smaller.
I really thought it was saying goodbye to America forever. And then that’s the end of the X. And that ends part one of my novel, which takes place in the present. And that then segues to part two of my novel, which gets into the past. And what happened to the narrator’s mother is that she and her family had been shipped from Hawaii to a concentration camp in Arkansas.
But more than that during the war she and her family were actually deported to Japan in a civilian exchange. And so they had to sail from New York Harbor to India, where they were then exchange for Americans who had been stuck in Japan, China, and other parts.
Miko Lee: That was author Alden, Hayashi reading from his latest book. Two nails, one love.You’re tuned into apex express. On 94.1 KPFA and 89.3 K PFP in Berkeley and [email protected] step, take a listen to Goh Nakamura’s highway flowers.
That was Goh Nakamoto is highway flowers. And now I’m going to start with the question and answer period with author Alden, Hayashi.
Miko Lee: Hi Alden. Thank you so much for sharing your reading with us. That was an incredibly powerful moment. I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit more about your journey, as Jason said, when he introduced you at the very beginning, you went from writing for scientific magazine and, very nonfiction work to writing this tale that is of partially of your family. Can you speak a little bit about that journey that you took to writing this novel?
Alden Hayashi: I’m trained as a journalist and I’ve only done nonfiction writing and I’ve worked at half dozen different magazines. I’m always writing and editing nonfiction. I really wanted to tell my mother’s story. As nonfiction. And it’s been in the back of my mind. It’s a story that’s been in me for the longest time. But th the problem was that she didn’t talk about the war and I tried to get information from other relatives. And also I did a lot of tried to do a lot of research through the national archives getting information about what happened to my grandfather because he after Pearl Harbor was attacked in Hawaii he was rounded up.
He was one of the first people wrong that up and sent to sand island on probably in Honolulu and then sent to a variety of camps on the main man. And they ended up incentive fee. So he was separated from the rest of the family. I really wanted to do this as nonfiction, but there were so many gaps in my knowledge of what happened in anyone who’s done a lot of genealogical research or family research might appreciate this.
I found that every time I got an answer to a question I had that answer would almost always lead to more questions. And so I get them thinking, geez, I get this answer, but then now I don’t know about this, that, that raises this other question about this and that. And so there I was Nico in my mid fifties and thinking this could go on for quite a bit.
I could be in my eighties and still doing research. And then the problem was that my relatives started passing on and making it even more difficult to get at the truth of what happened. So I finally made the decision that and I had. Publish this story in one form or the other, I couldn’t let it die with my mother.
She passed away in 2013. So it seemed to me that I kinda got forced into writing fiction. And it was the only way I could see him doing the story so that there were parts of it that I didn’t know, I could use my imagination to fill in what people might’ve decided or their thought process in doing what the ended up doing.
All that having been said, though, the historical things that happen did happen. This civilian exchange did happen. And my mother who was a, a us citizen born and raised in Hawaii, which was a territory of the U S at the time, but she was. Citizen she or Sydney has got deported to Japan in a civilian exchange that happened. And most of the other things historical things, not most all of them did happen.
Miko Lee: So there was a kind of level of freedom that you had as a writer to be able to take elements of your real family story, but then the gaps of knowledge, you could fill that in with historical references that, can you talk a little bit, I know that you went like many Japanese Americans do on a pilgrimage to the concentration camp where your family was held in Jerome. And can you talk a little bit about what that experience was like for you and how that had an impact on your creating the.
Alden Hayashi: That was a powerful experience.
And I’ve got to mention that the group, the Japanese American Memorial of pilgrimages which is one by Kimiko Mara and she does she and her staff do a wonderful job of putting on these pilgrimages, Miko. It was so powerful. I thought I was prepared for it, but it really wasn’t going to the site, seeing that the railroad tracks that, w was the trucks that my mother’s strain came on, that came from the west coast to, to bring she and her family to the camp actually seen that land.
And it, it was overwhelming at times and but it invigorated. I was so motivated after, because I was stuck with the writing and getting discouraged. Will I ever get this novel published? I was held down after that pilgrimage that I was going to finish this, or I was going to die.
Try it. I was going to finish it. So in, in that respect, it was good on the downside, but maybe it was a good thing. I realized that I just
when an agent had seen my first job, he had wanted me to tell my mother’s story in the first person to do parts of the novel the narrator as a Nisei song in first person and the mother in first visit, I realized after that trip that I couldn’t do that. I just. I was limited as a fiction writer.
