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“The Postwar Seattle Chinatown of John Okada” with Frank Abe and Guests

“The Postwar Seattle Chinatown of John Okada” with Frank Abe and Guests



November 19, 2023
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Event Category:


Seattle Public Library-Central Library
1000 4th Ave
Seattle, WA 98104 United States
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Explore the places of postwar Seattle Chinatown described in John Okada’s “No-No Boy” and the real-life community beyond the novel

The sense of postwar Seattle Chinatown as a place imbues the pages of John Okada’s 1957 novel “No-No Boy,” and in this panel we will examine the imagined world of the novel along with the real history behind it. Family historian Shox Tokita shares the legacy of Chinatown hotels managed by Japanese Americans, including three owned by his mother; former Seattle City Councilmember Dolores Sibonga tells stories of Filipino residents and workers in Chinatown, including that of her mother and the Estigoy Café; and Dr. Marie Rose Wong, author of “Building Tradition: Pan-Asian Seattle and Life in the Residential Hotels,” examines the history of single-room occupancy residential hotels in Chinatown and the threats they now face. The panel will be moderated by Emily Porcincula Lawsin, 4Culture Historic Preservation Program Manager.

Presented in partnership with University of Washington Press, North American Post, and Chin Music Press.

This event is supported by The Seattle Public Library Foundation and the Gary and Connie Kunis Foundation. Thanks to media sponsor The Seattle Times.

About the Presenters:

Guest curator Frank Abe is co-editor of a new anthology, “The Literature of Japanese American Incarceration,” coming May 2024 from Penguin Classics, and lead author of the graphic novel, “We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American Resistance to Wartime Incarceration” (Chin Music Press), a finalist in Creative Nonfiction for the Washington State Book Award. He wrote and directed the award-winning PBS documentary “Conscience and the Constitution,” and won an American Book Award as co-editor with Greg Robinson and Floyd Cheung of “John Okada: The Life & Rediscovered Work of the Author of ‘No-No Boy’” (University of Washington Press), authoring the first-ever biography of Okada. He studied in the Advanced Training Program of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, and has worked for KIRO Newsradio, the King County Executive, and the King County Council.

Shokichi “Shox” Tokita was born and raised in Seattle. He was placed in the concentration camp at Minidoka, Idaho during WWII. Tokita lived in Chinatown and delivered the North American Post, a Japanese American newspaper, and attended and graduated from Garfield H.S. He entered the USAF in 1954, flew as a crew member and retired as a Colonel, with a BSME, MBA, and as a Vietnam vet, with well over 100 combat missions. Tokita presently lives in Renton.

Dr. Marie Rose Wong is a Professor Emerita of Urban Planning and Asian American History, Seattle University. Her presentations and publications include several articles, a book on Portland, Oregon’s first Chinese communities entitled Sweet Cakes, Long Journey: The Chinatowns of Portland, Oregon (2004, 2012), and the history of Seattle’s Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino settlements entitled Building Tradition: Pan-Asian Seattle and Life in the Residential Hotels (2018).

Dolores Dasalla Sibonga earned her journalism degree from the University of Washington and co-owned the newspaper “Filipino Forum” with her husband. Sibonga became Washington state’s first Filipina American female lawyer and went on to serve on Seattle City Council and later run for Mayor.

Emily Porcincula Lawsin is Historic Preservation Program Manager at 4Culture in her hometown of “SHE-attle”, Washington. She is National President Emerita of the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS), co-author of Filipino Women in Detroit, and taught Asian American Studies for 30 years. An oral historian and spoken word performance poet, she has performed on radio and stage throughout the United States. Her poetry and essays have been published in over 30 anthologies, journals, and magazines. She currently serves on the Filipino American Curriculum Team of Seatle (FACTS) and the Filipino Town core. www.emily.lawsin.com

John Okada (1923-1971) was born in Seattle and attended Broadway High School and the University of Washington before his wartime imprisonment in concentration camps in Puyallup and Minidoka, Idaho. He volunteered for the Military Intelligence Service and served as a translator in Guam, after which he earned a degree in library sciences and worked for a time in the Business Department of The Seattle Public Library. His only novel, “No-No Boy,” was published in 1957 and has been embraced by generations of readers. Okada died of a heart attack at the age of 47.