As I sat at my campsite, editing this interview, I couldn’t help but feel an upwelling of appreciation for my author’s commitment to raising awareness. It’s not often that you meet a quintessential enlightener of minds. There are plenty who aspire to this goal…but so few that actually achieve it. Lawrence is one of the few.
On Saturday, September 12th, from 1-4pm, there will be a book release & signing of Fighting for America: Nisei Soldiers @ the Wing Luke Museum. A collaboration by writer Lawrence Matsuda and artist Matt Sasaki, this graphic novel tells the story of six brave and courageous Nisei soldiers from the Pacific Northwest who proved their loyalty and made a significant mark in American history. Featured veterans include:
- – Shiro Kashino, Infantry
- – Frank Nishimura, Infantry
- – Jimmie Kanaya, Medic
- – Roy Matsumoto, Military Intelligence Service
- – Tosh Yasutake, Medic
- – Turk Suzuki, Infantry
We hear so little about American Concentration Camps during WWII…and yet, for those of us living here on the West Coast…the impact was profound and long-lasting. Few know that approximately 14,000 Nisei or second generation Japanese Americans fought as members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT) during World War II against Germany and Italy. In the Pacific, Japanese Americans served in the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) as translators and intercepted Japanese messages in support of US troops. Nisei volunteered from Hawai‘i and the mainland. Most mainland Nisei volunteered from American concentration camps to fight for freedom in Europe while their friends and relatives remained prisoners in the camps. Their motto was “Go for Broke,” which was the Hawaiian dice shooters phrase for “Shoot the works.” Because they were given dangerous assignments and fought heroically, they became the most decorated unit for their size and length of service in US history. In 1946, President Truman greeted the returning members of the 442nd RCT and told them, “You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice, and you won.”
The six stories are based on real and actual events, which were dramatized and translated to meet the visual and narrative requirements of a graphic novel. Fighting for America allows readers to experience the courage, camaraderie, anger, loss and strength of the Nisei soldiers in a new, engaging way.
“Matt Sasaki’s illustrations are refreshingly original, beautifully expressive, and perfectly supplement the stories about the heroic achievements of six American patriots. Whether you favor reading or looking at graphic novels, this one is definitely worth your time,” noted artist Roger Shimomura.
The 224-page graphic novel is accompanied by a curriculum guide, a stand-alone chapter An American Hero: Shiro Kashino, and an animated video short produced by the Seattle Channel. A teacher workshop will be held on Saturday, October 10 from 9am-3:30pm with registration through The Wing (http://www.wingluke.org/fighting-for-america).
According to Toshiko Hasegawa of the Japanese American Citizens League, Seattle, “There is great bravery in the honesty within the pages of this book. This same courage affords us the benefit of yesterday’s lessons, today’s blessings and the hope we harbor for still a better tomorrow. These stories don’t just describe what it was to be Japanese – they describe what it means to be American.”