Background and Context

Significant Lives: Asia and Asian Americans in the History of the U.S. West” grounds the Asian American narrative and experience within the broader scope of American history.  Gail M. Nomura of Utah State University works toward diversifying what we learn about history; at the same time, she explores the significance of Asian Americans as a crucial part of collective American identity.

“Reclaiming the Southwest: A Traumatic Space in the Japanese American Internment” explores the U.S. Southwest and its significance to Japanese American identity in the wake of JAI.  Fu-Jen Chen and Su-Lin Yu explain how the construct of the Japanese American is rarely connected with the Southwest and its history despite the number of camps  located in that region. They seek to ground the Japanese narrative in the history of the Southwest.

“New Deal Public Works at War: The WPA and Japanese American Internment” focuses on the darker side of the WPA.  Jason Scott Smith explains how the Work Projects Administration put into place by Franklin Roosevelt was praised for creating jobs in America during World War II.  Simultaneously, however, the WPA was also responsible for the internment of countless Japanese Americans.

“The National Park Service: Groveling Sycophant or Social Conscience: Telling the Story of Mountains, Valley, and Barbed Wire at Manzanar National Historic Site” explores the Manzanar National Historical site.  Frank Hays speaks about the struggles of preserving the history of Japanese American incarceration and the competing interests in telling that story.