‘What do you choose to remember?’ Art exhibit on display in Racine focuses on Japanese internment | Local News

RACINE — Kevin Miyazaki’s family rarely mentioned the camps. His father didn’t really talk about being a Boy Scout forced from his home to what was essentially a prison because of his heritage.

His father, aunts and grandparents were incarcerated for about three years during World War II. They and more than 120,000 people of Japanese descent in the U.S., two-thirds of whom were U.S. citizens, were forcibly relocated because of their ethnicity to internment camps across the American West.

After incarceration, most of Miyazaki’s family moved to the Midwest. He was born and raised in Wauwatosa.

That family connection led Miyazaki, in 2007, to artistically explore the issue of Japanese-American internment beginning. His most recent work on the topic is at the OS Projects gallery, 601 6th St., in Downtown Racine.

The exhibit, called “Friend or Foe,” opened May 14 and runs through July 16.

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“Friend or Foe,” tells a specific story, but Miyazaki believes it is universal.

“It’s addressing larger themes about immigration, migration, but also about social and political history,” Miyazaki said.

Much of the exhibit focuses on Miyazaki’s father, who was 13 when his family was relocated from their home in Tacoma, Washington. His father was incarcerated at two relocation camps, first at Tule Lake in California and then at Heart Mountain in Wyoming.

Miyazaki’s father was a Boy Scout, and the exhibit includes merit badges addressing experiences his father went through, such as wartime hysteria. The badges are juxtaposed against excerpts from a 1943 Boy Scout handbook, including one about a black eye.

For the wartime hysteria badge, “a scout must: 1. Be born of a non-western ethnicity in the United States and hold status as an American citizen. 2. Refrain from actions deemed unpatriotic and commit no acts of treason against your country. 3. Be removed from your hometown and sent to a prison camp holding only those of your ancestry, despite lacking any evidence of sabotage.”

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One of four merit badges that is part of Kevin Miyazaki’s exhibition on Japanese American internment at OS Projects in Racine. Miyazaki’s father was a Boy Scout, and the exhibit includes merit badges addressing experiences his father went through.

Another display is 20 feet long and 20 feet wide. It has photos of the family home in Tacoma, the family at Heart Mountain and Miyazaki‘s childhood home in Wauwatosa. The exhibit is the size of the barracks where the Miyazaki family lived while incarcerated.

“It hits home when you think about living for three years in a space this big with four other people,” Miyazaki said.

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A 20 foot by 20 foot display is part of Kevin Miyazaki’s exhibition on Japanese American internment at OS Projects in Racine. It has photos of the family home in Tacoma, Washington, the family at Heart Mountain Relocation Center and Miyazaki‘s childhood home in Wauwatosa. The exhibit is the size of the barracks where the Miyazaki family lived while incarcerated.


Birds and warplanes on the windows are part of Kevin Miyazaki’s “Friend or Foe” exhibition on Japanese American internment at OS Projects. The planes have designs that are the pattern of stars in the night sky above Tacoma, Washington, when the attack on Pearl Harbor happened, and the birds have designs that are the night sky above Tule Lake internment camp during Miyazaki’s father’s first night there.

There are also birds and warplanes on the gallery windows. Miyazaki included those because the Tule Lake camp is directly under the western migratory bird route. The planes have designs that are the pattern of stars in the night sky above Tacoma when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor happened on Dec. 7, 1941, and the birds have designs of the night sky above Tule Lake during Miyazaki’s father’s first night there.

A photo in the exhibit was taken shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor. It shows Miyazaki’s father and two other Boy Scouts saluting the American flag while one plays a horn.

“Their whole lives were going to change,” Miyazaki said.

It is also one of the few photographs of his father as a kid since the family left many photos at home and destroyed others while attempting to get rid of anything that might be considered unpatriotic.

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This newspaper photograph is part of Kevin Miyazaki’s exhibition on Japanese American internment at OS Projects in Racine. It is one of the few photographs of Miyazaki’s father, second from right, as a kid, since the family left many photos at home and destroyed others while attempting to get rid of anything that might be considered unpatriotic.

When parents feel shut out of decision-making by school boards, petitions and lawsuits follow

The Burlington Area School District is being sued by an area woman for closing a meeting that had become unruly. Muskego-Norway is facing a community petition after its school board didn’t approve a book about the World War II-era internment of Japanese people in the U.S. for an English class for unclear reasons. In February, Racine Unified was one of an untold number of school boards nationwide facing a bizarre threat from a community member who wanted to file claims against the school boards “surety bonds,” even though that was a legal impossibility.

