Armed with decades of research and a razor-sharp mind

Featuring Brianna, Brittany and Brooke Ishibashi, actresses, writers and sisters

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Rest in power

At age 17, Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga’s high school principal told her and other Japanese American students that they wouldn’t be receiving their diplomas.

Instead, they’d be incarcerated because, the government claimed, there wasn’t enough time to figure out the individual loyalties of any Japanese American.

Herzig-Yoshinaga, who passed away last Wednesday at age 93, would spend years after to uncover the truth: that the U.S. government incarcerated Japanese Americans because it was just plain racist.

And she proved it

Before the government incarcerated 120,000 Japanese Americans, Lt. Gen. John L. DeWitt wrote an official argument for it.

But he didn’t argue that there wasn’t enough time to figure out loyalties. Instead, DeWitt argued that Japanese cultural traits made it “impossible to separate the sheep from the goats.”

That kind of language is pretty damning, which is why the Los Angeles Times reports that all copies of this document were believed to have been burned.

All except one volume at the National Archives, where after following up on report after report, Herzig-Yoshinaga discovered in 1982. She’d been hired as a researcher for the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Citizens, and she’d found the last copy of DeWitt’s document.

Payment where payment’s due

Thanks in part to Herzig-Yoshinaga, President Reagan issued a formal apology, and each survivor was granted $20,000 in reparations with the Civil Liberties Act of 1988—though this didn’t include Japanese Latin Americans.

The courts also overturned the convictions of Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi and Minoru Yasui, prominent Japanese American activists who fought against incarceration and curfew laws.

Herzig-Yoshinaga’s tireless research had made its mark, and judging by how often Japanese American incarceration gets invoked these days, her work continues to be important. Rest in power.

Andrew Hsieh, editor-in-chief, who learns more about Japanese American incarceration with every article
See what was left behind at the incarceration camps

NOW PLAYING: Kim’s Convenience, which has run for two seasons and counting on Canadian television, is now on Netflix. And coincidentally, I’ve spent the past few days chortling along with Janet, Jung, and their parents (just referred to as Appa and Umma), who run a convenience store with both character and characters.

While Kim’s Convenience may have all the trappings of a everyday sitcom, each episode is inflected with the Kims’ Korean Canadian heritage—whether it’s Umma’s constant competition with the other ajummas at church, or Appa’s disgust with “White” parenting. And yes, those Kim family moments will tear you up at times.

One of my favorite bits, though? The eclectic mix of people who wander into the convenience store every episode—especially the other immigrant shop owners who gossip with Appa. Deliberate inclusivity: gotta love it.

— Andrew Hsieh, editor-in-chief, who’s already almost done with season 2 

Coming soon to a couch near you

We here at The Slant are eagerly looking forward to Crazy Rich Asians (in theaters August 15th!). But if you just can’t wait, here’s a few other pieces of Asian American media that are coming soon.

  • IF YOU NEED ANOTHER ROM COM then look no further than To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Netflix just dropped the official trailer on Thursday for the perfect teen romance. Based on the book series by Jenny Han, the movie is about a half-Korean girl whose love life is thrown into disarray when a box of love letters she’s written to each of her crushes gets sent to them. Mortifying.

  • IF YOU WISH THE STANDUPS WAS MORE ASIAN then make sure to re-up your Hulu subscription before August 1st, when Comedy InvAsian drops. The first season features six hour-long comedy specials from Asian American stand-ups. Getting a special is a huge mark of success for stand-ups, and this series is busting that glass ceiling wide open.

  • IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR YOUR NEXT OBSESSION grab a copy of R. O. Kwon’s debut novel The Incendiaries when it comes out Tuesday. The book is about two college students, Phoebe Lin and Will Kendall, falling in love for the first time amid Phoebe’s grief over the loss of her mother and growing extremism. When several people are killed in bombings and Phoebe mysteriously disappears, Will must reckon with his own escape from a fundamentalist Christian group, his growing obsession with finding her—and whether she’s responsible for the bombings.

— Jessica Yi, editor, is now totally hyped
Also, Kamala Harris has a book out in January

The Sisters Ishibashi celebrate being a Japanese American showbiz family

Brittany, Brooke and Brianna Ishibashi are all in showbiz. And so is pretty much their whole family, tracing back to their grandmother, the Songbird of Manzanar . The daughters and granddaughters of singers and music producers, the Ishibashi sisters grew up backstage, hanging out with Ray Charles, Michael McDonald and No Doubt.

Now, they’re producing a series of vignettes based on their experiences. There, Brittany Ishibashi, who also stars in Marvel’s Runaways, is on a mission to get the band back together after a traumatic event breaks up the Sisters Ishibashi. And knowing the real-life Ishibashis, what follows can only be a wild ride.

We spoke on Skype about everything from the three-act musicals the sisters produced as kids to how Hollywood’s changed for Asian Americans since they started working. Read the whole interview on Medium.

Can you tell me what your show, The Sisters Ishibashi, is about?

Brittany Ishibashi: The Sisters Ishibashi follows three sisters from an Asian American showbiz family constantly flipping between utter codependency and defiantly establishing their individual identities. We started this project because people were always amazed at how close we were. Unnaturally close. Not just the three sisters, but mom and dad too. We were all very involved in each other’s lives. And on top of that we had all these incredible showbiz stories, growing up backstage with Rock & Roll Hall of Famers —

Brianna Ishibashi: We thought it was normal because, well, that’s all we knew. To us, that was the same as having parents who were lawyers or teachers. Not out of the ordinary at all.

