Hisaye Yamamoto: An Influential Japanese-American Writer

Hisaye Yamamoto was a Japanese-American writer born in Redondo Beach, California, on August 23, 1921. She is known for her insightful and poignant writings about the Japanese-American experience during World War II. In this article, we will explore the life and legacy of Hisaye Yamamoto, her most famous work “The High-heeled Shoes Yamamoto,” and the impact she had on Japanese-American literature.

Yamamoto grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood in California. Her parents were first-generation Japanese immigrants, and Yamamoto faced discrimination and racism growing up. During World War II, she and her family were sent to an internment camp in Arizona along with thousands of other Japanese-Americans. This experience had a significant impact on Yamamoto’s writing and informed much of her work.

Yamamoto began writing in high school and continued to hone her craft while in the internment camp. After the war, she moved to New York City and began writing for the newspaper “The Tribune.” She later returned to California and continued to write short stories, essays, and articles for various publications.

One of Yamamoto’s most famous works is “The High-heeled Shoes Yamamoto.” The story tells the tale of a young Japanese-American girl who is forced to confront the realities of racism and discrimination during World War II. The story is told from the perspective of the girl’s mother, who is struggling to make sense of the world around her. The story is a poignant and powerful commentary on the Japanese-American experience during the war.
“The High-heeled Shoes Yamamoto” was originally published in the Partisan Review in 1948 and was later included in Yamamoto’s collection of short stories “Seventeen Syllables and Other Stories.” The collection was critically acclaimed and won the American Book Award in 1987. Yamamoto’s work is known for its honesty and insight into the Japanese-American experience, and “The High-heeled Shoes Yamamoto” is no exception.

Yamamoto’s work has had a significant impact on Japanese-American literature. Her writing captures the struggles and triumphs of Japanese-Americans and highlights the importance of representation in literature. Hisaye Yamamoto was also a champion for children literature and worked to promote reading and writing among children. The impact of her work is evident in the many awards and honors she received, including the Japanese American National Museum Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999.

Another famous work of Hisaye Yamamoto is the poem “Et Ego in America Vixi”. The title of the poem is a Latin phrase that means “I too have lived in America.”
My skin is sun-gold
My cheekbones are proud
My eyes slant darkly
And my hair is touched
With the dusky bloom of purple plums.
The soul of me is enrapt
To see the wisteria in blue-violet cluster,
The heart of me breathless
At the fragile beauty of an ageless vase.
But my heart flows over
My throat chokes in reverent wonder
At the unfurled glory of a flag
Red as the sun
White as the almond blossom
Blue as the clear summer sky.
The poem speaks to the experiences of Japanese-Americans who were interned during World War II, forced to leave behind their homes, businesses, and communities and placed in internment camps. The poem is written in the first person and reflects the thoughts and feelings of the speaker, who is a Japanese-American woman living in the internment camps.

Yamamoto’s legacy continues to inspire and influence writers today. Her work has been studied in universities and schools around the world, and her impact on Japanese-American literature is undeniable. The importance of representation in literature is a topic that continues to be relevant today, and Yamamoto’s work serves as a reminder of the power of storytelling.

In conclusion, Hisaye Yamamoto was an influential Japanese-American writer whose work had a significant impact on literature. Her most famous work, “The High-heeled Shoes Yamamoto,” is a powerful commentary on the Japanese-American experience during World War II. Yamamoto’s work continues to inspire and influence writers today, and her legacy serves as a reminder of the importance of representation in literature. Her work is a testament to the resilience of the Japanese-American community and a celebration of the power of storytelling. It is clear that Hisaye Yamamoto is more like Hisaye Yamamoto and will forever remain an important figure in Japanese-American literature.