Our American Journey: A History of the Brighton Nisei Womens Club and the Brighton Japanese American Association | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library http://coloradowest.staging.auraria.edu/book-review/our-american-journey-history-brighton-nisei-womens-club-and-brighton-japanese-american[12/7/2015 2:37:59 PM] Home Our American Journey: A History of the Brighton Nisei Womens Club and the Brighton Japanese American AssociationOur American Journey: A History of the Brighton Nisei Womens Club and the Brighton Japanese American AssociationSubmitted by barlowk on 9-6-2015 09:07 PMAuthor: Daniel Blegen Publishing: Denver, CO: Outskirts Press, 2013. 164 pages. Black-and-white photographs. 5 x 7 1/2'. $13.99 paperback. Reviewer: Leslie Krupa Reviewer Affiliation: In 1944 Colorado State Senator (and Brighton Mayor) J. W. Wells introduced a bill to the Colorado state legislature prohibiting non-citizens from owning land. In the wake of World War II, anti-Japanese sentiment was still rife, but Colorado voters defeated the measure. This was a testament to the complex relationship between Japanese Americans and the wider community in Colorado. In his new book, Our American Journey: A History of the Brighton Nisei Womens Club and the Brighton Japanese American Association Daniel Blegen captures the multifaceted story of how Japanese Americans established an important community in the Brighton area despite resistance. Blegen focuses on how three generations of Japanese Americans survived, thrived, and balanced both assimilation and cultural preservation throughout the twentieth century. The book is not without flaws: Blegens emphasis on oral history causes some narrative confusion; there are several questionable grammatical errors; and the book sorely needs footnote citations. But Our American Journey accomplishes what its author sets out to dogive voice to several generations of influential and tenacious people as they became Americans. Our American Journey is divided into seven roughly chronological chapters. Beginning with an anecdotal preface, Blegen quickly establishes how vital individual and familial recollection are in this history. His first two chapters, The Immigrants and The Children, reiterate the impact that generational differences and similarities eventually had on how Japanese Americans self-identified and assimilated. Chapter One offers a clear explanation of the limited economic opportunities in Japan that spurred young men (particularly those lower in birth order) to emigrate to agricultural areas in the United States at the end of the nineteenth century. Blegen does an excellent job placing the Issei, or first generation, experience into a wider national and international context before turning his focus to more localized stories of the second generation, known as Nisei. EXPLORE BY MEDIABook Reviews Photographs Video Biographies New Publications Resource Guides County Newspaper HistoriesEXPLORE BY TOPICLand & Natural Resources Government & Law Agriculture Mining Commerce & Industry Transportation People & Places Communication Healthcare & Medicine Education & Libraries Cultural Communities Recreation & Entertainment Tourism ReligionEXPLORE BY CULTUREHispanic Native AmericanThe Ute people have lived in Colorado longer than anyone else.
Our American Journey: A History of the Brighton Nisei Womens Club and the Brighton Japanese American Association | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library http://coloradowest.staging.auraria.edu/book-review/our-american-journey-history-brighton-nisei-womens-club-and-brighton-japanese-american[12/7/2015 2:37:59 PM] Auraria Library 303-556-4587 1100 Lawrence Street Denver, Colorado 80204 In the News Partners & Donations About Us Contact Us Chapter Three, War and Beyond, examines how Brighton Japanese American families dealt with World War II and their desire to be accepted as Americans afterward. Although it covers important and interesting subject matter, this chapter is perhaps the weakest in the book. Despite his astute sensitivity elsewhere, Blegen erroneously uses the euphemism internment camp to describe the ten War Relocation Authority (WRA) incarceration sites where up to 120,000 Japanese Americans were detained until the end of the war, and he falls victim to wartime patriotism, even stating that despite the enmity aimed at Japanese Americans, World War II brought out a spirit of national unity and involvement that has not been duplicated (65). Perhaps most perplexing is that there is little to no mention of Granada/Amache, a WRA incarceration site located in southeastern Colorado. Although Colorado Japanese Americans were exempt from the forced eviction of West Coast families, the presence of a site within Colorado must have had some impact on them. Even with these oversights, however, Blegen incorporates interesting accounts of how Colorado politicians and local families handled the war. In the latter chapters of the book, Blegen examines the creation of Japanese American community organizations mentioned in his title, particularly how they helped assist multiple generations incorporate into the wider society. Chapter Four (Assimilating, Organizing) and Chapter Five (Leading and Giving) clearly describe ways in which the Nisei and Sansei (third generation) used schools, sports, restaurants, and especially philanthropy-focused community organizations to earn respectability, gain civil rights, and yet pass along traditions. Blegen successfully conveys the importance of community, leadership, and women within the Japanese American community in his concluding chapters, Continuing the Mission, and Chow Mein. As many Nisei age, the need to capture their personal stories becomes urgent for our nation to understand the Japanese American experience. Blegen understands the power of oral and folk history, particularly at a local level, and they are the greatest strength of his narrative. He is at times clinically perceptivefor example, he recognizes that the label Issei is essentially evidence that Japanese immigrants knew they would establish roots from the start. But by speaking extensively with individuals who lived this history, Blegen evokes the delicate daily struggles Japanese Americans faced as they sought full citizenship recognition while still maintaining elements of Japanese culture. Although Brighton may not be as nationally relevant or well known as some larger Japanese American communities on the West Coast, Blegen manages to convey how Brighton Japanese Americans astutely re-cast their wider influence through tenacity, strong leadership, and charity. Reviewer Info: Leslie Krupa is a graduate student in public history and historic preservation at the University of Colorado Denver. A former Koch Fellow with History Colorado, she currently interns with the Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program at the National Park Service. She is the author of Playground for the Young at Heart: A History of Windsor Gardens and coauthored the Arcadia book Golf in Denver with her father.