Like I D I don’t know how the air smell when she first got to Arkansas, I don’t know how the food paste that she had. I don’t know exactly how bored she might’ve been and how she filled her time. But I, it, I realized I couldn’t do it in first person. So I wrote it as the mother telling her story to her son and the son relaying back to the reader.
Because then of course the mother will be leaving out certain things, and that became part of the story. In other words. Going on the pilgrimage helped me realize that I, yeah, my limitations in telling this.
Miko Lee: We don’t hear often enough about folks from Hawaii being incarcerated. And I’m wondering when you were a kid growing up in Honolulu, like when was the first time that you heard that your mom and her whole family were sent to the concentration camps?
Alden Hayashi: I think that must have been in grade school, but maybe fifth, sixth grade or so there was an exhibit on the camps in Honolulu and my parents went to it and I remember the night they went and she made it seem like no big deal. Are they going to this exhibit or, and then they came back and I think I might’ve asked you what was that all about?
And she said, oh, I was when I was young, I was at a. In Arkansas and that’s when she put it, count and I, what was, I do think I, I just said, oh, wow. You were at a camp, so you probably swam there when hiking and, I, I had no concept of what she meant and she, the way she said it was so offhanded that I didn’t think anything of it.
It wasn’t until I was in high school really. And I took a social studies class my teacher, Mrs. Ms. Barbara kakuta. I still remember, and she taught about the executive order of 9066 and the concentration council and all this. And then I realized, oh my gosh, This is what my mother, it wasn’t a camp or relocation center or, this was a concentration camp, it w there was barbed wire there, there were guards towers, with guns.Yeah, so it was in high school. I, I was like many are sciency Nico, where we learned about it in high school, where it’s sometimes in college people, finding the there, because our parents or grandparents never talked about it.
Miko Lee: Shout out to the good teachers out there doing the good work and bringing that history alive. I’m wondering if you could share a little bit more about the original story that you just shared, which is so deep about the statue of Liberty and share with our audience a little bit more about the truth, part of that story. How much of that did you actually hear? How much of that was real and the story that you had a conversation that you had with your mom?
Alden Hayashi: Definitely that really happened. This was in 1988 when but the one big difference was in the novel, the narrator Ethan’s father dies when he’s rather young. But my father lived until he was 88, so it was actually a, both my parents coming to visit me on the east coast. And we went to the statue of Liberty and I didn’t think anything of it.
My mother didn’t make any big deal or whatnot. And so we were on the ferry headed for, and she really did have a, a emotional breakdown and she was overcome by emotion and it was scary. I never seen her like that and my father was unnerved by it too. And the kind of funny thing that, he’s typical Nisei, man, he pushed me to my mother and help your mom? I was like, wait, that’s her wife. I don’t see. I don’t know how to help her. I don’t know why she’s so upset and she, but, pushing me to her. And yeah, so we ended up at on Liberty island. We caught the next very back. We didn’t go in or do anything. And that night were in a hotel room.
We had a suite I could tell my mother did not want to be in public. So I told her, I said, okay we’ll just I’ll get Chinese to take out through it and bring it back and we’ll eat here. So we were eating and watching the Olympics. I distinctly remember this was 1988 and the Solum Olympics were on at the time. And I asked my mother what the, what happened. And then she said, I was deployed in the, and the boat left from New York city and yeah, I, the last I saw the statue of Liberty, I saw getting smaller and it, I just not, and here I was going to Japan. I’d never even been to Japan and I was being deported.
And so that day, when she actually saw the statue of Liberty, again, getting bigger and bigger, it was just overwhelming for her. We talked a bit, but Nico, it was like, I had such a brief window where she was talking about the war. And then at a certain point, I don’t know, maybe 15 minutes or so later the windows shut on me. And she just, she said, I don’t want to talk anymore. Let’s watch the Olympics, and I lost. Opportunity. But she made it clear. She was done talking about what had happened.
Miko Lee: I know your mom has passed since that time. And I’m wondering what question you would want to ask her if the window just happened to open again, what would you ask her?
