Yoshiko Uchida

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Yoshiko Uchida
Born(1921-11-24)November 24, 1921
Alameda, California United States
DiedJune 21, 1992(1992-06-21) (aged 70)
Berkeley, California United States[1]
Genrefiction, folktales, nonfiction, autobiography
Literary movementFolk Art Movement
Notable worksThe Invisible Thread
RelativesKeiko Uchida (sister)
Iku Uchida (mother)
Dwight Uchida (father)
Michiko Kakutani (niece)[2]

Yoshiko Uchida (November 24, 1921 – June 21, 1992) was a Japanese American writer.

Early life and education[edit]

Yoshiko Uchida was born in Alameda, California on November 24, 1921, the daughter of Takashi ("Dwight," 1884-1971) and Iku Umegaki Uchida (1893-1966). She had an older sister, Keiko ("Kay," 1918-2008, mother of former New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani and married to mathematician Shizuo Kakutani).[3] She graduated from high school at sixteen and enrolled at University of California, Berkeley.[3]


The Uchidas lived 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. Uchida's father was questioned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the whole family was 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 the injustices that the Americans were perpetrating and the varying reactions of Japanese Americans towards their ill-treatment.[3]

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.[3]


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."[4] 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.[5]

Over the course of her career, Uchida published more than thirty books, including non-fiction for adults, and fiction for children and teenagers. She died in 1992.

Work on Japanese folk pottery[edit]

In 1952, Uchida received a Ford Foundation Fellowship to study the folk pottery movement in Japan.[6] She spent two years researching and becoming acquainted with major figures in that artistic current, including Shoji Hamada and Kanjiro Kawai. Uchida wrote a book with Kawai, We Do Not Work Alone: The Thoughts of Kanjiro Kawai.[7] She collected several pots by Hamada and Kawai that she later donated to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.[8]


This is a partial list of Uchida's published work. Yoshiko Uchida wrote 34 books.


  1. ^ "Yoshiko Uchida, 70, A Children's Author", The New York Times, June 24, 1992
  2. ^ Kakutani, Michiko (July 13, 2018), "I Know What Incarceration Does to Families. It Happened to Mine.", The New York Times
  3. ^ a b c d Niiya, Bruce. "Yoshiko Uchida". Densho. Retrieved July 14, 2018.
  4. ^ Encyclopedia of World Biography, accessed November 7, 2006
  5. ^ Grice, Helena. "Yoshiko Uchida" in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 312: Asian American Writers. Gale, 2005.
  6. ^ Uchida, Yoshiko. "Fellowship application to John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation; October 11, 1958" (PDF).
  7. ^ Uchida, Yoshiko (1973). We Do Not Work Alone: The Thoughts of Kanjiro Kawai. Kanjiro Kawai's House.
  8. ^ Asian Art Museum. "Description of plate by Hamada Shoji". Asian Art Museum Online Collection. Retrieved February 20, 2021.

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