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Posts Tagged ‘multicultural’

My friend was born and raised in Hawaii. His parents were Japanese-American. His mother was sent to an internment camp during World War II. It’s a complicated story how she got released and ended up in Japan for the war’s duration. Something like a prisoner swap. She returned to Hawaii after the war and raised a family.

My friend was invited to talk to fifth graders about his mother’s experience in the camp. He was reluctant. It’s painful to think about. Would young children get it?

In the end, he went, and it was a good experience for him as well as for the kids. I think he had an impact on how they think about differences in our multicultural society. And their curiosity and understanding was a comfort to him.

Here is what he put on Facebook this spring.

“Last week I spoke to two classes of fifth graders about my mom’s experience in a Japanese-American relocation camp during World War II. After the talk, one of the students asked me why the Japanese-Americans had been relocated to camps but the German-Americans hadn’t. Wow, I could have hugged that boy for asking such a perceptive question, and I was also touched by how the students were able to draw a parallel between the Japanese-American discrimination decades ago and the anti-Muslim sentiment that’s currently been gaining so much traction in the U.S. and elsewhere.”

My friend posted a family photo that he goes on to describe. It is not the photo I put below.

“This photo, taken in the mid 1930s, is of my mom and her younger sister when they were growing up in downtown Honolulu, before they were forced to relocate to a camp in Arkansas. My mom looks like she’s around the age of the students I was talking to last week, and when I showed those students this photo I got a little emotional imagining my mom as a young girl being in that classroom too, listening to me tell her story. In such ways, our stories really do have such raw power to connect people through different generations and cultures, which, I suppose, is why I first became interested in becoming a writer all those years ago.”

America has always needed people like my friend’s mother — people who carry on and return benefits to the place that harmed them. And there are lots of them. Even in the town where I live, a couple who suffered internment during the war became quietly known for philanthropy to both the Nisei Student Relocation Commemorative Fund, Inc. and our town, donating all their reparation money to local high school scholarships.

Photo: Dorothea Lange
Some Japanese-Americans who suffered from internment in World War II
still chose to return kindness for hurt after the war.

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Back in first-grade, we learned to read from books featuring invariably blond, blue-eyed children. Today, primers have more variety, but multicultural pleasure reading, where it exists, is not always available to poor children.

Leslie Kaufman wrote recently at the NY Times that a  “nonprofit called First Book, which promotes literacy among children in low-income communities, announced the Stories for All project, a program intended to prod publishers to print more multicultural books. …

“In a 2012 study, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison evaluated some 3,600 books, looking for multicultural content. Of the books examined, 3.3 percent were found to be about African-Americans, 2.1 percent were about Asian-Pacific Americans, 1.5 percent were about Latinos and 0.6 percent were about American Indians.” More.

First Book picked two winning publishers in its first Stories for All competition — HarperCollins and Lee & Low Books — and purchased $500,000-worth of books from them. The books “will be available beginning in May through the First Book Marketplace, a website offering deeply discounted books and educational materials exclusively to schools and programs serving kids in need.”

Among the books are:  “Shooter”, Walter Dean Myers (HarperCollins); “Tofu Quilt”, Ching Yueng (Lee & Low Books); “In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson”, Bette Bao Lord (HarperCollins); “The Storyteller’s Candle: La Velita de Los Cuentos”, Lucia Gonzalez (Lee & Low Books); “El Bronx Remembered: A Novella and Stories”, Nicholasa Mohr (HarperCollins); and “Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story”, Ken Mochizuki (Lee & Low Books).

More information at FirstBook.org.

Photograph: Strategies for Children

kids--teacher

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In case you missed it (ICYMI, as they say on twitter), National Public Radio had a delightful story about Irish Jews last weekend:

“St. Patrick’s Day in New York now means parades and green beer. But 50 years ago, it also meant green matzo balls at the annual banquet of the Loyal League of Yiddish Sons of Erin. The league was a fraternal organization of Irish-born Jews.

“The major migration of Jews to Ireland started in the 1880s and ’90s, says Hasia Diner, who teaches history and Judaic studies at New York University. Thousands moved [to Ireland], primarily from Lithuania. …

” ‘Then the Irish Jews, as Jews historically did, they went to where there were better economic opportunities,’ Diner says.

“A lot of Irish Jews found those opportunities in New York. Like many immigrant groups, they kept their culture alive in the New World. And in the early 1960s, they formed the Yiddish Sons of Erin.

“According to member Rosalyn Klein, the whole thing started as a joke. … A restaurant took out a newspaper ad for a meeting of Irish Jews. Klein thinks they didn’t really expect people, but a lot of them showed up.

” ‘And most of them had lived in Dublin, so it was kind of this mishpocha getting together again,’ she says.”

For many years after, a big Jewish St. Patrick’s Day celebration was held in New York and was de rigeur for politicians and celebrities.

More here.

Photo: SmittenKitchen.com.
This is a normal matzo ball. I couldn’t find a green one.

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