Alden Hayashi: I have so many questions, but I guess the one thing I, if she were alive, I’m pretty sure she would have read the book and I would have asked her, did I get you right? I know there are parts of the book that are fictionalized, for example, in the book, she only has one sister and one brother, whereas in real life she had nine siblings.There are a lot of things like that change, but I look at as. Did I get you the essence of you and what you went through? Did I get you? Did I get it right? I hope I did. I think I did, but I don’t know. And if she had told me that I didn’t get her right. I would’ve said, okay, she’s been telling me, tell me, you’re sorry, so that I can get it right this time. But this was my, the best I could do with the information I had and knowing you and knowing other relatives your sister and knowing my grandparents a little bit that, that was the best I could do.
Miko Lee: You had mentioned to me when we talked that one of the stories that didn’t make it into the book because of the complicated plot lines, where your two uncles that fought on different sides of the work. Can you just share a little bit about them, maybe a prelude to book two?
Alden Hayashi: So yeah one of my uncles did get into the book that the my mom’s brother who did serve in the hundredth battalion and he did do combat duty in Italy. But very fortunately he survived in the book. He ki dies, but in real life he survived and he made it through his hundredth birthday just last year or two years ago.
And he’s since passed on though. But the other brother, she had her eldest brother of us keep it, he was born in Hawaii, but he was sent back to Japan for to be educated there. He was in Japan when the war broke out because the war broke out. So suddenly, of course there were warning signs of what was going to happen, but, all of a sudden in Japan attacks Pearl Harbor and then the U curves or, borders are closed.
So that brother was stuck in Japan and he got drafted by the Japanese army and he ended up dying in combat in China. So yeah, that part, and that’s the only two of her siblings. She has seven more so to include all of that, it just it would become like a Russian novel. And I’m not anywhere the writer to be able to add though that type of complexity. So I shrunk her family down to more manageable or what I could manage as.
Miko Lee: And it turned out lovely. We got it’s so much depth and we really get that sense of the generations and the trauma and the impact that we have been talking about. I want to talk a little bit about the title. We many people know the Japanese saying, the nail that sticks up must be hammered down. So can you talk about the title two nails, one love and what that means to you?
Alden Hayashi: Yeah. Yeah. I don’t know when it came to me Miko it was when I was well into the writing process. Because also as a fiction writer, I found that things come to me or I’m getting better at letting my subconscious kind of control my writing a little more. So I, as I was writing it, I think halfway through, I realized, oh, this is a, a story of a mother son relationship and about how they’re at odds with each other. But they don’t realize how big are so similar and it’s their similarities sometimes that make them class as, a lot of parents realize, or children with their parents, we chosen often realize at a certain point that, oh, I am a lot more like my parents than I, I had a thought I was, or that I had intended to be, I think parents realize much earlier that their children are well, they have qualities that I have at all.
Yeah, I think the son doesn’t realize how much of a nail his mother was, especially during the war. But that comes out as the mother starts to, tell him what happened during the war and the mother doesn’t like that part of her son. That she sees herself in him that he’s this nail and that he’s just going to do things his way and be independent and go live his life on his own terms. And which goes against the grain of a lot of Japanese culture where, you try to fit in you don’t cause waves you so yeah, that’s why it’s a two nails. And one love the love between a parent and child.
Miko Lee: So for my last question, I’m going to credit to Tsuru for solidarity and Lisa Doi and their amazing work, which is powerful around solidarity around intergenerational trauma. And the question is how do, because the book is so focused on your family experience and a lot of trauma that was passed down. How did you prepare yourself to write the book and how did you take care of yourself while you were on this journey?
Alden Hayashi: I didn’t prepare myself very well equal, I number one I thought I was going to write it as nonfiction and it started that way. And I thought I would be this objective observer as I write all or try to write all the nonfiction, I write like this not this objective, but unbiased observer of action and kind of reporting what happened. But as soon as I started writing fiction, it it became much more than that because it, a lot of it involve me trying to put myself into people’s heads and understand why. Might’ve decided what they did, how they might’ve reacted to things that happen. And I wasn’t prepared for that. It wasn’t prepared. It brought up a lot of strong emotions and I I wish I had done this when my mother was alive. I could have asked or a lot about it. And I think she would have appreciated that because I would have told her, I said, I thought I understand. And I think I understood on an intellectual level, what you went through during the war.
