Every family has secrets.
A Japanese American family, separated by racism and the discrimination of people with developmental disabilities, are reunited 70 years later, returning to their roots on a farm and bound by secrets.
Organic peach and raising farmer David Mas Masumoto’s new memoir, “Secret Harvests: A Hidden Story of Separation and the Resilience of a Family Farm” (Red Hen Press, distributed by Ingram Publisher Services), follows a journey of discovering a “lost” aunt, who was separated from the family due to racism and discrimination against the disabled.
Aunt Shizuko had both mental and physical disabilities due to childhood meningitis. In 1942, when Executive Order 9066 was signed, authorizing the mass removal of all persons of Japanese descent off of the West Coast, her parents had to make the excrutiating decision between taking her with them into the World War II concentration camp at Gila River in Arizona, or to place her as a “ward” of the state in an institution.
Family lore had convinced them that Aunt Shizuko had eventually died, but 70 years later, she was found alive and living a few miles from our family farm. How did she survive? Why was she kept hidden? How did both shame and resilience empower my family to forge forward in a land that did not want them?
In this new memoir, Masumoto is haunted by these questions and driven to explore his own identity and the meaning of family — especially as farmers tied to the land — uncovering stories that bind him to a sense of history buried in the earth that he works and a sense of place that defines his community.
Sansei writer Masumoto teamed up with Yonsei artist Patricia Wakida for this exploration of community and family secrets and is available for readings, lectures, and workshops beginning in spring 2023. To schedule an event, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Mas Masumoto is an organic farmer, author, and activist. His book “Epitaph for a Peach” won the Julia Child Cookbook Award and was a finalist for a James Beard Award. His writing has been awarded a Commonwealth Club of California silver medal and the Independent Publisher Books bronze medal. He has been honored by Rodale Institute as an “Organic Pioneer.” He has served on the boards of the James Irvine Foundation, Public Policy Institute of California, Cal Humanities, and the National Council on the Arts with nomination by President Obama.
He farms with his wife Marcy and two adult children, Nikiko and Koro. They reside in a hundred-year-old farmhouse surrounded by their eightyacre organic peach, nectarine, apricot, and raisin farm outside of Fresno. For more information, visit www.secretharvestsbook.com.
Linoleum block and letterpress artist Patricia Miye Wakida grew up in Fresno. In addition to maintaining her own linoleum block and letterpress studio under the wasabi press imprint, she frequently writes about Japanese American history and culture. She is a Yonsei whose parents were incarcerated as children in the Jerome (Arkansas) and Gila River (Arizona) World War II concentration camps. She lives in Oakland with her husband and son, cats, and chickens. Her website: www.wasabipress.com
“Mas is truly a poet-farmer – he writes stories like he tends to his peaches, each memory cared for and brought to life in such beautiful, thoughtful detail. This book is an immigrant story both very personal to Mas and resonant with so many others around the world, inspiring and heartbreaking, a story of family, history, memory, and lifetimes of resilience.” — José Andrés, chef-activist and founder of World Central Kitchen
“Secrets carry the heavy weight of shame but they are also waiting to be liberated. ‘Secret Harvests’ by David Mas Masumoto sheds light on an important chapter in Japanese American disability history by unearthing his intergenerational family story. Society can try to bury the ugliness of certain truths but they have a way of reaching toward the light.” — Alice Wong, disability rights activist, writer and founder of Disability Visibility Project
“Exquisite and haunting. Masumoto investigates the life of a long-lost aunt and, in the process, unearths a painful chapter from his own family’s history. ‘Secret Harvests’ is a deeply affecting meditation on loss and resilience and what we owe to those we have forgotten. A heartbreaking memoir, written with clarity and grace, about how even the ‘least’ of us leaves behind an indelible mark on the world.” — Julie Otsuka, writer and author of “The Buddha in the Attic”
“Mas Masumoto masterfully weaves dramatic history with domestic tragedy into a coherent, revealing whole. This ‘secret’ merits serious pursuit.” — Lawson Fusao Inada, former poet laureate of Oregon and author of “Legends from Camp” and “Drawing the Line”