Mine Okubo

Following Her Own Road

Edited by Greg Robinson and Elena Tajima Creef

  • $30.00s paperback (9780295987743) Add to Cart
  • hardcover not available
  • Published: 2008
  • Subject Listing: Asian American Studies; Biography, Autobiography, and Memoir
  • Bibliographic information: 224 pp., 48 illus., 8 in color, 7 x 10 in.
  • Contents

"To me life and art are one and the same, for the key lies in one's knowledge of people and life. In art one is trying to express it in the simplest imaginative way, as in the art of past civilizations, for beauty and truth are the only two things which live timeless and ageless." - Miné Okubo

This is the first book-length critical examination of the life and work of Miné Okubo (1912-2001), a pioneering Nisei artist, writer, and social activist who repeatedly defied conventional role expectations for women and for Japanese Americans over her seventy-year career. Okubo's landmark Citizen 13660 (first published in 1946) is the first and arguably best-known autobiographical narrative of the wartime Japanese American relocation and confinement experience.

Born in Riverside, California, Okubo was incarcerated by the U.S. government during World War II, first at the Tanforan Assembly Center in California and later at the Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah. There she taught art and directed the production of a literary and art magazine. While in camp, Okubo documented her confinement experience by making hundreds of paintings and pen-and-ink sketches. These provided the material for Citizen 13660. Word of her talent spread to Fortune magazine, which hired her as an illustrator. Under the magazine's auspices, she was able to leave the camp and relocate to New York City, where she pursued her art over the next half century.

This lovely and inviting book, lavishly illustrated with both color and halftone images, many of which have never before been reproduced, introduces readers to Okubo's oeuvre through a selection of her paintings, drawings, illustrations, and writings from different periods of her life. In addition, it contains tributes and essays on Okubo's career and legacy by specialists in the fields of art history, education, women's studies, literature, American political history, and ethnic studies, essays that illuminate the importance of her contributions to American arts and letters.

Miné Okubo expands the sparse critical literature on Asian American women, as well as that on the Asian American experience in the eastern United States. It also serves as an excellent companion to Citizen 13660, providing critical tools and background to place Okubo's work in its historical and literary contexts.
Greg Robinson is associate professor of history at the Université du Quebéc a Montréal. Elena Tajima Creef is associate professor of women's studies at Wellesley College. Other contributors are Laura Card, Fay Chiang, Vivian Fumiko Chin, Heather Fryer, Masumi Hayashi, Sohei Hohri, Lynne Horiuchi, Clemens Kalischer, Shirley Geok-lin Lim, James Masao Mitsui, Stella Oh, Kimberley L. Phillips, and Irene Poon.

"To me life and art are one and the same, for the key lies in one's knowledge of people and life. In art one is trying to express it in the simplest imaginative way, as in the art of past civilizations, for beauty and truth are the only two things which live timeless and ageless."
-Miné Okubo
Preface / Greg Robinson and Elena Tajima Creef

Color Plates

Following Her Own Road: The Achievement of Mine Okubo / Elena Tajima Creef

Part I: An Artistic and Literary Portfolio

A Selection of Drawings and Paintings / Mine Okubo

1. Riverside / Mine Okubo and Fay Chiang

2. An Artist's Credo: A Personal Statement / Mine Okubo

3. An Evacuee's Hopes - and Memories / Mine Okubo

4. Statement Before the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Citizens / Mine Okubo

5. Letters from Mine Okubo to Isamu Noguchi

6. Letters from Mine Okubo to Dr. Roy W. Leeper

Part II: Scholarly Essays

7. Gestures of Noncompliance: Resisting, Inventing, and Enduring in Citizen 13660 / Vivian Fumiko Chin

8. Mine Okubo's War: Citizen 13660's Attack on Government Propaganda / Heather Fryer

9. To Keep a Record of Life: Mine Okubo's Autographic Manga and Wartime History / Kimberley L. Phillips

10. Mine Okubo's Citizen 13660 and Her Trek Artwork: Space, Movement, Image, Text, and Their Sites of Production / Lynne Horiuchi

11. Mine Okubo's Illustrations for Trek Magazine: Sites of Resistance / Laura Card

12. Paradoxes of Citizenship: Re-Viewing the Japanese American Internment in Mine Okubo's Citizen 13660 / Stella Oh

13. Birth of a Citizen: Mine Okubo and the Politics of Symbolism / Greg Robinson

Part III: Reminiscences and Tributes

14. Holding Center: Tanforan Race Track, Spring 1942 / James Masao Matsui

15. A Remembering / Sohei Hohri

16. A Tribute to Mine Okubo / Greg Robinson

17. A Memory of Genius / Shirley Geok-lin Lim

A Partial Chronology of Mine Okubo's Life and Work

Selected Bibliography
Illustration Credits

"Whereas the social and historical value of this [Citizen 13660] body of work is well established, the critical re-readings gathered in Mine Okubo: Following Her Own Road aim to interrogate and to expand the ways in which Citizen 13660 has come to be understood more than sixty years after its postwar publication.... Whether a reader agrees wholly or in part with the particulars of the seven central essays, what remains incontestable is the value of such projects in eliciting new and sometimes provocative thoughts on the small but steadily growing body of discourse on Asian American art and visual culture."
-Journal of American Ethnic History

"It's hard not to like Mine Okubo as we come to know her though this first book-length study of her life and work: feisty, eccentric, and deeply committed to her art. A slim, beautifully produced volume, Mine Okubo: Following Her Own Road is both a tribute to the artist, who died in 2001, and an important step in remedying the dearth of scholarship on her work . . . . this collection offers less the 'definitive version' of her life and work, and more an incitement to re-view it in new ways that throw its power and charm into relief."
-Rain Taxi

"Robinson and Creef have produced a fine and wonderful tribute to the life and work of Mine Okubo. . . . There is something for everyone in this remarkably compact but dense volume. . . . The editors have produced a very 'smart' and beautiful retrospective of her life, giving us a sense of Okubo's rightful place in Japanese American history, as well as the larger canvas of American history."
-Nichi Bei Times