Monica Sone

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Monica Sone (so-nay)
Born Kazuko Itoi
(1919-09-01)September 1, 1919
Died September 5, 2011(2011-09-05) (aged 92)
Canton, Ohio
Occupation author, psychologist
Nationality USA
Genres autobiography
Subjects Japanese American internment
Notable work(s) Nisei Daughter

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Monica Sone (September 1, 1919 – September 5, 2011), born Kazuko Itoi, was a Japanese American writer, best known for her 1953 autobiographical memoir Nisei Daughter, which tells of the Japanese American experience in Seattle during the 1920s and 1930s, and in the World War II internment camps and which is an important text in Asian American and Women's Studies courses.


Sone grew up in Seattle, where her parents, immigrants from Japan, managed a hotel. Like many Japanese American children, her education included American classes and extra, Japanese cultural courses;' later,she and her family visited Japan. In her late teens, she contracted tuberculosis and spent nine months at Firland Sanitarium with future best selling author of The Egg and I, Betty MacDonald.

During World War II, she and her family were interned at Puyallup Civilian Assembly Center and at the Minidoka War Relocation Center in Hunt, Idaho. In 1942, Sone was allowed to leave the camp to attend Wendell College[dubious ] in Indiana, where she lived with a white family.[1] She finished her degree at Hanover College and eventually received a master's degree in clinical psychology from Case Western Reserve University.[2]

Nisei Daughter[edit]

Sone’s best-known work, the memoir Nisei Daughter, was originally published by Little, Brown in 1953. It tells the story of a Japanese immigrant family's life in the United States before and during the war. Sone's parents are from Japan (Issei), and their children are born in the States, making them Nisei (as in the title). The book explores the cultural differences the family faced before the war, both in the States and on a visit to Japan, and the experiences during the Japanese American internment. The story is told from Sone’s perspective. The cover photograph shows Sone and her sister Sammy smiling and sitting on the steps of the Carrollton Hotel, their father’s establishment, in 1932.

Exposition concerning the courtship and marriage of Sone’s parents and the births of their four children begins the book. A comfortable childhood existence is nostalgically portrayed in the environs of the Skid Road Hotel, which Mr. Itoi operates near the Seattle waterfront. He is portrayed as a hard worker and a resourceful provider, refusing rooms to characters who seem drunk or otherwise unsavory, and continually repairing and improving his establishment. Mrs. Itoi is more colorfully portrayed as a woman who is capable of having fun and who wants to indulge her children in their creativity and their whims. The “shocking” fact of life that Sone discovers when she is six is that she is Japanese and, because of that fact, she and her siblings must attend daily sessions at a special Japanese school rather than play after their regular grammar school classes. The conflict between Sone’s Japanese heritage and her American situation is developed throughout the book as its main theme, as the author continually searches for who she is and where she belongs.

Sone offers a first-hand account of life at Minidoka, a relocation incarceration camp for Japanese American citizens during World War II. Her account offers a distinctly positive picture of life in the camps and demonstrates how its residents struggled to accommodate their situation. By the time Nisei Daughter was reissued in 1979, Americans had become far more aware of and sensitive to mistreatment of people of Japanese descent in the United States during World War II. These new attitudes were reflected in Sone's preface for the new edition, which reflected quite a different tone than her original in 1953.[3]

Published works[edit]

  • Sone, M. (1996). Introduction. In: S. Maret, "The desert years: An annotated bibliography of Japanese American internment in Arizona during World War II". Bulletin of Bibliography, 53(2): 71-108.[5]
  • Sone, M. (1953). Nisei daughter. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. [6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Takahashi, Jere (1998). Nisei/Sansei: Shifting Japanese American Identities and Politics. Temple University Press. p. 102. 
  2. ^ Eng, Victoria (2005). "Sone, Monica (Itoi)". In S. Serafin and A. Bendixen. The Continuum Encyclopedia of American Literature. Continuum International. p. 1062. 
  3. ^

Critical studies[edit]

  • Connor, K. R. (2005). "Truth and talent in interpreting ethnic American autobiography: From white to black and beyond". In: L. Long (ed). White Scholars/African American texts.(pp. 209–22). New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
  • Cooper, J. (2002). "A two-headed freak and a bad wife search for home: Border crossing in Nisei Daughter and The Mixquiahuala Letters". In: J. Benito & A. M. Manzanas (eds.). Literature and ethnicity in the cultural borderlands. (pp. 159–73). Amsterdam: Rodopi.
  • Hoffman, W. D. (2005). "Home, memory, and narrative in Monica Sone's Nisei Daughter". In: K. Lawrence & F. Cheung (eds.). Recovered legacies: Authority and identity in early Asian American literature.(pp. 229–48) Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
  • Jacobs, M. (n.d.). "Monica Sone's Nisei Daughter". Western Women's Autobiographies Database. [7]
  • Lim, S. Geok-lin. (1990). Japanese American women's life stories: Maternality in Monica Sone's Nisei Daughter and Joy Kogawa's Obasan. Feminist Studies, 16 (2): 288-312.
  • Madsen, D. L. (2005). Monica Sone. Asian American writers. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomsen Gale.
  • Stephen, S. H. (1992)."Protest and accommodation, self-satire and self-effacement, and Monica Sone's Nisei Daughter". In: J. R. Payne (ed.). Multicultural autobiography: American lives. (pp. 207–47). Knoxville: University of Tennessee.
  • Yamamoto, T. (2001). "Nisei Daughter by Monica Sone". In: S. C. Wong & S. H. Sumida (eds.). A resource guide to Asian American literature. (pp. 151–58). New York: Modern Language Association of America.