Entering Asian Pacific Heritage Month, this week L.A. Letters spotlights two new books that reveal little-known history about Asian-Americans in Southern California: “The Yellow Door,” Amy Uyematsu’s new poetry title, and “Terminal Island,” the newest book published by Angel City Press and written by Naomi Hirahara and Geraldine Knatz. Each of these selections offer a plethora of forgotten stories from the early 20th Century and present the material in an artful and enthralling way.
The Yellow Door
“The Yellow Door,” published by Red Hen Press, is the fourth book of poetry written by the Montebello-born Japanese-American poet Amy Uyematsu. The 40-plus poems in this collection masterfully connect five generations of Japanese-American history. There are poems about her grandparents before the war and their time in the internment camps, her childhood experiences in the San Gabriel Valley, her years of coming of age as an Asian-American activist, and poems honoring her own children and grandchildren.
Uyematsu’s writing career started very serendipitously in her senior year at UCLA in the early 1970s. An essay she wrote in class ended up being published by two publications and even led to her editing a groundbreaking anthology while she was still in her early 20s. She explains to me further:
I was lucky enough to be a student in the first Asian-American Studies class at UCLA (back then it was titled “Orientals in America.”) I was a senior, and that spring quarter I finally had a class that I felt completely changed my life and spoke to me as a Japanese-American. For the final term paper, I turned in an essay called ‘The Emergence of Yellow Power in America.’ It was published by the newly emerging newspaper, Gidra, and soon after reprinted by the ’60s counterculture newspaper, the Los Angeles Free Press. That essay caught the interest of the then just developing Asian American Studies Center. I was offered a job and ended up doing research, teaching, and publication-related work. Read Rest of Article Here.