What a difference five years makes: the latest news

To get one of these, e-mail nwgsdpdx@gmail.com

And hello again to you too. Such news from here!

I met recently with a group of concerned friends who want to take action after this year’s election. We had a union organizer meet with us to talk about tactics, and it was so helpful.

But I also want to remember the first thing he said to us–even though the larger elections might have felt difficult, we also need to celebrate the gains that have been made in the last eight years and even in this election.

There have been difficult and wonderful things about this year for me professionally, too. But I’m starting to look back and five years after leaving academia, it’s amazing that I can just introduce myself to people as a writer. A freelance writer, arts writer, community journalist. So much gratitude to my family, and to my editors, including Hanna Brooks Olsen , Alan Lau (International Examiner), Omar Willey and Jose Amador (Seattle Star), Yoko Nishimura (Discover Nikkei), Tara Austen Weaver (Edible Seattle), and Jennifer Niesslein (Full Grown People). You have all encouraged me, nudged me out into the community, and made me a better writer.

Since graduation day, I’ve been working on so many projects, an abundance ventolin inhaler no prescription australia really. I’ve learned so much. Here are my recent projects and news:

Stay tuned for more news about these events:

  • My first published interview as an author should be up at The Rumpus in February 2017.
  • I’ll be reading in Seattle with some friends, also in February 2017.

Five years ago, I couldn’t have predicted that this is where I would end up. I’m so happy to be here still. Thank you for reading. I’ll keep going.

In print

Here is a link to Kartika Review, the wonderful Asian American literary magazine that accepted my creative nonfiction essay, “How It Feels to Inherit Camp.” You can download the essay and the issue, but please consider buying a copy of the journal itself–it is a small, volunteer-operated nonprofit organization. Even before I submitted anything to the journal, I had been reading and using it as a resource in my literature classrooms. It incorporates both established and emerging generic ventolin inhaler voices in Asian American literature, and I’m honored to be included in this season’s issue. This month’s issue includes an interview with Jessica Hagedorn, who is one of my very favorite Asian American authors.

As some folks might remember, I tried out a version of the essay here, in this space, and the comments here encouraged me to submit it. It’s a heady thing to see it in print. Thank you, everyone, for reading.

An interlude

My mom’s visiting this week, and she brought more papers and objects from the archive, also known as her garage. And though I haven’t even finished writing about my dad’s manuscript, I’ve got a whole new set of documents to feed the book project. A letter from his chess-playing friend, along with a sheaf of computer chess score sheets. My dad’s old 5-year diary, from the early-to-mid 1950s. The diary itself will take a while: each whole day compressed into about an inch of space. Each page has five years of the same day. In some ways it reminds me of a Twitter feed, a Facebook status update. Perhaps the technology of documenting our days isn’t so different.

There are difficult documents in this batch: a copy of my dad’s death certificate, which means that I can now request his military records. A copy of the first and last Father’s Day poem that I wrote for my dad; he died in June. Hard. And harder still: the poem’s folded inside a copy of the eulogy that my uncle delivered at the funeral. A small gift from the eulogy: according to my uncle, my dad was conscious enough to read my poem before he died.

These are papers that I haven’t seen in years, if at all.

I’ve been thinking about my family archives: all those garages, all those places where we’ve kept paper traces of our lives. I’ve got my own archive growing a life of its own in my basement. “Nimuras,” my grandfather once mused, with some disgust, “are notorious pack rats.” What if we took that pack-rat tendency into historical ventolin inhaler usa context, with the Depression, with the dispossession of internment? (And, yes: am I just excusing our love for clutter?) I wonder how long it takes my family to go back through those boxes, if at all.

In fact, a couple of nights ago, I woke up wondering about my own pack-rat tendency to keep everything, but rarely look back at it all. Why has it taken me so long to begin this book project, to go back through the family archive? The metaphor may be too obvious: put everything into a box, and imagine that the keeping will be enough. But as most historians and librarians would probably tell you, an archive’s almost no good until somebody processes it, makes sense of it, organizes it. The literary critic in me would add: and makes it into narrative.

Can memory work the same way as archives? Can you bury memories desperately, leave them untouched for years, and return to them intact? And if not, is this one reason why we need physical archives?

What draws me back to this archive, this set of memories about my dad, is something I can only describe as an insistent tug. I don’t think that nostalgia is drawing me back, if nostalgia means the desire to look back, relive, find pleasure in the bittersweetness of the loss.

It’s more like the reason you might press a bruise. Yes, that’s still there. Yes, it still hurts. But maybe your fingers want to return to that mark, precisely because it’s a visible sign that you have hit something hard and survived. You press it, and wonder if it’s healed yet.