But when I actually started writing it and trying to like, be you and be in your place and try to experience what you experienced it, it was overwhelming. And I realized, and I would have told my mom this, that I realized. I knew only the tip of the iceberg, but I didn’t realize, I probably knew only the tip of the tip and that the, what was below the surface was even larger than I could have imagined. Yeah. So I didn’t prepare well for it, so I don’t have any in place in that respect. I’m so glad I did it and it was painful at times, but I’m so glad I did it because I think I appreciate now, or at least I think I do appreciate now more of what but nieces and the ISA generation experienced a little more. I hope I’m a little below the surface now, or maybe I’m still at the tip of the iceberg, but I’ve lower and I’m getting there.
Miko Lee: Discovery and exploration. That’s right here. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m going to move to some of the questions that have come in from the audience. And one is about why your family in particular was sent to Arkansas. Why were they sent to that camp? And why was your mom’s family sent back to Japan?
Alden Hayashi: A lot of people don’t know a lot of people mistakenly think that the the forced evacuation and incarceration of Nick, Kate people of Japanese ancestry during world war two was a west coast thing. But no, there were a lot of people Nick K from Hawaii who are affected, there were at least 2000.
And it was mainly initially, it was mainly the heads of community. So it was Buddhist priests. It was Japanese language teachers. It was editors of Japanese newspapers. It was all kind of the community leaders. My mother’s father was a wealthy businessman in Honolulu.That part is. Pretty accurate in the book that is real life. So he was rounded off and he was sent to forget about half dozen different camps, army camps set for us on the mainland, and then eventually ended up in Santa Fe. And my mother’s family was in sent to Arkansas Jerome relocation center there. Oh, I’m sorry, Miko. I forgot the
Miko Lee: .The other question was why were they sent back for Japan? For the hostage exchange?
Alden Hayashi: Yeah, they The war broke out. So suddenly that there were so many Americans who were caught behind enemy lines, they were stuck in Japan or Hong Kong or saying hi or other parts of Asia that were controlled by Japan at the time. The us wanted them back. Through diplomatic intermediaries, I think Spain played a role in kind of brokering this deal, this exchange of civilians. Th there were two exchanges. The first one I believe was on the up and it was a great thing. It was a very humanitarian thing because there were also Japanese nationals who are stuck in the U S not only diplomats here, but Japanese businessman or, that wanted to be repatriated to Japan.
So the first ship, I believe, was people who very willingly wanted to return to their home countries. The problem was the second ship, and this is the one my mother’s family got roped into being on, there were far more Americans who are stuck in Asia because they’re also, missionary had their families in China. Singapore, Philippines, there were a lot more of Americans than there were Japanese nationals. Somewhere along the line, the U S government. Realize, oh, we’ll throw in some Japanese Americans and, do up the body comp and as hard as that sounds, there’s also a sub chapter to this, which I know, Miko where Japanese and in Latin America were also, there were essentially kidnapped. Brought to the U S so that the us would have these bodies that it could change to get back Americans who are stuck in Asia.
Miko Lee: For those that don’t know, check that out, Tsuru for solidarity does a lot of work around that. 3,200 Japanese, Latin Americans were kidnapped from their homes in Peru and another countries, and then brought over to the U S against their will, and then not given apology or reparations until multiple lawsuits later. One more question from the audience, which is from Elaine Koyama and it is how did you decide what parts to fictionalize and what parts were true to your past?
Alden Hayashi: The hardest part about writing this, I think was editing it down to something that was manageable, especially because this is the first time I’m writing. I was writing fiction. And like I said, I’m not a Russian novelist. I couldn’t handle the complexity of my mother’s family. Instead of her, being there being 10 siblings, I shrunk it down to just three.
My mother, the mother character in the book has only a sister and brother. I also shrunk down my own story because I have three brothers. But I need Ethan, the narrator and only child. I thought it was just easier to handle that especially for me in my limited writing. So yeah, it was mainly editing down the pieces of that. I liken it to a chest. I just flare and I’m actually a lot better just clear when there are fewer pieces on the board. I can see things better and I can take more steps ahead. I’m not one of those, chess players that are brilliant. I can play with with all the pieces and can think, six steps ahead. So I’m like very much like that as a writer, especially a fiction, it’s like the fewer pieces I have to work with. I feel that the less I can screw up the sorry. And I can just get to the bare essence of the story, which I hope I did in the book. I think I did without getting sidetracked with a lot of ancillary stories.
Miko Lee: You wrote a separate short story that was about identifying as both an Asian-American writer, Japanese American writer, and also as a gay man. And what was the, where you find in this place in time, how you identify yourself? Can you talk a little bit more about that?
