Greg Robinson

Greg Robinson, a native New Yorker, is Professor of History at l'Université du Québec À Montréal, a French-language institution in Montreal, Canada. He is the author of the books By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans (Harvard University Press, 2001), A Tragedy of Democracy; Japanese Confinement in North America (Columbia University Press, 2009), After Camp: Portraits in Postwar Japanese Life and Politics (University of California Press, 2012), Pacific Citizens: Larry and Guyo Tajiri and Japanese American Journalism in the World War II Era (University of Illinois Press, 2012), and The Great Unknown: Japanese American Sketches (University Press of Colorado, 2016), as well as coeditor of the anthology Miné Okubo: Following Her Own Road (University of Washington Press, 2008). Robinson is also coeditor of the volume John Okada - The Life & Rediscovered Work of the Author of No-No Boy (University of Washington Press, 2018).

His historical column “The Great Unknown and the Unknown Great,” is a well-known feature of the Nichi Bei Weekly newspaper. Robinson’s latest book is an anthology of his Nichi Bei columns and stories published on Discover Nikkei, The Unsung Great: Portraits of Extraordinary Japanese Americans (University of Washington Press, 2020). It was recognized with an Association for Asian American Studies Book Award for Outstanding Achievement in History Honorable Mention in 2022. He can be reached at

Updated March 2022

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Dateline Toronto: the Keisho Conference Commemorating the 70th Anniversary of Japanese Canadian Internment

On the weekend of March 31-April 1, I traveled to Toronto to attend the Keisho Conference at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre. The conference, organized by the Heritage Committee of the JCCC (with help from Sedai, the Japanese Canadian Legacy Project) was designed to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Japanese Canadian confinement. There were a few hundred Japanese Canadians in attendance, plus some non-Japanese. On the morning of the first day, we were seated in the large Kobayashi hall, which was dotted with round tables and chairs for the occasion. I sat with a friendly continge…

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THE GREAT UNKNOWN AND THE UNKNOWN GREAT—The life and times of Hisaye Yamamoto: writer, activist, speaker

Hisaye Yamamoto, who died on Jan. 30, 2011 at the age of 89, remains known primarily as a literary artist, a crafter of powerful short fiction—such as her signature stories “Seventeen Syllables” and “Yoneko’s Earthquake”—as well as assorted newspaper columns. Yet the story of her development as a writer is less known, and bears exploring, especially since it ties in with the many other lives that she led. For Hisaye Yamamoto was the last and quite possibly the greatest representative of a whole generation of Nisei literary and political thinkers who w…

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Parallel Wars: Japanese American and Japanese Canadian Internment Films - Part 2

Part 1 >>  The War Between Us, a Canadian TV-film directed by Anne Wheeler and released in 1995, is a considerably more sophisticated and critical film than Hell to Eternity (from a different generation, in fairness). It recounts the events of the wartime removal of 22,000 West Coast Japanese Canadians by the Canadian government. In February 1942, one week after U.S president Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, Canadian Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King ordered all people of Japanese ancestry, whether aliens or citizens, removed from the Pacific Coast of Canada. …

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Parallel Wars: Japanese American and Japanese Canadian Internment Films - Part 1

This paper examines films that portray the removal and confinement of ethnic Japanese in North America during World War II (often, if imprecisely, called the Japanese internment) through the interactions between Japanese families and white characters, in order to reflect on the ways in which these films are shaped by dominant narratives about race relations. Let me take a moment to explain what I mean about dominant narratives. One eternal dilemma surrounding so-called “message films”; that is, films that deal with social problems and in particular with minorities, is how to get w…

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"Two Other Solitudes": Historical Encounters between Japanese Canadians and French Canadians - Part 2

Part 1 >>   This distant attitude would gradually change after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. The outbreak of war between Japan and the British Empire unleashed a new wave of anti-Japanese hysteria in British Columbia. White farmers, merchants and political leaders, seizing the opportunity to rid themselves of their long-despised ethnic Japanese competitors, accused the Japanese Canadians of being spies and saboteurs for Tokyo, and called for drastic action to protect the West Coast. In response to the political pressure, on February 26, 1942, two days …

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