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Art: Jana Brenning.
The above novel by Alden Hayashi came into being partly because he wanted to write about his mother’s WW II trauma and the incarceration of innocent Japanese Americans in camps. It’s also about the difficulty of coming out to a very cautious parent as a gay man.

I’ve been telling friends, especially friends in book groups, to check out Alden Hayashi’s novel. It’s based on his relationship with his reticent Japanese American mother, who suffered injustice at the hands of the US, her birth country — a history she long kept hidden. Since publication, the book has found an audience not only in the Japanese American community, but among other Americans. After all, this is our history, and we need to Face History.

Alden had a lot of experience from his day job ghost-writing books for management consultants and others, and he thought it would have been ideal if he had been able to ghost-write his mother’s story. But as he explained in one of the online book discussions he’s been invited to attend lately, his mother didn’t begin to open up about her history until late in life, and he could tell that some of the dates were getting confused. He had already learned a lot on his own by research into obscure government documents and by attending a Japanese American group’s visit to his mother’s infamous camp in Arkansas. (Americans used to refer to these camps as “internment camps,” but they are more properly called “concentration camps.”)

I do not think that making this history part of a book about the gay son coming out in a family conditioned against being the “nail that sticks up” has kept it from being a good novel. If anything, the mother’s story made the son’s feel more real, and the son’s story helped show the consequences of an early trauma for a future parent.

But the aspect that will rivet you the most is learning that many of these Americans were rounded up from the camps to be exchanged with Americans trapped in Japan and occupied Asia. The first group that went “home” were in fact Japanese people who wanted to go. But for Americans like Alden’s mother, home was Hawaii, her birthplace. She had never even visited Japan. And her family was being sent to a country they felt they were at war with. In fact, her brother fought and died for the US alongside other Japanese Americans. The family definitely did not find a warm welcome when they got to Japan.

I’d read many intriguing vignettes about this history on Alden’s Facebook page and was thrilled it got into a book. No wonder he bristled during the years 2016-2020, when a whole religion was considered terrorist by some powerful people. He was so afraid of history repeating itself.

Be sure to look for the moment when the mother in the novel visits the Statue of Liberty with her grown son. Find the book here.

Check out this interesting conversation between Alden and another Japanese American author.

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Photo: @JasonThorne_RPP on Twitter
Seattle artist Stacy Milrany has come up with a new twist on the Little Free Library concept: Take some art, leave some art.

You know about the Little Free Library movement (e.g., here and at Fake Flamenco, here). And you know about the miniature art gallery that blossomed in Boston at the start of the pandemic (here). But did you know about the Little Free Art Library in Seattle? You may be interested to see how the idea evolved from something the artist had done for her mother. Cathy Free at the Washington Post has the story.

“Stacy Milrany probably runs the only art gallery in the country where visitors are encouraged to walk away with the art. And as far as she knows, her Little Free Art Gallery in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood is likely the only museum where all of the works will fit neatly in a pocket.

“Milrany’s miniature gallery, which opened for public view on Dec. 13, sits five feet off the ground inside a white wooden box in front of her house. The head curator and painter said she based her idea on the popular Little Free Libraries in neighborhoods coast to coast.

‘The idea is pretty simple — anyone is welcome to leave a piece, take a piece or just have a look around and enjoy what’s inside,’ said Milrany, a painter who runs a small, appointment-only gallery featuring her works. …

“Milrany gave her wee museum a contemporary design [and] installed a tiny bench and small plastic people who, she said, appear to be reflecting on the art. The bench and people are part of the permanent collection and not for the taking. …

“Said Milrany, ‘Just the surprise of seeing what people put in there has made this super fun for me.’ So far, she has seen works featuring bulldogs, masked heroes and a chicken farmer, as well as intricate collages and painted seashells.

“It was March 2019 when she first started creating miniature art pieces. … Milrany’s mother had just been diagnosed with cancer and was about to begin chemotherapy treatment in Portland, Ore., about 2½ hours away from her home.

