ブライアン・ニイヤ

(Brian Niiya)

Brian Niiya is a public historian specializing in Japanese American history. Currently the content director for Densho and editor of the online Densho Encyclopedia, he has also held various positions with the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, the Japanese American National Museum, and the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai'i that have involved managing collections, curating exhibitions, and developing public programs, and producing videos, books, and websites. His writings have been published in a wide range of academic, popular, and web-based publications, and he is frequently asked to give presentations or interviews on the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. A "Spoiled Sansei" born and raised in Los Angeles to Nisei parents from Hawai'i, he lived in Hawai'i for over twenty years before returning to Los Angeles in 2017 where he is currently based.

Updated May 2020

culture en

African American images on a Nikkei Canvas: Black Characters in Japanese American Literature - Part 1

It is a commonplace that the presence and contributions of racial minorities have been too long and thoroughly erased from the writing of America’s history. Yet, as the eminent historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. once observed, if racial conflict has remained excluded from the nation’s consciousness, as expressed by the writing of history, then the repressed has returned in its unconscious, as represented by literature—classic American works by Twain, Melville and others are awash in feelings, fantasies and fears over racial difference, with nonwhite characters playing crucial…

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media en

Yoshiko Uchida's Remarkable—and Underappreciated—Literary Career

I have long been a fan of Yoshiko Uchida, a Berkeley-based writer best known for her children’s and young adult books about the World War II forced removal and incarceration. But her long writing career included much more: pioneering children’s books set in Japan or in Japanese American communities published just a few years after the end of the war, a widely-cited memoir and adult novel, and many more articles and short stories. What would have been Uchida’s 100th birthday is this week, which provides an opportunity to revisit her life and career. Yoshiko Uchida was b…

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war en

Pets in Camp: Dogs, Cats, Canaries, and “Even a Badger”

It is one of the most poignant—and often told—stories of the WWII roundup and incarceration of Japanese Americans: the wrenching decision that had to be made about a beloved pet as families were being forced to leave their homes in the spring of 1942. Unable to take the pet with them, the family has to leave it behind in the care of friends, neighbors, or strangers. In most cases, the family never sees the pet again. You come across many stories in this vein in oral histories and in literature about the incarceration, and such stories have seemingly come to proliferate. One origi…

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community en

In Memoriam: A Tribute to Lane Ryo Hirabayashi

Lane Ryo Hirabayashi was an innovator in the field of Asian American Studies, a historian and storyteller who dedicated his life to deepening public knowledge of Japanese American WWII incarceration, and a mentor to generations of students. In this touching tribute, Densho Content Director (and longtime friend) Brian Niiya describes Lane’s incredible life and impact. Even though we all knew it was imminent, I was still shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of Lane Ryo Hirabayashi, a good friend, and one of the most important chroniclers of the Japanese American incarceration and…

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war en

Ten Things That Made Poston Concentration Camp Unique

The Colorado River “Relocation Center”—more commonly referred to as Poston—was located in the Arizona desert a few miles from the California border. The largest and most populous of the War Relocation Authority (WRA) administered concentration camps (with the exception of post-segregation Tule Lake) with a peak population of nearly 18,000, Poston was unique among WRA camps in a number of ways. First, it was built on the Colorado River Indian Reservation and jointly managed by the Office of Indian Affairs (OIA), a troubled arrangement that ended with the OIA withdrawin…

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