(Approximately) Five Questions About Writing, History, & Technology: Hans Ostrom

With the shift in new routines, I’m missing a few things that I know the non-private MFA would offer: externally-imposed structure and accountability. But! I’m a Capricorn, as I’ve said, and usually good with internally-imposed deadlines.

So with the beginning of a new school year, it’s time for a new assignment. To help with more regular posts, I’m introducing a new occasional feature here: a series of short interviews with writers, historians, and anyone else who’s interested in questions of writing, history, technology, and memory.

Today’s inaugural series post is a short interview with my good friend and colleague, Hans Ostrom. One of my favorite stories about Hans is our very first meeting. I’d done some research before we met, and saw that we’d gone to the same high school. I realized that my high school principal also had the same last name, and so I asked Hans if they were related. Hans raised his eyebrows, dropped his jaw, turned slightly paler, and actually dropped the paper he was holding. My high school principal was (is) Hans’s older brother. Hans and I have worked together now for almost seven years.


KikuGirl (KG): In the “customary” Google/Wikipedia search, I couldn’t find any interviews with you! Are you that reclusive? Has anyone called you the J.D. Salinger of Tacoma, or Sierra City, where you grew up?

Hans Ostrom (HO): Ah, this one is easy. There are no interviews because no one has been interested in interviewing me.  I like the interview as a genre, and I don’t mind being interviewed.  One problem, if it’s a problem, is that I have written in a bunch of genres—poetry, fiction, scholarship, criticism, journalism, textbooks, encyclopedias, blogging, etc.  I think if I’d decided on one thing early on, I might be better known as a writer of that thing—be it poetry or mystery novels or whatever.  But I love to try different kinds of writing. I would say I’m solitary—writing-groups, for instance, have not worked for me, and I’m terrible at literary politics—rubbing elbows, going to the right conferences, etc.  So by default, not really design, I’m a lone wolf and a contrarian. But I’m not reclusive, and  always thought Salinger was simply bizarre.  Whereas I’m simply obscure.  I think bizarre pays better.

KG: Speaking of all of that writing: you write and publish more, both in hard-copy print and online, than just about anyone I know. (Maybe you’re the Joyce Carol Oates of the West Coast.) In addition to the multiple, regularly-updated blogs, there’s the edited encyclopedia of African American literature, there’s the poetry collection, the textbooks about creative writing, the scholarly studies, the detective novel, and probably a whole other set of writings I haven’t discovered yet. How do you produce so much, so consistently?

HO: I’m probably a compulsive writer.  Not an obsessive one, but a compulsive one.  I just love to write, so I write more or less all the time—in waiting rooms, in bed, sometimes while watching TV.  I do very well with deadlines, which are a kind of drug for compulsive writers.  This all may have started at community college, where I had a full-time academic schedule, worked as an R.A., and wrote sports articles for local newspapers.  This required multitasking and writing quickly.  So I just tend to plunge in and write and then see what I have later, as opposed to a lot of planning, outlining, etc.—although these are often necessary, too.  And one genre tends to carom off the other, so in the midst of an  encyclopedia entry, you might get an idea for a poem.  [KG: I love this idea.] Writing is probably also my way of processing the world, perhaps of coping.

KG: In your historical novel Honoring Juanita, there are several metaphors for history. There’s the standard history as “the dusty, distant past”; history as the recurring, haunting Juanita; history as the origin of objects (the ventolin buy online trees that the main character, Mary, uses in her woodcarvings); history as sedimented levels of trees and nature. What did writing historical fiction do for you that reading written histories might not have?

Mary is a kind of poet, and I think poets are mad to make history “real”: palpable, something you can touch and smell.  Of course, this is impossible, as history is past, is gone.  Its effects aren’t gone, but it is, so it always exists once or twice removed. Perhaps my favorite metaphor is the sediment/compost one, history as a slow building up, an accumulation, something that feeds the present, for better or worse—good compost vs. unhealthy compost. A woodcarver, Mary wants to get her hands on Juanita, but of course she can’t.

KG: Elsewhere, you’ve written about the Kindle and e-books, and you (like I) have lived from dial phones to IPhones. How do you think these forms of digital technologies will impact our reading habits, and our memories?

