Yoshiko Uchida, a writer of children's books about the Japanese-American experience, died on Sunday at the Alta Bates Medical Center in Berkeley, Calif. She was 70 years old and lived in Berkeley.
She died after a stroke, said her literary agent, Barbara Kouts.
Ms. Uchida wrote 29 books from 1949 to 1991. They included 27 books for children, a volume of memoirs "Desert Exile: the Uprooting of a Japanese-American Family," which the University of Washington Press published in 1982, and "The Invisible Thread," an autobiography written for teen-agers and published by Julian Messner in 1991.
"The graceful and lively books of Yoshiko Uchida have drawn on the author's own childhood to document the Japanese-American experience" in fiction for her young audience, Patty Campbell wrote in a review of Ms. Uchida's "Happiest Ending" (Atheneum, 1985) in The New York Times Book Review.
She was born in Alameda, Calif., to parents who were both born and educated in Japan and then immigrated to California early this century. She was reared in Berkeley and received a B.A. degree from the University of California at Berkeley and a master's degree in education from Smith College.
She is survived by a sister, Keiko Kakutani, who lives outside New Haven.Continue reading the main story
|Born||(1921-11-24)November 24, 1921|
Alameda, California United States
|Died||June 21, 1992(1992-06-21) (aged 70)|
Berkeley, California United States
|Occupation||short story writer, editor, novelist, children's book author, teacher|
|Genre||fiction, folktales, nonfiction, autobiography|
|Literary movement||Folk Art Movement|
Yoshiko Uchida (November 24, 1921 – June 21, 1992) was a Japanese American writer.
Yoshiko Uchida was born in Alameda, California, on November 24, 1921, the daughter of Takashi ("Dwight") and Iku Umegaki Uchida. She had an older sister, Keiko.
Yoshiko Uchida graduated early from high school in the 1940s and enrolled at University of California, Berkeley at sixteen. The Uchidas were living 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. Thousands of Japanese and Japanese Americans, regardless of their U.S. citizenship, lost their homes, property, jobs, civil liberties, and human dignity.
The Uchidas were not spared. Her father was questioned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and he and his family, including Yoshiko, were 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 not only the injustices which the Americans were perpetrating, but the varying reactions of Japanese Americans towards their ill-treatment.
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.
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.". 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."
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.
This is a partial list of Uchida's published work. Yoshiko Uchida wrote 34 books.
- Jordan LH New Brockton honorary award
- Ford Foundation research fellowship in Japan, 1952
- Children's Spring Book Festival honor award, New York Herald Tribune, 1955, for The Magic Listening Cap
- American Library Association Notable Book citation, 1972, for Journey to Topaz
- Medal for best juvenile book by a California author, Commonwealth Club of California, 1972, for Samurai of Gold Hill;
- Award of Merit, California Association of Teachers of English, 1973
- Citation, Contra Costa chapter of Japanese American Citizens League, 1976, for outstanding contribution to the cultural development of society
- Morris S. Rosenblatt Award, Utah State Historical Society, 1981, for article, "Topaz, City of Dust"
- Distinguished Service Award, University of Oregon, 1981
- Commonwealth Club of California medal, 1982, for A Jar of Dreams
- Award from Berkeley Chapter of Japanese American Citizens League, 1983
- School Library Journal, Best Book of the Year citation, 1983, for The Best Bad Thing
- New York Public Library, Best Book of the Year citation, 1983, for The Best Bad Thing
- Best Book of 1985 citation, Bay Area Book Reviewers, 1985, for The Happiest Ending
- Child Study Association of America, Children's Book of the Year citation, 1985, for The Happiest Ending
- San Mateo and San Francisco Reading Associations, Young Authors' Hall of Fame award, 1985, for The Happiest Ending
- Friends of Children and Literature award, 1987, for A Jar of Dreams
- Japanese American of the Biennium award, Japanese American Citizens League, 1988, for outstanding achievement
- ^"Yoshiko Uchida, 70, A Children's Author", The New York Times, June 24, 1992
- ^Encyclopedia of World Biography, accessed November 7, 2006
- ^Grice, Helena. "Yoshiko Uchida" in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 312: Asian American Writers. Gale, 2005.