Those are three local examples of many that are parts of a growing phenomenon led by adults from across the political spectrum who feel they are being shut out of decision-making about what’s going on inside their community’s schools, even when they don’t have kids attending the schools.

While these situations are unavoidable for those who attend and watch school board meetings, and unavoidable for the public officials whose email addresses and phone numbers are public, it’s almost impossible to tell how much of a difference the efforts are making in increasing transparency, protecting young people from harm or even influencing education in classrooms.

His family didn’t discuss their experiences too much, but Miyazaki’s father did while advocating for Japanese Americans to receive reparations. That eventually happened when President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 that apologized and paid $20,000 each to surviving Japanese Americans incarcerated at internment camps. An estimated $400 million worth of property was lost by those incarcerated.

Despite everything that happened to him, Miyazaki said his father was an example of the American dream.

“I would say my father was a very patriotic person,” Miyazaki said. “What my father had in his life was really built from scratch … He really loved this country.”

Miyazaki’s father died before Miyazaki started doing this art 15 years ago, so Miyazaki is not sure what his father would think of the work, but that mystery motivates him.

“That’s part of what fuels me, is this unknown aspect of his feelings and his thoughts,” Miyazaki said.

Miyazaki plans to continue telling the stories of Japanese Americans who were incarcerated so they are not forgotten.

“As we get older and people who were in the camps are passing away … the stories can’t be told at some point by the people who were there,” Miyazaki said.

His art focuses on the 1940s but remains timely.

“It’s of interest to me as an ancestral story, but also because it does have all these political connections to the things that still continue to happen,” Miyazaki said.

That includes an increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans since the COVID-19 pandemic began. According to a national survey by AAPI Data released in March, one in six Asian American adults reported experiencing a hate crime in 2021, up from one in eight in 2020.

Miyazaki has felt more uneasy in public in recent years and said small interactions feel different, such as going to a gas station in northern Wisconsin.

“I’m a lifelong Wisconsinite, and I think it’s safe to say that I feel a little more trepidation than I used to,” Miyazaki said.

Another part of the exhibit are pins that say “Remember” for visitors to take home.

Every pin includes a note from Miyazaki, who ponders the wartime phrase “Remember Pearl Harbor” and the impact it had on his family and hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans.

“It’s a general patriotic symbol that could then represent disenfranchised people, people of color, people like my family who were part of the story of World War II but were wrongly incarcerated,” Miyazaki said. “It’s an open-ended piece of propaganda.”

Miyazaki writes that the pin “allows for the idea that American sacrifice has taken many forms in our history, including the patriotism and suffering of Indigenous, black and brown Americans. We can remember or forget things we are proud of, as well as things we are ashamed of. What do you choose to remember?”

20 great books by Asian American authors

20 great books by Asian American authors

20 great books by Asian American authors

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and what better way to celebrate than to stack your to-be-read lists with some of the many incredible works from Asian American authors. Although much of popular culture in America still struggles with producing consistent and diverse Asian American representation, there is a treasure trove of works by Asian American authors that provide readers a multitude of stories, characters, and experiences.

Stacker compiled a list of 20 popular books written by Asian American authors, spanning various decades, genres, and subjects. These books exemplify the endless expanse of varying Asian and Asian American stories and experiences. Each book has been selected and vetted to be the best of the best, whether because they’ve been met with esteemed acclaim and earned awards or because they became bestsellers that sparked conversation among book clubs everywhere.

This list has genres for every kind of book lover—memoirs, romances, mysteries, graphic novels—and the premises of these titles range from a grief-stricken character bereaved of their mother and a generation-spanning familial epic to those that lay bare the complicated experience of race and class struggles and others that deal with high school crushes.

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The Queen of the Night

The Queen of the Night

– Author: Alexander Chee

“The Queen of the Night” is a historical fiction novel set in 1882 Paris amid the decadence and high drama of the Paris Opera. Readers follow the story of soprano Lilliet Berne, who is finally given the chance to star in an original role, only to discover that the opera’s libretto suspiciously resembles the story of her secretive past.

Alexander Chee’s writing is full of suspense, mystery, and romantic intrigue. Chee received the Whiting Award for his first novel “Edinburgh,” and his second novel, “The Queen of the Night,” is no less distinct.