Brooke Ishibashi: But the lineage of our family being performers went back so far, you know, with our grandma being the Songbird of Manzanar during her internment there — that’s mom’s mom — and it has always been a part of our lives and it’s just something we took for granted. So we kept getting feedback from friends and family, industry people, who would say, “you have a very … abnormal upbringing — ”

Brianna: [laughs] But in a good way —

Brooke: Yeah!

Brittany: And they would see it, and be like —

Brooke: You’re a Japanese American show business family.

This is something that’s different from a lot of people’s lifestyles, not just Asian Americans. Did you ever feel a disconnect growing up?

Brianna: I don’t know that we ever realized that until we were older. Significantly older — like, adults. [laughs]

Brooke: That we were different from other families? Yeah, not really. We grew up in an area that seemed pretty diverse. I’d never really felt an abundance of my Asianness or a lack of my Asianness. So I don’t know, I think we were our own kind of —

Brittany: I feel I started to explore more of my Asianness and what it meant to be Asian American when I was an adult.

But I did have this moment when I was six; we were doing a project in class that was “make a book about yourself.” So you’d go and pick out buttons for your eyes, and yarn for your hair. So I picked up blue buttons and yellow yarn. So I guess that’s how I saw myself, because my friends were blonde and blue-eyed, and they were Kelly and Ashley and I was Brittany. So I didn’t question it. Because what you know is your environment, right?

I remember my friends saying, “What are you doing? You’re supposed to make YOU.” And I said, “I am making me.” And they were like, “Have you looked in a mirror?”

Does that factor into the Sisters Ishibashi? Is there a grappling of that identity?

Brittany: I think if the show is focusing on our adult lives, it has to have a lot to do with Asian identity or coming to terms with that. It’s a huge part of the story now, because Brianna and I are mothers now and it affects how you raise your children.

Brooke: Especially in this political climate.

Brittany: Right. I think that’s a huge factor in our storytelling now. And there’s also — for my character in the show, there’s a bit of backlash for her in not being Asian enough. This backlash from other Asians in the business or just the community, who are disappointed that my character isn’t representing the Asian experience. Or not as involved in the community as she should be. And that provides us a platform to explore what it means to be an American and Asian American.

Is that something you’ve faced as Asian American actresses?

Brooke: In waves. It comes and goes with the community and the experience. But I’ve definitely felt that. Because it goes both ways: being too Asian and not being Asian enough.

Brittany: You feel it in casting, absolutely. I remember when I first started in TV and film, I’d go to auditions, and they’d say “You’re not Asian enough.” And I’d always feel puzzled by what that meant. I remember asking, what are they looking for? I’m 100% Japanese. What would make me more Asian? That’s a big question.

And it’s whatever the cultural understanding of what it means to be Asian is at that time. Are we looking at the 80’s, like in Indiana Jones or The Goonies? That was something that I’d battled with because I didn’t like those characterizations, they were offensively exclusive, and it wasn’t who I was. It didn’t make sense for me.

Obviously that’s evolved, and it’s a lot different. But when I first started out, it was a big problem.

Brittany, Brianna, and Brooke Ishibashi are three sisters who live within a mile of each other. You can find them on social media, except for Brianna, who is a self-described hermit person, at @BrittIshibashi and @brookeishibashi.

Read the whole interview on Medium

This weekend ... 📅

  • JOG YOUR MEMORY when it comes to Chinese American labor, from the 250 Chinese railroad workers to one Chinese cook who took out the “gruel” in “grueling” in a 1915 wilderness expedition to Yosemite. Chinese workers even cleared Yosemite’s roads and worked in its hotels.

  • GET UPDATED on Will Nguyen, the Vietnamese American protester recently beaten, arrested and detained in Vietnam. Thanks to grassroots efforts and the U.S. Embassy, Nguyen was set to be deported. Reportedly, Nguyen is in “good spirits” and will return to the U.S. soon.

  • KICK BACK and read this excerpt from Dickson Lam’s debut memoir, Paper Sons, via the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, which plumbs the depths of family ties both factual and fictional—piecing it all together in prose, poetry and more. Then stick around and check out more poetry at AAWW. One recent fave of mine: Michael Prior’s “Minoru.”

  • SHRIEK OVER EJ Chong's immensely adorable comic, "A Gay Cinderella Story," available for free at their website. Into endearing portraits of high school life? Like cute art and cute lettering? Ready for very gay, very good storytelling? Read the comic and follow EJ on Twitter for more great art.

  • EAT AND EAT AND also look at photos, I guess, if you’re not in San Diego. Roger Buhain and Richard Corpus, both of Mexican and Filipino descent, have joined forces and joined cuisines to launch Mexipino, a breakfast restaurant celebrating both of their cultures. And if San Diego Union-Tribune’s photos aren’t enough, there’s always Yelp.

This week's stories are curated by Andrew Hsieh, editor-in-chief, who’s so, so hungry now. Got a tip, or just want to share? E-mail us at

The Slant is brought to you by:

Brian Hsieh, Kevin Lin, Billy Huang, Delwin Lau, AJ Grey, Marina Cheung, Michelle Pal, Mandy Diec, Lloyd Lee, Patrick Trinh, Emily Chi, Naomi Iwata, Gloria Lin, Matt Young, Cat Xia, Crystal Shei, Sooyun Choi, Yi Cao, Meher Kohli, Ryan Ikeda, Jerome Finuliar, Abby Wang, Curtis Leung, Tracey Mantilla, Mika Kennedy, James Boo, Chris Moe, Eve Asher, Diane Lee, Angela Yang, Katherine Chin, Paul Kerr, Talisa Chang and Claire Tran, who get an A++++ on this homework assignment.

Join them in supporting The Slant on Patreon.

“i say i’ll be

dressless, skinless, curated

and pickled. i say i’ll give it

all up for a chance to be warm.”

— Inam Kang, poet, from her poem “narrowed lust”

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