“ ‘I decided if I couldn’t be with her every day she was going through treatment, I could offer a little piece of something via UPS every single day — something made by a human hand to add some brightness to those dark days,’ she said.

“Friends and gallery visitors offered to help when they learned what Milrany was doing for her mother, and together they created 140 pieces of mixed-media pieces of art measuring 4-by-6 inches each. Her mother, who is now healthy, said the daily deliveries helped her to get through the most difficult time of her life, Milrany said.

“When the pandemic took hold in Seattle last year, she decided to expand her idea and paint 500 more small artworks and send them to people who were isolated because of the virus. She called her project ‘Dose of Art.’

“ ‘I put a notice on Instagram and people started asking me to mail them to people who were in nursing homes or their moms or dads who were home alone,’ Milrany said. …

“Then last month, Milrany came up with the idea for her Little Free Art Gallery.

“A carpenter friend helped her build an 18-by-15-inch cedar display case, paint it white and install it on a post out front, along with a sign:

“ ‘Welcome to the smallest free-est art gallery in the world. Have a look around! If you’d like to take a piece, please leave another piece in its place for the next art-lover who comes around.’ …

“ ‘In three days, 10 pieces had come and gone,’ Milrany said. She was a bit saddened, however, to discover that one of her plastic miniature gallery figures — a character she named Chef — had gone missing.

“Milrany posted a sign asking for the return of her ‘4.7 inch chef and arts patron’ — and a week later, an anonymous donor mailed her an entire new set of whimsical plastic people to place inside the museum. …

“Many of the people who tuck artwork inside her gallery are Seattle-area artists, delighted to find a new venue for their work.

“Artist A. McLean Emenegger created a piece that features her grandfather as a young man, enjoying some time with a friend. ‘It’s a nod to joyful abandon,’ said Emenegger, 53, who added beeswax, sewing thread and bits of turquoise and coral to an old family photo for her contribution. … She said, ‘There’s something charming and reassuring about the Little Free Library concept. And translating that into an art exchange is genius.’

“Burton Holt, an artist who primarily creates works with found objects, donated a piece he’d made from colorful rubber bands. ‘The gallery is a real shot in the arm for the neighborhood in these difficult times,’ said Holt, 80, a retired ship captain.”

More at the Washington Post, here. Follow Milrany on Instagram @stacy_milrany_art.

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As long as health insurance is out of reach for so many, creative approaches to coverage are likely to keep sprouting up.

I knew a doctor 30 years ago who took care of elderly single people for life — and inherited their houses. He ended up with a lot of houses.

More recently, CBSNewYork/AP reported that “a new program lets uninsured New York City artists exchange their art for medical services.

“Tony-Award winning actor Lin-Manuel Miranda and rapper and radio personality Roxanne Shante helped launch the ‘Lincoln Art Exchange’ at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx” early this year.

“Under the program, artists will earn ‘health credits’ for every creative service they perform. In exchange they’ll be able to obtain doctor’s visits, laboratory tests, hospitalization, emergency care, dental care and prescriptions at Lincoln.” Read more at CBS Local.

I would be interested in other unusual examples of how people are accessing care today.

Photograph: nyc.gov

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A website affiliated with Fast Company and called FastCo.Exist has some interesting information on sustainability.

Consider the article showing how Mexico City is promoting several public goods simultaneously. The city’s environmental agency recently launched Mercado de Trueque, a barter market where recyclable materials are exchanged for fresh food to support the city’s farmlands.

Michael Coren reports: ” ‘This innovative program is designed to show citizens directly and tangibly how what we call trash becomes raw materials. If solid waste is properly separated, it still has value,’ writes the Ministry of Environment (in Spanish). The market accepts glass, paper and cardboard, aluminum beverage cans, PET plastic bottles, and returns ‘green points’ redeemable for agricultural products grown in and around Mexico City, including lettuce, prickly pears, spinach, tomatoes, plants, and flowers.” More here.

Co.Exist also has an article by Ariel Schwartz on how you may track where the things you buy come from. For example, your canned tuna. Check it out.

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