Japanese American WWII graphic novel + Sacramento restaurant gets $500 tip: Your AAPI Newsletter

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It is Thursday, May 6, and this is The Sacramento Bee’s AAPI weekly newsletter.

Here’s a recap of the stories I’ve covered and ones I’m following:

Many may know the story of Mitsuye Endo, the Sacramento-raised Japanese American who fought and won her freedom from incarceration during World War II, but few know who she was outside of that legacy.

That’s just one of the history gaps the artists and authors behind “We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American Acts of Resistance During World War II,” a graphic novel out May 18 from the Wing Luke Museum in Washington, are hoping to fill.

“There is this broader, deeper record of Japanese American resistance that we can draw from and take heart from,” said Tamiko Nimura, one of the book’s writers, who was born in Sacramento and raised in Roseville.

With artwork from Ross Ishikawa and Matt Sasaki, the novel follows the lives of three Japanese American activists — Jim Akutsu, Hiroshi Kashiwagi and Endo. Kashiwagi and Endo were both born and raised in the Sacramento area.

It’s a remarkably intimate novel that grounds the drama of their struggle against the U.S. government in quieter, everyday moments. The book also challenges the idea that those who resisted were particularly exceptional. All of them were simply ordinary Americans who were forced into government oppression, leaving them with only two choices: Submit or fight back.

“(It’s about) ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances,” said Frank Abe, another writer on the book.

In one early panel, Endo purchases a copy of The Sacramento Bee on her way to work with the headline “Japanese Fleet Reported Off Burma” when the newspaper vendor plants a withering, hateful stare on her as she pays. The fear and shock is clearly drawn in her face and stooped shoulders as she scuttles away, allowing readers a close look at what Endo might have been thinking and feeling.

“It was wonderful for me to have a chance to see Mitsuye Endo as a person and not just a name or an icon,” Abe said. “She had hopes and dreams. And she found the strength, despite being a shy, ordinary nice young woman, to do something for others. To do something for the benefit of the Japanese American community.”

Tây Giang, a Vietnamese restaurant in south Sacramento, has allegedly been vandalized repeatedly throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, a customer stepped up to help out.

A customer ordered khoai bi chen (cassava fries), bun cari chay (vegetable curry) and hu tieu cai (tofu-and-vegetable soup), totaling $34.64 with tax. Then they dropped an extra $500 in the tip line, 1,443% the price of the total bill, with a heart and a note: “To help with the broken window.”

Twitter user CaroWyn, the niece of Tây Giang owner Dai Chi Luu, posted a picture of the receipt Saturday. Her post had more than 1,700 retweets and 28,500 likes as of 4 p.m. Monday.

“Recently, my uncle’s restaurant has been victim to a string of vandalism. Every time he fixes the window, it’s only a matter of days before it’s broken again,” CaroWyn’s tweet read. “A few nights ago a patron left this note. Faith in humanity restored.”

In other news

  • Asian American Attacks: Suspect Who Assaulted Oakland Leader Carl Chan Faces Hate Crime Charge (CBS San Francisco)

  • There were four attacks, including an assault with a hammer, on Asian Americans in New York over the weekend (CNN)

  • Google Doodle honors Japanese American author Hisaye Yamamoto (CNet)

  • Local Asian-American groups back Andrew Yang for NYC mayor (NY Daily News)

  • Foggy Picture of the Pandemic’s Impact on Some of OC’s Racial, Ethnic Groups Stems from Lack of State Data (Voice of OC)

  • Deported by Biden: a Vietnamese refugee separated from his family after decades in US (The Guardian)

  • A chef turns to Instagram to survive, and his ready-to-eat Korean seafood takes off (Los Angeles Times)

  • During Ramadan, every night is a ‘date’ night (Los Angeles Times)

  • ‘Disgusting and horrific’ stabbing at San Francisco bus stop seriously injures two Asian women (The Washington Post)

  • Learning How to Heal in the Wake of Anti-Asian Hate (The New York Times)

This week in AAPI pop culture

May is Asian American and Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Momentum for the month got started in the 1970s, when congressional staffer Jeannie Jew suggested the idea to Rep. Frank Horton, R-N.Y. The first resolution only proclaimed the first 10 days of May as Asian-Pacific Heritage Week before President George H.W. Bush signed a bill in 1990 to extend Asian-American Heritage Week to a month.

Two years later, May was officially designated as Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. This year, President Joe Biden released a statement affirming his administration’s dedication to celebrating AANHPI contributions to the country’s history.

“In spite of the strength shown and successes achieved, the American dream remains out of reach for far too many AANHPI families,” Biden wrote in the official statement “My Administration also recognizes the heightened fear felt by many Asian American communities in the wake of increasing rates of anti-Asian harassment and violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the increasingly observable layers of hate now directed toward women and elders of Asian descent in particular. Our Nation continues to grieve the senseless killings of six women of Asian descent in Atlanta, and the unconscionable acts of violence victimizing our beloved Asian American seniors in cities across the country.”

May was chosen for its markers in AAPI history, being the month that the first Japanese immigrant arrived in the U.S. in 1843 and the month the final golden spike was driven into the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, a product of Chinese labor.

Happy AANHPI Heritage Month!

Got a story suggestion? Please reach out to me at awong@sacbee.com.

That’s it for this week’s newsletter. Thanks for reading, and see you next week!

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