In Their Own Words: Densho and Japanese Americans making oral history

Join us on Saturday, July 23, at 1 p.m. for a conversation with Densho’s executive director Tom Ikeda, Michael Shiosaki of Seattle Parks and Recreation, and author Daniel James Brown about writing Facing the Mountain and the importance of oral histories in revealing a legacy of resilience and courage. The event will include a book signing with the author, with books available for purchase in partnership with Elliott Bay Book Company. Check out this list of further reading and resources around the Internment in our library catalog, and see past Shelf Talk posts on this topic here.

If you aren’t familiar with the local nonprofit organization Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project, come learn about the incredible work they do collecting and preserving the legacy of Japanese Americans unjustly relocated and incarcerated during World War II. And if you are familiar with Densho, take a second look, because there is so much more to discover, including a podcast, interactive maps, digitized documents from the 1940s and beyond, and over 900 oral histories recorded to date—all available online. The incredible depth, breadth, and accessibility of these sources make books like Facing the Mountain: An Inspiring Story of Japanese American Patriots in World War II , by Daniel James Brown possible.

Densho’s work chronicles events leading up to and the 80 years since the spring of 1942, when the United States passed Executive Order 9066 to forcibly remove and incarcerate “all persons of Japanese ancestry, including aliens and non-aliens” from “military zones” on the West Coast. Some 120,000 residents of Japanese ancestry, many from Western Washington, were incarcerated in camps across the United States. Entire families, from infants to elders, were taken from their homes and livelihoods, forced to live in poor conditions with no freedom to come or go. Some people, like young University of Washington student Gordon Hirabayashi, objected to being incarcerated; he refused to board a bus and was taken to King County jail to await legal action that would end up spanning years as he and others challenged Order 9066’s legality. An additional 1,500 Japanese American and Hawaiian men were drafted or volunteered to fight in World War II, such as the all-volunteer 442nd Regimental Combat Team, even as their families were imprisoned by the country they fought for. Continue reading “In Their Own Words: Densho and Japanese Americans making oral history”

Hit the Reading Trail: 4 Earth Week StoryWalks at Seattle Parks

StoryWalk at Herring House ParkWant a fun way to celebrate Earth Week with the children in your life? Hit the trail at four Seattle parks while reading amazing picture books that are installed along the way.

From Tuesday, April 19 to Tuesday, April 26, StoryWalks® will be installed at Herring’s House Park (Tualtwx) in the Duwamish industrial area; Lincoln Park in West Seattle, Green Lake Park in north Seattle and Genesee Park in south Seattle.

If you’re not familiar with StoryWalks®, get ready to experience reading in a new and active way. A picture book is installed on signposts along a path, which allows children and their caregivers to read along as they walk and enjoy the outdoors. A StoryWalk® encourages reading, imagination, fitness and exploring your community. Continue reading “Hit the Reading Trail: 4 Earth Week StoryWalks at Seattle Parks”

Live from Seattle’s Central Library (and Online): Author events this April and May

Last night (April 12), for the first time in two years, the Central Library opened the doors of its Level 1 Microsoft Auditorium for an in-person author event. Award-winning author Reyna Grande joined Seattle-area writer Kathleen Alcalá on stage for a conversation about her novel “The Ballad of Love and Glory,” about an unforgettable romance set against a forgotten war.

Event sign at the Central Library, April 12, for Reyna Grande event

Another first for the Library: Attendees could choose between coming to the Library or tuning in online from the comfort of their home.

The Library is holding several other in-person events in April and May, testing the waters of live events again with extra safety precautions in place, including limiting attendance to 50% of the auditorium’s capacity. Mask use, although not required, is strongly encouraged. (More information about Library safety precautions is below.)

From Clyde Ford to Douglas Stuart, we have an exciting lineup for both in-person and virtual events in April and May. Registration is required, but all Library events are free. Check event descriptions at for registration links and more information. Continue reading “Live from Seattle’s Central Library (and Online): Author events this April and May”

The Negro Motorist Green Book Exhibition: March 19 – June 12, 2022

The Negro Motorist Green Book exhibition opens this Saturday, March 19, at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma. This immersive, multimedia exhibit was curated by Candacy Taylor, former Harvard fellow and celebrated Green Book scholar, for the Smithsonian Institution’s Traveling Exhibition Service. The Green Book was published between 1936 and 1966 and became the bible of Black travel during the Jim Crow era, a time when racial segregation was legally enforced in the South, and discrimination was rife in the North and West as well.

This was also the age when the automobile became increasingly important in American life as a symbol of freedom and recreation. But for Black motorists, the experience of the open road was far less free than for whites. Travel for Black people was difficult, undignified, and dangerous. Black travelers were denied service at hotels and motels, at restaurants, at gas stations, and struggled to find places to simply use the restroom, or worse, faced intimidation and violence in “sundown towns.”

Close-up of the cover of the 1939 Green Book. Courtesy of the New York Public Library Digital Collections.

The Green Book was created by Victor Hugo Green, a Harlem postal worker and entrepreneur, to help Black travelers and vacationers find businesses that would welcome them. According to one memoirist, “You literally didn’t dare leave home without it.”

In many places where there were no hotels or restaurants serving Black customers, Black entrepreneurs, many of them women, ran tourist homes by renting out rooms in their private residences and serving homemade meals. The Green Book demonstrates the creative response the Black business community had to the problems of segregation, discrimination, and violence in travel, and provides important documentary evidence of Black businesses and neighborhoods. Continue reading “The Negro Motorist Green Book Exhibition: March 19 – June 12, 2022”

Tenth Annual Seattle Asian American Film Festival

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Seattle Asian American Film Festival (SAAFF). The festival, which shares Asian American independent films with Pacific Northwest audiences, takes place March 3 through March 13.

All 102 films in the SAAFF’s 2022 program (including 13 feature-length films, 12 shorts programs, and 2 free programs) are available for virtual screenings. SAAFF is also offering 5 in-person screenings, including 4 drive-in screening events.

The 2022 SAAFF programming also includes films that commemorate the 80th anniversary of Executive Order 9066 and the 110th anniversary of the Titanic sinking. Check out the film guide to learn about all the films included in this year’s lineup. Information about tickets, scheduling, FAQs, and more can be found here.

Librarians at The Seattle Public Library have created lists of books, films, and online resources to enhance your experience of the festival:

~ posted by Richard V.