November 24, 1921|
Alameda, California United States
|Died||June 21, 1992
Berkeley, California United States
|Occupation||short story writer, editor, Novelist, children's book author|
|Literary movement||Folk Art Movement|
Yoshiko Uchida was the daughter of Japanese immigrants Takashi and Iku Uchida. Her father came to the United States from Japan in 1903 and worked for the San Francisco offices of Mitsui and Company. Yoshiko and her sister Keiko were both nisei, or second-generation Japanese Americans, born in the United States.
Yoshiko Uchida graduated early from high school and enrolled at University of California, Berkeley at sixteen. The Uchidas were living in Berkeley, California and Yoshiko was in her senior year at U.C. Berkeley when the Japanese attacked the naval base at Pearl Harbor in 1941. Soon after, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered all Japanese Americans on the west coast to be rounded up and imprisoned in internment camps. Thousands of Japanese and Japanese Americans, regardless of their U.S. citizenship, lost their homes, property, jobs, civil liberties and human dignity.
The Uchidas were not spared. Takashi was questioned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and he and his family, including Yoshiko, were interned for three years, first at Tanforan Racetrack in California and then in Topaz, Utah. In the camps, Yoshiko taught school and had the chance to view not only the injustices which the Americans were perpetrating, but the varying reactions of Japanese Americans towards their ill-treatment.
In 1943 Uchida was accepted to graduate school at Smith College in Massachusetts and allowed to leave the camp, but her years there left a deep impression. Her 1971 novel Journey to Topaz is fiction but closely follows her own experiences, and many of her other books deal with issues of ethnicity, citizenship, identity, and cross-cultural relationships.
Uchida became widely known for her 1982 autobiography Desert Exile, one of several important autobiographical works by Japanese Americans who were interned that portray internment as a pivotal moment in the formation of the author's personal and cultural identities.
She is also known for her children's novels, having been praised as "almost single-handedly creating a body of Japanese American literature for children, where none existed before.". In addition to Journey to Topaz, many of her other novels including Picture Bride, A Jar of Dreams and The Bracelet deal with Japanese American impressions of major historical events including World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II, and the racism endured by Japanese Americans during these years.
- "I try to stress the positive aspects of life that I want children to value and cherish. I hope they can be caring human beings who don't think in terms of labels--foreigners or Asians or whatever--but think of people as human beings. If that comes across, then I've accomplished my purpose."
This is a partial list of Uchida's published work.
- The Terrible Leak
- The Dancing Kettle and Other Japanese Folk Tales (1949)
- New Friends for Susan (1951)
- The Magic Listening Cap: More Folk Tales from Japan (1955)
- The Full Circle (1957)
- Takao and Grandfather's Sword (1958)
- The Promised Year (1959)
- Mik and the Prowler (1960)
- Rokubei and the Thousand Rice Bowls (1962)
- The Forever Christmas Tree (1963)
- Sumi's Prize (1964)
- The Sea of Gold, and Other Tales from Japan (1965)
- In-Between Maya (1967)
- Hisako's Mysteries (1969)
- Sumi and the Goat and the Tokyo Express (1969)
- Makoto, The Smallest Boy (1970)
- Journey to Topaz: A Story of the Japanese American Evacuation (1971)
- Journey Home (originally published as a short story.)
- Samurai of Gold Hill (1972)
- The Birthday Visitor (1975)
- The Rooster who Understood Japanese (1976)
- The Bracelet (1976)
- Jar of Dreams (1981)
- Desert Exile: The Uprooting of a Japanese-American Family (Autobiography) (1982)
- Best Bad Thing (1983)
- The Happiest Ending (1985)
- Picture Bride (1987)
- Invisible Thread: An Autobiography (1991)
- Magic Purse (1993)
- Two Foolish Cats
- The Magic Purse
- The Birthday Visitor
- The Wise Old Woman
- Tears of Autumn
- Jordan LH New Brockton honorary award
- Ford Foundation research fellowship in Japan, 1952
- Children's Spring Book Festival honor award, New York Herald Tribune, 1955, for The Magic Listening Cap
- American Library Association Notable Book citation, 1972, for Journey to Topaz
- Medal for best juvenile book by a California author, Commonwealth Club of California, 1972, for Samurai of Gold Hill;
- Award of Merit, California Association of Teachers of English, 1973
- Citation, Contra Costa chapter of Japanese American Citizens League, 1976, for outstanding contribution to the cultural development of society
- Morris S. Rosenblatt Award, Utah State Historical Society, 1981, for article, "Topaz, City of Dust"
- Distinguished Service Award, University of Oregon, 1981
- Commonwealth Club of California medal, 1982, for A Jar of Dreams
- Award from Berkeley Chapter of Japanese American Citizens League, 1983
- School Library Journal, Best Book of the Year citation, 1983, for The Best Bad Thing
- New York Public Library, Best Book of the Year citation, 1983, for The Best Bad Thing
- Best Book of 1985 citation, Bay Area Book Reviewers, 1985, for The Happiest Ending
- Child Study Association of America, Children's Book of the Year citation, 1985, for The Happiest Ending
- San Mateo and San Francisco Reading Associations, Young Authors' Hall of Fame award, 1985, for The Happiest Ending
- Friends of Children and Literature award, 1987, for A Jar of Dreams
- Japanese American of the Biennium award, Japanese American Citizens League, 1988, for outstanding achievement
- Yoshiko Uchida papers and photographs (some materials available online) at The Bancroft Library
- Guide to the Yoshiko Uchida papers at the University of Oregon