Synopses & Reviews
Even before internment, Japanese largely lived in separate cultural communities from their West Coast neighbors. The first-generation American children, the Nisei, were American citizens, spoke English, and were integrated in public schools, yet were also socially isolated in many ways from their peers and subject to racism. Their daughters especially found rapport in a flourishing network of ethnocultural youth organizations. Until now, these groups have remained hidden from the historical record, both because they were girls' groups and because evidence of them was considered largely ephemeral. In her second book, Valerie Matsumoto has recreated this hidden world of female friendship and comradery, tracing it from the Jazz age through internment to the postwar period. Matsumoto argues that these groups were more than just social outlets for Nisei teenage girls. Rather, she shows how they were critical networks during the wartime upheavals of Japanese Americans. Young Nisei women helped their families navigate internment and, more importantly, recreated communities when they returned to their homes in the immediate postwar period. This book will be a considerable contribution to our understanding of Japanese life in America, youth culture, ethnic history, urban history, and Western history. Matsumoto has interviewed and gained the trust of many (now old) women who were part of these girls' clubs.
"City girls indeed! A determined, spunky, hard-working, fun-loving group of women who endure hardship but also just wanted to have fun. Valerie Matsumoto brings their lively world to life through vivid and sympathetic prose. The Nisei women were simultaneously so American and so non-American, familiar and surprising. A wonderful recovery of history!" --Gordon H. Chang, Stanford University
"City Girls provides a vibrant, complex, and insider's view of Nisei women's social world before and after wartime incarceration and resettlement. It is a stellar tribute to the Nisei women who were adept at building ethnocultural networks while, at the same time, pushed against racial, ethnic, and gender boundaries in their pursuit of modern femininity and American status. It is historical scholarship and feminist writing at its best." --Judy Yung, author of Unbound Feet: A Social History of Chinese Women in San Francisco
Even before wartime incarceration, Japanese Americans largely lived in separate cultural communities from their West Coast neighbors. Although the Nisei children, the American-born second generation, were U.S. citizens and were integrated in public schools, they were socially isolated in many ways from their peers. These young women found rapport in ethnocultural youth organizations, a forgotten world of female friendship and camaraderie that Valerie J. Matsumoto recovers in this book.
About the Author
Valerie J. Matsumoto
is Professor of History and Asian American Studies at the UNiversity of California, Los Angeles.
Table of Contents
1. The Social World of the Urban Nisei
2. Shaping Japanese American Culture
3. Sounding the Dawn Bell: Developing Nisei Voices
4. Nisei Women's Roles in Family and Community during World War II
5. Reweaving the Web of Community in Postwar Southern California, 1945-1950