Wednesday, March 9, 2016


   "Yoshiko Uchida (1921–92) was an award winning writer of children's books, many of which are based on aspects of Japanese and Japanese American history and culture. A series of books, starting with Journey to Topaz (1971) take place against the backdrop of the mass removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast. She also authored a memoir centering on her and her family's wartime incarceration (Desert Exile, 1982), a young adult version her life story (Invisible Thread, 1991), and a novel centering on a Japanese American family (Picture Bride, 1987)."

   In searching for information about her, I couldn't find anything free or reputable. I don't really know why that is unless the publishers hope to make money off her after her death and the others just couldn't find anything about her.  There are archives at the University of Oregon. But not much information.  You will have to read her fabulous books for children and her autobiographical ones for all ages.  

                                                       She and her family at Topaz.
I will borrow from Angelfire:
    'Yoshiko Uchida was born in Alameda, California in 1921, the second daughter of Takashi ("Dwight") and Iku Umegaki Uchida. Dwight Uchida immigrated to the United States from Japan in 1903 and worked for the San Francisco offices of Mitsui and Company, where he eventually became a manager. Iku Umegaki, the eldest daughter of a prefectural governor of Japan, immigrated to the U.S. in 1916 to marry Dwight Uchida. Both were graduates of Doshisha University, one of the early Christian universities of Japan, and were early and active members of the Sycamore Congregational Church in El Cerrito, Calif.

   "Uchida and her older sister, Keiko ("Kay"), grew up in Berkeley, Calif. By Uchida's own account, her family was close-knit and supportive. The written word was very important to Uchida's parents: her mother wrote poetry, the thirty-one syllable Japanese tanka, and her father was a prolific correspondent. Uchida's own interest in writing began early. At the age of ten, she wrote stories such as "Jimmy Chipmunk and His Friends" and "Willie the Squirrel" on brown wrapping paper. Uchida attended Longfellow School in Berkeley and University High School in Oakland. She graduated with honors from the University of California in 1942, with a B.A. in English, Philosophy, and History."

   "Uchida, however, was unable to attend her graduation ceremonies. After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and the United States entered World War II, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, forcing the removal of all persons of Japanese descent (both American citizens and non-citizens) living on the western coast of the United States into centralized detention camps. Dwight Uchida was arrested, detained, and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp in Missoula, Montana. Uchida and her mother and sister had only ten days to pack all their possessions and vacate the house where they had lived for fifteen years. In May 1942, they were removed to the Tanforan Racetrack Relocation Center, where Yoshiko received her university diploma in the horse stall that served as temporary barracks for the evacuees."
   "Eventually, Dwight Uchida was allowed to join his family at Tanforan, and in September 1942, the Uchida family was transferred to the Topaz Relocation Camp in the Utah desert. In May 1943, both Yoshiko and Kay were able to leave the relocation camp. Kay, who had a degree in child development, left to work in the nursery school of the Department of Education of Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. Yoshiko, with the help of the National Student Relocation Council, left to attend Smith College in Northampton, Mass., where she was awarded a graduate fellowship and received a Masters in Education. Dwight and Iku Uchida were eventually sponsored to leave Topaz for Salt Lake City, and finally settled in Philadelphia before the end of the war."

   "After graduation from Smith College, Uchida taught elementary school at a small Quaker school on the outskirts of Philadelphia. She soon found that she had no time to devote to writing and also became ill with mononucleosis. She moved to New York City, where her sister was teaching in a private school, and worked as a secretary during the day to keep her evenings free for writing. Uchida wrote short stories and submitted them to magazines, but met with little success until she discovered her niche as a children's author. In 1949, her first book, The Dancing Kettle, was published, followed in 1951 by New Friends for Susan.

   "In 1952, Uchida was awarded a Ford Foundation Foreign Study and Research Fellowship to Japan. While there, Uchida learned about Japanese folk art from the three prominent men who founded the Japanese Folk Art Movement: the philosopher, Soetsu Yanagi, and master potters, Shoji Hamada and Kanjiro Kawai. Uchida wrote a series of feature articles about the Folk Art Movement for the Nippon Times, as well as a monograph about Kanjiro Kawai. On her return to the U.S., she served as the west coast correspondent for Craft Horizons magazine."

   "After Uchida returned from Japan, she settled in Oakland, Calif., to care for her parents, who were both in poor health. Iku Uchida died in 1966, and Dwight Uchida followed in 1971. After her father's death, Uchida moved into her own apartment in Berkeley, where she lived and worked for the remainder of her life.

   "Over the course of her career, Uchida wrote more than forty published works. Her books include Journey to Topaz, Journey Home, and Desert Exile, which draw on her experiences during World War II; The Dancing Kettle, The Magic Listening Cap, and The Sea of Gold, which are compilations of folktales that she collected as a child and while in Japan; an autobiography, The Invisible Thread; and the adult novel, Picture Bride. In addition to writing, Uchida made personal appearances, gave talks and speeches, and answered the many letters from her fans."

 "Uchida was honored with many awards, including the Bay Area Book Reviewers Award, two Commonwealth Club of California Juvenile Book Award Medals, the University of Oregon Distinguished Service Award, the California Japanese Alumni Association Award, the California Reading Association Award, the Japanese American of the Biennium Award, the Japanese American Citizen's League Award, the Nikkei in Education Award, and the Morris S. Rosenblatt Award from the Utah State Historical Society."

   "Uchida suffered from ill health during the later years of her life, which curtailed her writing and her public appearances. She died in Berkeley on June 21, 1992. "

Resources for the article:

Encyclopedia Densho - 
New York Times obituary - 
Archives West - 
Amazon Page - 
Letter from a Concentration camp on YouTube - - 
Online Archive of California - 
Wikipedia - 
Angelfire - a free website -  

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