Little Tokyo Book Festival

Kaya Press Banner–Kaya Press Table @ Little Tokyo Book Festival 2016

Partly Adapted From: The Rafu Shimpo

The Japanese American Cultural and Community Center welcomed over 30 authors at the inaugural Little Tokyo Book Festival on Saturday. The event brought Asian American writers and all people who love books to Little Tokyo. Not your typical run-of-the-mill book festival, the Little Tokyo Book Festival featured three dynamic panels and two “round-robin” style readings on the Aratani Theatre stage.

“This book festival will cultivate how stories, both spoken and on paper, sustain our collective and oral histories, as well as stimulate our imagination and dreams for the future,” says Hirahara, author of the Mas Arai and Ellie Rush mystery series, set in Los Angeles, before the festival. And it did just that. Stories about Japanese Internment. Stories about Japanese Los Angeles from Amy Uyematsu, Nina Revoyr, among others. Remembrances of the Asian American Movement.

As the day wore on, the crowd grew. Authors Signed books, even Garrett Hongo. Back in the auditorium Sesshu Foster, Karen Ishizuka and Sonoko Sakai spoke about community, the people they write about, the audience they write for, building community. Building Japanese American Los Angeles community. I got there in time for the opening panel on “Memory,” with Lily Havey, Nick Nagatani and Todd Shimoda, moderated by Naomi Hirahara that dug into writing the past, writing literary Japanese American stories. Lily Havey wrote the memoir “Gasa Gasa Girl Goes To Camp” about her coming of age in two Japanese American internment camps and discussed the line between memory, fact and using fictional techniques to tell her story. Nick Nagatani, a first time “one and done” writer, wrote a fictional account of his Vietnam experiences and discussed the importance of mining those memories to write. And Todd Shimoda, who discussed his  5 detective novels set in Japan  that have been described as “philosophical and psychological mysteries with page-turning plots,” and how he depicted a Japan of the past.img_5147

Also, the next generation of Japanese American writers was represented as Sarena Kuhn read during the round table from her short story about two characters stuck in a alternative Little Tokyo trying to return to the real, better one.

There were other talented Asain American writers who read and discussed their work from Kaya Press’s Neelanjana Banerjee, Angela Peñaredondo, Kenji Liu, Chiwan Choi, Tanzila Ahmed, among a few other writers I was not able to say for as I had another event to get to. All in all, it was a great first annual event thanks to Naomi Hirahara, Traci Akemi Kato-kiriyama, Alison De La Cruz.

As Naomi Hirahara said on her Facebook page, “Look for the second annual festival in 2017!”

Below are more pictures from the first annual Little Tokyo Book Festival:

Sunny Seki is the award-winning author/illustrator of four children’s books.


Sesshu Foster



Lily Havey’s art work.



Traci Akemi Kato-kiriyama, Alison De La Cruz
Amy Uyematsu
Sarena Kuhn

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