Alden Hayashi: Sure. Yeah, I, part of me is a little embarrassed to admit that in my twenties, as I was coming on as a gay man, I not shun the Japanese-American community, but I just I didn’t have time for that. I heard my father because my father was very active in Hawaii. He at one point was a president of the Hiroshima, 10 gene Chi. And I think he would have loved for me to be involved or be involved with his church Shinto churches in our neighborhood. I just, I wasn’t interested me going, I I identified primarily as a gay man who happened to be Japanese American.
And I think a lot of it when I look back at it now, I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I think part of it was because and this was during the worst of the aids epidemic and it, the vitriol against gay men was too. Horrible. And I felt so threatened as a gay man. And I think that’s why, that was my community. That, and I have to say as a gay man, I felt very accepted by the gay community. And my being Asian or Japanese American, it was not, not a factor, whereas at the time I felt not as welcome as a gay man in the Japanese-American society community.
Miko Lee: Here’s my very last question for you. And this comes from Robin Takayama. And for those of you that have been following the chat, Robin’s been dropping a lot of knowledge into the chat. So you can click those three buttons right by the chat and save that down so that you can have a chance to look at all those links later.
So in DC at the Memorial to Japanese folks that were incarcerated during world war two and to the Japanese-Americans who served in 442 this is a question from Tsuru for solidarity. So there is a quote from Senator Inouye who’s from Hawaii, who was from Hawaii. The lessons learned must serve as a grave reminder of what we must not allow to happen again to any group. So why did you choose to include this quote and what relevance does it have today?
Alden Hayashi: Yeah, I think it has a lot of relevance and I have to say that I wrote a lot of the books during the Trump administration. And actually if people laugh and I seen this vehicle, but it’s, it there’s some truth to it. I almost felt like I should, should’ve put Donald Trump in the acknowledgements because of him, I was even also, more help on finishing this book because, because of his policies and starting, from day one with the anti Muslim travel ban. And I think if you look throughout human history, there’s always been scapegoats. Unfortunately, I guess it’s still human nature that when things don’t go the way we want, or, there’s catastrophes or whatever, it’s so natural to find a group. You can blame things on and, almost always going to be a minority ethnic or religious, who are more vulnerable.
And so I just, yeah, I just think that this is going to be history that will be repeated. I had a journalism teacher, Miko he told me something once I’ll never forget, he said throughout history, the verbs, adjectives, adverbs, they all stay the same. It’s just the nones and the names that change. And I feel like that with during world war two, it was Japanese Americans, and now it’s Muslim Americans. In 10 years it might be somebody what group, it history repeats itself. And so yeah, that quote, I think is done.
Miko Lee: Thank you so much for chatting with us and for sharing about your book, a two nails, one love,thank you so much for listening to our reading of the book. Two nails, one love by Alden Hayashi. If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can actually go to the national Japanese, American historical society and type in the code loyal member and receive a 10% discount. And we’ll put the link to that in our website.
Um, they’re also hosting a very cool new year’s poster retrospective that you can check out online. And they will be hosting a bay area day of remembrance with virtual program. That’s going to happen on February 19th at 5:00 PM. Um, that’s called no one is free until we are all free. And it’s recognizing the 80th anniversary of executive order 9066.
To find out more about Subaru for solidarity, you can also check out our website. They are offering as Lisa Dog talked about an amazing abolitionists skills training program, March 5th and 12th, and that is on abolitionists tools and storytelling and how we can reach, share liberation. Um, we’ll also put a link to Alden Hayashi’s website. So you can find out more and the great work that’s going on at Kearny street workshop, Kearny street workshop is going into their 50th anniversary. So we are so happy to be able to work with all of these amazing collaborators.
Miko Lee: Thank you so much for joining us. Please check out our website, kpfa.org to find out more about we are the leaders and the guests we spoke to and how you can take direct action.
Apex express is a proud member of acre Asian-Americans for civil rights and equality. Find out [email protected]
Miko Lee: We thank all of you listeners out there.
Keep resisting, keep organizing. Keep creating and sharing your visions with the world. Your voices are important. Apex express is produced by Preti Mangala-Shekar, Tracy Nguyen, Miko Lee Jalena Keane-Lee and Jessica Antonio. Tonight’s show was produced by your hosts, Miko Lee, and Jalena Keane-Lee thanks to KPFA staff for their support and have a great night.