Sep 28, 2009

What Remains: Japanese Americans in Internment Camps

My friend Margaret Chula, poet, has a new book out. What Remains: Japanese Americans in Internment Camps, Poems by Margaret Chula, Art Quilts by Cathy Erickson.

This collaboration of artists is very moving. Each art quilt has an accompanying poem written in a different voice from the camps. A young boy who had a pet rabbit, a young woman longing to dance the jitterbug, a husband/father fashioning furniture from scraps of wood.

"This is truly a beautiful, remarkable achievement -- two artists bringing history to life through visionary quilts and insightful writings." ~ Lawson Fusao Inada, Poet Laureate of Oregon

"Cathy Erickson's quilts, combined with Magaret Chula's luminous poems, evoke emotions of rage, regret, confusion, sadness, resignation and ultimately, hope." ~ Colleen Wise, Casting Shadows: Creating Visual Depth in Your Quilts.

"The dynamic interplay of Magaret Chula's poetry and Cathy Erickson's quilts is collaborative art at its best. Chula's poems weave a memorable story and voice into each visually stunning quilt -- together a powerfully beautiful interpretation of the Japanese American interment camp Experience." ~ Amy Uyematsu, 30 Miles from J-Town.

This is a subject that is close to my heart. One of my mother's best friends was interned at Minidoka, and college friend's parents met at Manzanar, and another a high school friend's father caught scarlet fever at Tule Lake.

In 1990, Portland, Oregon dedicated a park on the waterfront to the people who were rounded up and sent to the camps. It was part of an event that brought back -- some for the first time since being interned -- people who had lived and worked together in Portland. And I was on the publicity committee at that time.

I took some oral histories from returnees. What had happened to them after they had to leave their homes and businesses, during their internment and after their release. As part of my duties, I tried to place articles about the reunion and the internment in national magazines and newspapers. I remember one young assistant editor I contacted in New York. She told me that they did not publish fiction. I told her that it was the truth, and she said that the United States would never do that to U.S. citizens and I must be mistaken they must have been Japanese nationals and spies. She further told me that she had asked other people in her office in New York about the internment and nobody else had heard about it either.

You can see the park along the waterfront in Northwest Portland. The cherry trees bloom there every spring, and you can stroll along the path of stones carved with haiku about having your freedom taken away.

You can order your own copy of this wonderful book from:

Full Color, 108 pages, 8.5 x11, $24.95 + $3 S/H

Edited to add that the Address and ISBN for this book is wrong. Please order your book from:

Katsura Press
P.O. Box 10584
Portland OR 97296
ISBN: 978-0-9638551-1-4


  1. Sounds like a great book. Interesting isn't it how history gets edited to suit politics/education/social correctness. I'm sure the same kind of editing happens here in the UK, but odd that such a big event is not common knowledge in the US.

  2. Jane,
    Thank you for your comment. It was fear that led the U.S. to do this to fellow Americans, and probably shame that kept people from knowing about it even years later. Many of the people I listened to and recorded their stories said that they wanted the story to be told so that it would never happen again.
    Take care,

  3. For anybody in the Portland area, Maggie is doing a reading with this book along with friends and fellow poets Penelope Schott and Penny Harter this coming Tuesday, October 20th, at Looking Glass Bookstore in Sellwood!

  4. Thank you anonymous. I'd love to go, but I am teaching that night. If anyone else is attending please let me know how it goes. If you'd like a signed copy of this beautiful book please go to the reading.