Sansei poet and editor Brian Komei Dempster will present “Breaking Silences: Uncovering Memories of Japanese American Imprisonment” on Saturday, March 15, at 2 p.m. at the Japanese American National Museum, 100 N. Central Ave. in Little Tokyo.

Brian Komei Dempster
Brian Komei Dempster

In this intergenerational reading, Dempster will discuss his community-based writing projects and anthologies, in which Japanese Americans — mostly Nisei — tell their stories of wartime incarceration and post-war resettlement. He will also read poems from his debut collection, “Topaz,” named for the Utah internment camp where thousands of Bay Area Japanese Americans were imprisoned during World War II.

Joining Dempster is project participant Toru Saito, along with prominent Nisei writer Wakako Yamauchi, whose granddaughter, Alyctra Matsushita, will read excerpts from Yamauchi’s story collection “Rosebud” (University of Hawaii, 2011, edited by Lillian Howan).

Co-sponsored by Collecting Los Angeles, a program of UCLA Library Special Collections.

For more information, call (213) 625-0414 or visit

USC Appearance with Gene Oishi

Dempster will also appear with Gene Oishi on Thursday, March 13, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at USC’s Ronald Tutor Campus Center, Room 302, 3607 Trousdale Parkway, Los Angeles, in a program titled “Japanese American Imprisonment and Resettlement: The Power of Our Stories.”

In this intergenerational presentation, the authors will illustrate the critical importance of storytelling for Japanese Americans and the power of writing to document, empower, and heal.

Dempster will read poems from “Topaz,” which looks at the lasting effects of wartime incarceration on his maternal family and younger generations. He will also share his experiences of leading community-based writing workshops.

Oishi will read from his novel “Fox Drum Bebop” (Kaya Press), which is the story of Hiroshi, a Japanese American boy caught up in the turmoil of World War II. The opening chapters foreshadow the coming conflict before the novel enters a concentration camp. The story then explores the catastrophic impact of the war and the displacement on the boy and his family, and the decades-long psychological after-effects that follow him into adult life.

Dempster is editor of “From Our Side of the Fence: Growing Up in America’s Concentration Camps” (Kearny Street Workshop), which received a 2007 Nisei Voices Award from the National Japanese American Historical Society, and “Making Home from War: Stories of Japanese American Exile and Resettlement” (Heyday). His work has been recognized by grants from the Arts Foundation of Michigan and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the California State Library’s California Civil Liberties Public Education Program, the Center for Cultural Innovation, and the San Francisco Arts Commission. Dempster has also received scholarships to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.

He is a professor of rhetoric and language and a faculty member in Asian Pacific American studies at the University of San Francisco, where he also serves as director of administration for the Master of Arts in Asia Pacific Studies.

Oishi, who personally experienced the concentration camps as a child, is a former Washington and foreign correspondent for The Baltimore Sun. He has written articles on the Japanese American experience for The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Newsweek, West Magazine and The Baltimore Sun. His memoir, “In Search of Hiroshi,” was published in 1988.

Co-sponsored by Kaya Press, this is a special presentation of the Center for Japanese Religions and Culture’s “Critical Mixed-Race Studies: A Transpacific Approach” Andrew W. Mellon Foundation John E. Sawyer Seminars Series at the USC. RSVP to

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