2018 marks the sixteenth anniversary of Santa Monica Public Library’s annual community reading program Santa Monica Reads. Popular with local residents and visitors, the program invites everyone to read and talk about the same book and its themes at special events and book discussions held throughout the city. The Library is pleased to announce Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston as the 2018 selection. This year’s program runs from Saturday, May 12 through Saturday, June 16.
It is fitting that Farewell to Manzanar is this year’s selected book. In the wake of World War II, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, incarcerating tens of thousands of Japanese American citizens and Japanese natives. As a seven-year-old girl, Jeanne’s world is turned upside down when the Wakatsuki family is forced to leave their home in Ocean Park and their fishing business in Long Beach to move to the high desert internment camp of Manzanar. The narrative is told from Jeanne’s perspective, as she recounts the struggles and resilience of her family and the camp community.
First published in 1973, and now celebrating its 45th anniversary, Farewell to Manzanar has sold more than one million copies. The book remains an invaluable contribution to the annals of American history. Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston has earned numerous honors, including a United States-Japan Cultural Exchange Fellowship; a Rockefeller Foundation residence at Bellagio, Italy; and a 1984 Wonder Woman Award, given to women over 40 who have made outstanding achievements in pursuit of truth and positive social change. In 2006, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston received the Award of Excellence for her contributions to society from the Japanese American National Museum. On May 12, at the program An Afternoon with Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, Santa Monica Mayor Ted Winterer will officially commence Santa Monica Reads by presenting a Proclamation honoring Mrs. Wakatsuki Houston.
Free copies of Farewell to Manzanar, as well as a resource guide that provides information on the book, its author and Santa Monica Reads events, will be available at all Santa Monica Public Library locations beginning Monday, April 16, while supplies last. Santa Monica Reads is sponsored by the Santa Monica Public Library and the Friends of the Santa Monica Public Library, with additional support from other community, educational and business partners.
Please join us for one or more of the following free special events and book discussions:
- An Afternoon with Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston — Author Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston opens the 16th year of Santa Monica Reads with a discussion of Farewell to Manzanar and her connections to Santa Monica, and shares her thoughts on how the book and her family’s story resonate in today’s world. A book signing follows.
Saturday, May 12 at 2:00pm | Main Library, MLK, Jr. Auditorium, 601 Santa Monica Blvd.
- Family Origami Workshop with Peggy Hasegawa — Papermaker, bookmaker, and origami artist Peggy Hasegawa teaches simple origami techniques to fold and create amazing paper objects. For ages 6 and up. All supplies provided.
Thursday, May 17 at 6:00pm | Montana Avenue Branch, 1704 Montana Ave.
- Barbed Wire to Boogie Woogie: Swing in the Japanese American Internment Camps — Dance preservationist Rusty Frank discusses the history of swing dance and how it provided respite from life in the camps. Takayo Tsubouchi Fischer and June Aochi Berg, who met while incarcerated at the Rohwer Relocation Center, share photos, dance cards and other memorabilia. A dance lesson on the swing Shim Sham follows (no partner needed).
Saturday, May 19 at 2:00pm | Main Library, MLK, Jr. Auditorium & North Courtyard, 601 Santa Monica Blvd.
- Japanese & English Story Time — This special Japanese and English story time includes a craft activity. For ages 5-7.
Tuesday, May 22 at 11:00am | Pico Branch Library, 2201 Pico Blvd.
- Life After Manzanar — In their newly-released book, authors Naomi Hirahara and Heather C. Lindquist weave together oral histories of the “Resettlement,” the period following their unjust imprisonment, when Japanese Americans were thrust back into society with little more than twenty-five dollars and a one-way bus ticket. A book sale and signing follows.
Tuesday, May 22 at 7:00pm | Main Library, MLK, Jr. Auditorium, 601 Santa Monica Blvd.
- The Story of the 442nd Regiment in WWII— Rob Sato, Phinneas Kiyomura and Koji Steven Sakai, creators of the digital graphic novel 442, present an illustrated talk about the 442nd Regiment, the U.S. Army’s Japanese American combat unit of WWII. Presenters share the history of this most highly decorated unit of the war through family stories and striking visuals.
Saturday, June 2 at 2:00pm | Main Library, MLK, Jr. Auditorium, 601 Santa Monica Blvd.
- The Manzanar Photography of Dorothea Lange — Renowned photographer Dorothea Lange was hired by the U.S. War Relocation Authority to document the evacuation and relocation of Japanese Americans to Manzanar and other camps. Through slides and discussion, this program highlights the photographic history she produced.
Wednesday, June 6 at 7:00pm | Fairview Branch Library, 2101 Ocean Park Blvd.
- We Said No! No! A Story of Civil Disobedience— Filmmaker Brian T. Maeda, who was born at Manzanar, screens and discusses his recent film on the “No-No Boys,” Japanese American men who refused to say “yes” to the U.S. government’s infamous Loyalty Questionnaire, and were subsequently sent to the most brutal of all the internment camps, Tule Lake.
Saturday, June 9 at 2:00pm | Main Library, MLK, Jr. Auditorium, 601 Santa Monica Blvd.
- The Japanese Flower Market: Presentation & Workshop— Naomi Hirahara, author of A Scent of Flowers: The History of the Southern California Flower Market 1912-2004, discusses the contributions of Japanese Americans and other ethnic Americans to the local floriculture industry. A book sale and signing follows, along with a mini flower arranging workshop (supplies limited).
Sunday, June 10 at 2:00pm | Main Library, Multipurpose Room, 601 Santa Monica Blvd.
- Movie: Farewell to Manzanar (1976)— Nominated for two Emmy Awards, the adaptation of Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston’s book stars the best-known Japanese and Japanese American actors of the time, including Pat Morita and Nobu McCarthy. Many Americans first learned of the internment camps through this televised drama. (107 min.)
Tuesday, June 12 at 6:30pm | Ocean Park Branch, 2601 Main St.
- Santa Monica Reads Grand Finale: An LA Opera Concert— The Library presents a live concert featuring LA Opera artists performing some of opera’s greatest hits, including highlights from Madame Butterfly. Free tickets available one hour prior to program.
Saturday, June 16 at 2:00pm | Main Library, MLK, Jr. Auditorium. 601 Santa Monica Blvd.