The Joy Luck Club

The Joy Luck Club

– Author: Amy Tan

Amy Tan’s “The Joy Luck Club,” first published in 1989, made waves as a (then-rare) commercially successful novel from an Asian American author about the Asian American experience. The novel follows four Chinese American immigrant families in San Francisco, the mothers and daughters of which meet weekly to play mahjong, eat food, and commiserate in what they call The Joy Luck Club. The novel was adapted into a film of the same name in 1993.

“The Joy Luck Club” has received mixed reviews over the years concerning the complicated nature of racial representation, but it has no doubt had an enduring influence on both literature and film.

The White Tiger

The White Tiger

– Author: Aravind Adiga

“The White Tiger” is a novel of dark humor and disturbing honesty about India’s caste system, as told by narrator Balram Halwai and his morally questionable rise through the ranks from village boy to successful businessman. This action-packed novel exposes the corruption deeply embedded into the unflinching Indian caste system and the poverty it can perpetuate.

Aravind Adiga’s debut novel, “The White Tiger” took home the Man Booker Prize in 2008. It was later adapted into a Netflix film, released in 2021.

Everything I Never Told You

Everything I Never Told You

– Author: Celeste Ng

“Everything I Never Told You” follows a mixed-race Chinese American family in 1970s Ohio. When the middle child, and the favorite, of Chinese immigrants Marilyn and James Lee is found dead, the rest of the family unravels, secrets are revealed, and the meaning of home and family is put into question. Celeste Ng’s writing is as poignant as it is dramatically enticing.

“Everything I Never Told You” landed on the New York Times Best Seller list and won the Massachusetts Book Award, the Asian/Pacific Librarians Association Award for Literature, and the American Library Association’s Alex Award.

Interior Chinatown

Interior Chinatown

– Author: Charles Yu

Winner of the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction, “Interior Chinatown” is told in the format of a screenplay. It follows “Generic Asian Man” Willis Wu, who is perpetually playing the “Background Oriental Male” in a fictional police procedural, but dreams of one day playing “Kung Fu Guy” on the big screen. The novel is Yu’s wry and heartfelt sendup of Hollywood Asian stereotypes, exposing the lack of onscreen representation for Asian Americans.

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The Border of Paradise

The Border of Paradise

– Author: Esmé Weijun Wang

A gripping and expansive family drama, “The Border of Paradise” is a story told over multiple years and multiple locations from multiple perspectives. Bookmarked by two suicide attempts, it follows David, a Brooklynite who struggles with neuroses; Daisy, the woman he marries and has a daughter with in Taiwan; and Marianne, his childhood companion with whom he has an affair and produces another daughter in California. Secrets and hidden pasts are revealed as a complicated family dynamic unfolds.

Esmé Weijun Wang’s novel has been praised for its beautiful prose and well thought-out characters.

They Called Us Enemy

They Called Us Enemy

– Author: George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker

George Takei is an actor and activist who broke boundaries with his role on “Star Trek” in the 1960s. In “They Called Us Enemy,” his graphic memoir, readers follow the story of his early childhood spent in an American concentration camp for Japanese Americans during World War II. The memoir reveals the political and human atrocities that the American government has been responsible for, all from a very personal and accessible perspective. Takei’s graphic memoir won the 2020 Asian/Pacific American Award for Young Adult Literature.



– Author: Ha Jin

Ha Jin’s novel “Waiting” won the 1999 National Book Award, and for good reason. Set in contemporary China, and sprawling over 20 years, the story revolves around Lin Kong, an army doctor; his wife, who he does not love; and his girlfriend, a nurse at the hospital where he works. Based loosely on a true story, the novel is a complex and expertly written study of modern longing that grapples with centuries of custom and expectation.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

To All the Boys I've Loved Before

– Author: Jenny Han

“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” is a #1 New York Times bestselling romantic comedy that follows protagonist Lara Jean, a Korean American high schooler, who writes secret love letters that were never meant to be read. When the letters are accidentally mailed out, she’s forced to deal with the kind of attention she’s always hoped to avoid and the feelings that come with it. 

Praised for Han’s relatable writing, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” has also been adapted into a popular Netflix film series.

Interpreter of Maladies

Interpreter of Maladies

– Author: Jhumpa Lahiri

“Interpreter of Maladies” is a collection of nine short stories, linked by the common theme of Indian and Indian American protagonists balancing their cultural roots with the “New World.” Published in 1999, Jhumpa Lahiri’s writing has been praised as elegant and the book itself has been praised for offering deliberately expansive representations of Indians and Indian Americans. “Interpreter of Maladies” won both the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award in 2000.