HO: I think they are revolutionizing reading and writing—right now.  And this will only accelerate.  There’s something called “Moore’s law,” which is that micro-chip storage capacity doubles every 12-24 months.  I think you’re seeing an erosion, even a collapse, of publishing hierarchies.  Vested interests need to try to prevent this from happening, but I don’t know if they can. We could be witnessing a vast democratization of writing and publishing, and I love it.  The old way depended upon an economy of false scarcity, which is reinforced by rigid ideas of “genius,” by making art mysterious (“it can’t be taught”), a fixed canon, only so many slots open for “great” writers, etc.  Many people are nostalgic for this setup, but I’m not.  Interestingly, you can archive books with Amazon  after you’ve read them on Kindle, so there is a chance that people will leave their Kindles to their children—a library of hundreds of books, maybe thousands, if we go by Moore’s number.  Few saw this coming.  Huge personal libraries owned by everyday folk.  At the same time, we may also be entering an era in which most people don’t have the patience to read for a long time or to read complex things.  Don’t get me wrong—I love books as books, as artifacts, but I also love these new developments.  It’s not an either/or question for me.

KG: What’s your favorite metaphor for history, or your favorite quotation about it, and why?

HO: The compost one I mentioned. I think maybe another expression would be “a necessary illusion.”  That is, history represents what is gone, but we need an illusion of its still being there, so we continually create  illusions of past—in our personal lives, in history books, in the media (“founding fathers,” “the greatest generation”).

Where history is still alive is its effects, and oddly enough, people are often reticent to accept that reality; thus the U.S. has never fully come to terms with the effects of  slavery, for example (just one example—there are many).  A kind of deep denial festers, therefore—and you see it coming out in the overreaction to Obama’s being elected.  He is as moderate as Eisenhower, but confused racist reactions drive people to make him some kind of Other—socialist, Kenyan, proto-dictator.

I can’t think of a favorite quotation, but I’m sure it would be something  ironic, something to let the pretentious steam out of history.  There’s probably one from Wilde or Twain.


I’m honored—and frankly, surprised—to note that this is Hans’s first interview. And it’s my first written interview, too. Many thanks to Hans for being the first contestant, and for playing along.

Writing, history, and technology are going to be important in my book, so these interviews are also a form of research. If you know anyone who would be interested in being interviewed for this series, please send me a message at kikugirl (at) kikugirl dot net.

Findings in fractions

Music Scores at the Seattle Central Public Library

Here’s a paradox to consider. I’ve got a lot to think about, so you’ll have to look past the academic scaffolding.

First premise: There are very few traces of my dad on the Internet.

You can Google “Taku Nimura,” or “Taku Frank Nimura,” and there isn’t very much connected to him, or who he was. I have active e-mail accounts, a Facebook account, a Twitter account, a SheWrites.com page… and as a new daughter of this digital age, it makes me sad that you can’t Google my dad*, for lack of a better term. You can’t find his obituary, the most stripped-down version of a life outline (except for the tombstone inscription), in online newspaper archives.

(Maybe I will create a Wikipedia page about him, but there’s still so much that I need to know. And one wonders: if what makes someone “historic” is debatable, what makes someone Wikipedia-page-worthy?)

And so I wonder about the countless individuals who do not have an online presence, even now; I wonder about the connection between the Internet and identity. I’m not saying that Google should be the only way to find out information, but it’s the first stop for so many, for so much. I wonder about the impact technology will have on my daughters, and the impact it’s had so far. I wonder about them finding out more about their grandfather, in an age where they can’t find him, through search engines that mark their findings in fractions of a second.

Second premise: And yet, Internet technology gave me these things:

1. Pictures I’d never seen before of my dad, from a long-lost friend of his on Facebook. “Are those his granddaughters I’m looking at in your profile picture?” she asks. And that’s a relationship I had not yet connected with my father: he would be a grandfather, my daughters would be his granddaughters.

2. A blog comment here, from someone who knew my dad—during a time when I know so little about his life. I’m not sure we would have found each other without the Internet. I’m so excited to find out more.

I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to realize this next thought, and my ten-year-old self would have resisted this, I’m sure. But here goes: my dad never belonged just to me, or just to my family. He also ventolin usa belonged to his friends, and other communities I’d never known or seen. The memoir that my sister and I are writing, then, may not be just a “dual” or “triple” memoir; it may also be something like a community memoir. I want to ask more people what they remember about him.

3. His Masters thesis in Public Administration and a bibliography that he wrote about Japanese in the United States. (Coming soon from Interlibrary loan, more Internet: cross your fingers!)

4. And this page from the California State Sacramento Library catalog, which makes me so happy. Taking my cue from my wonderful university reference librarians, I know that Google does not see everything. There is, however, a great deal of less-Google-able information, available from libraries.

