Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly 33:3 (Summer 2013)
Studies of Japanese immigration into North America generally focus on the larger Hawaiian and West Coast populations, but there is a small body of work on other areas, including New York, Texas, and the Canadian heartland. The core of Eric Walz’s book is a pioneering sourcerich examination of Japanese immigration and settlement experiences in the American West, including Nebraska, but excluding the coastal states and Midwest. As long as its focus stays on these sparsely distributed migrants, the book is an interesting addition to the literature, though not a final word. The decision to include Japanese historical and cultural context is admirable, though executed poorly, and the decision to close the narrative at the end of World War II leaves later developments unresolved.
Walz introduces and demonstrates stages of immigrant ethnic formation, from initial forays into a new frontier, individual settlement and family stages, and finally construction of ethnic communities with local, regional, national, and sometimes international connections. These central chapters feature vivid details drawn from oral histories, memoirs, diaries, newspapers, and government records. The presentation is roughly chronological, guided by concepts of diasporic ethnic formation found in recent scholarship on Japanese and other migrations. While this is not a comparative study, discussion of Latter-day Saint communities as another ethnic tradition occupying much of the same geography is fascinating and productive.