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Kite Runner

Kite Runner

– Author: Khaled Hosseini

“The Kite Runner” is the first novel from Afghan American author Khaled Hosseini. The book tells the story of Amir, who comes from a wealthy family in Kabul, and whose tale spans 30 years of change and disruption in Afghanistan. It follows the relationship Amir has with his father and the unlikely friendship he establishes with his father’s servant’s son, Hassan.

It maintained its place on the New York Times Best Seller list for two years and won the San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year Award.

The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts

The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts

– Author: Maxine Hong Kingston

“The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts” was first published in 1976 and is unique in its merging of autobiography and Chinese folklore. Author Maxine Hong Kingston uses this undefinable genre to tell us the stories that helped define her. Kingston has received criticism for her representation of Chinese culture, but her work continues to spark conversation on the subject. The book was a National Book Critics Circle Award winner.

Crying in H Mart

Crying in H Mart

– Author: Michelle Zauner

“Crying in H Mart” is the debut book from the singer and guitarist of Japanese Breakfast, Michelle Zauner. The memoir details her experience coping with the death of her mother and growing up as a Korean American in Oregon. Zauner’s writing provides readers with detailed descriptions of food, and how it has helped her navigate her culture and her grief. The memoir won Best Memoir & Autobiography at the 2021 Goodreads Choice Awards.



– Author: Min Jin Lee

“Pachinko” is Min Jin Lee’s second novel. It was a National Book Award nominee and a New York Times bestseller. The novel tells the story of one family spanning four generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea, and follows the family’s fight to thrive as exiles in 20th-century Japan. “Pachinko” was adapted into a series for Apple TV+ in 2022.

All You Can Ever Know

All You Can Ever Know

– Author: Nicole Chung

“All You Can Ever Know” is a memoir that follows author Nicole Chung’s experience as a Korean adoptee raised by white parents. The memoir weaves together the author’s personal journey to find her birth parents, her search for belonging, and her evolving understanding of her identity. “All You Can Ever Know” received rave reviews upon its publication and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography in 2018.

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On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

– Author: Ocean Vuong

“On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” is the debut novel from Vietnamese American poet Ocean Vuong. It’s written in the form of a letter from a son to his mother who cannot read. The letter follows the history of the son’s family from before he was born and continues on to reveal details of his life about which his mother has never known. Vuong has been applauded for his poetic prose style, and the novel has been praised for its unique exploration of race, masculinity, class, and freedom. “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” was also a contender for the 2019 National Book Award for Fiction.

Trust Exercise

Trust Exercise

– Author: Susan Choi

“Trust Exercise” by Susan Choi was the winner of the 2019 National Book Award for Fiction. The national bestseller is full of narrative twists, surprises, and head-scratchers as it follows the lives of students at a performing arts high school in the 1980s in the American suburbs. The complicated narrative techniques of the novel have sparked much debate and make it the perfect book for a heated book club meeting.

The Sympathizer

The Sympathizer

– Author: Viet Thanh Nguyen

“The Sympathizer” is Viet Thanh Nguyen’s debut novel and the winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Set in 1975, the book follows a general of the South Vietnamese army who flees to Los Angeles with a few compatriots to begin a new life. The narrator of the novel, however, is one of the compatriots, the captain, who is also a spy for the Viet Cong. The book is at once a spy novel, a love story, and an exploration of the extreme politics of both 1970s America and Vietnam.

A Thousand Years of Good Prayers

A Thousand Years of Good Prayers

– Author: Yiyun Li

“A Thousand Years of Good Prayers” is the debut collection of short stories from Chinese American author Yiyun Li. The stories are thematically linked by following the lives of Chinese and Chinese American protagonists and their experiences. The collection won the PEN/Hemingway Award, and the story “Immortality” won The Paris Review’s Plimpton Prize for new writers.

A Jar of Dreams

A Jar of Dreams

– Author: Yoshiko Uchida

“A Jar of Dreams” is a children’s novel from author Yoshiko Uchida, typically meant to be read by middle-school aged children, but the story is for all ages. The novel follows Rinko, an 11-year-old in Great Depression-era California who struggles with being “different” because she is Japanese. When her Aunt Waka comes to visit from Japan, Rinko learns to love and appreciate her heritage.

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