5. A bookstore in Sacramento selling a poetry anthology; one of the poets is my dad.

Last part of the paradox: what does it mean?

Perhaps more obviously, search engines can erase (or obscure) an identity, but it can also restore an identity, in completely unexpected ways.

In the project I want to think more about what that means about humanity’s urges to record, document, remember. Google might not get me a quick answer about my dad, and I’m not sure I want it to do that, anyway. But I can still find him—or fractions of him—through these vast oceans of time and memory.

Despite our rapid technological changes, I think he would have loved our here and now. He wrote so many letters to friends and family. (My first copyediting job, by the way: proofreading those typewritten letters.) I think he’d have an active Facebook account, to share pictures of his granddaughters. And I can almost see him writing witty status updates. Like me, I think he’d share anecdotes about his family, menus of evening dinners, pictures from his travels.

Librarians, writers, readers: our human urge is to connect.

In the book I’ll be writing more about each of these artifacts. For now, I’m remembering that writing the book is one way to put my father’s presence back in the world.

The paradox rephrased: I’m writing both through, and despite, a technology and history that might otherwise erase my father.

*The dystopic novel I’m reading right now–set in the “not so distant future” describes such a person as “ITP” (Impossible To Preserve).

This picture says a lot about where, how, and why I’m traveling, taken at the Seattle Central Public Library:

Opening the envelope

I could tell you that it smelled yellow. Not in a diseased, Charlotte-Perkins-Gilman way. Not in an inscrutable, exotic, “Oriental” way.  It smelled like Northern California summer sunlight coming through shoji screen paper.

I could tell you that it smelled, predictably, like aging paper. But that might only tell you so much. If you haunt used bookstores like I do, you’d probably recognize the smell. You’d also know it if you’ve done a lot of research in the archives, or shelving in the library stacks. This week we took a family walk down the spiral stacks at the Seattle Central Public Library, and as we rounded a corner, something like that smell greeted me.

The envelope smelled, as my husband Josh pointed out to me, like my childhood house. When I was growing up, we had touches of Japanese décor around the house: a few kokeshi dolls, a noren that fluttered in the main entrance to the hallway, even a tokonoma with a bright red painting. But for me it’s the shoji screens over our windows and glass doors that quietly say home. That’s the smell: the yellow, the paper, the light.

Since I love paper with a cocooning fervor that would make a silkworm blush (another post, another time), you’d think that the feel of the paper would be my first sensory hit. I’ve had this envelope for years now, and it’s been at my mom’s house for a couple of decades before that, probably unopened.

But at first, I was too tentative to rub the paper between my fingers. I even did some writing before I opened the envelope; I wrote down the questions that I wanted to ask. During internment, how did you and our family deal with loss? How did you deal with the loss of your possessions, of your house, of your family papers and baby pictures? And the difficult, near-impossible questions: How have I dealt, or not dealt, with your loss? How do we endure?

It took me a week to think about those questions. I haven’t read the manuscript since I was eight or nine years buy ventolin without prescription old: almost twenty-five years ago. Then a week later, I wrote down why I was so afraid of opening the envelope. I’m scared that it’s going to make me cry and realize his loss all over again. I hate crying. I hate having lost him.

On my computer desktop, I opened up and looked at an old photo of my father. I wanted to say something like a prayer, but I didn’t know what to ask for. I don’t really pray, if we’re being very honest here.

I couldn’t think, didn’t say, probably felt: please.

Then I opened the envelope. Lately I’ve been worried that the manuscript inside the envelope has been deteriorating. But I noticed that though the first and last pages are a bit tattered, the bond paper’s doing its very best to stand up to the manual typewriter. In an age of slick laser printouts, there’s something engraved, almost letterpressed, about these typewritten pages.

And at the bottom of the very first page, he left me an unexpected gift.

Taku Frank Nimura

December, 1973

Out of the two-hundred plus manuscript pages, it’s this one that I just might cherish the most. He wrote this book—or at least this page—during the month and year that I was born. He died eleven years later.

In the wake of a recent loss, private for now, I am beginning to write my own book. It’s a book that speaks to my father, that will interweave his voice with the voice and artwork of my sister. I don’t know where this project will take us, but I know it’s about memory, family, technology, loss, and home. And it’s about the precariously shifting aftermath of history, or what I’ve come to think of as the wake.

The wake? Stand near the back of a ferry boat, and watch the waters below. As the boat engine starts, the waters will seem to hum. All that unseen energy will churn itself into a thick, gorgeous procession of rippling upheaval. We know the procession will eventually disappear. And so we treasure the wake because we are always leaving it behind.