The Poet and the Silk Girl: A Memoir of Love, Imprisonment, and Protest

Regular price $ 35.00

by Satsuki Ina

Heyday Books

3/26/2024, hardcover

SKU: 9781597146265


A compelling and prismatic love story of one family's defiance in the face of injustice--and how their story echoes across generations.

In 1942 newlyweds Itaru and Shizuko Ina were settling into married life when the United States government upended their world. They were forcibly removed from their home and incarcerated in wartime American concentration camps solely on account of their Japanese ancestry. When the Inas, under duress, renounced their American citizenship, the War Department branded them enemy aliens and scattered their family across the U.S. interior. Born to Itaru and Shizuko during their imprisonment, psychotherapist and activist Satsuki Ina weaves their story together in this moving mosaic. Through diary entries, photographs, clandestine letters, and heart-wrenching haiku, she reveals how this intrepid young couple navigated life, love, loss, and loyalty tests in the welter of World War II-era hysteria.

The Poet and the Silk Girl illustrates through one family's saga the generational struggle of Japanese Americans who resisted racist oppression, fought for the restoration of their rights, and clung to their full humanity in the face of adversity. With psychological insight, Ina excavates the unmentionable, recovering a chronicle of resilience amidst one of the severest blows to American civil liberties. As she traces the legacies of trauma, she connects her family's ordeal to modern-day mass incarceration at the U.S.-Mexico border. Lyrical and gripping, this cautionary tale implores us to prevent the repetition of atrocity, pairing healing and protest with galvanizing power.


"This incredibly poignant account reveals how a daughter uncovered why her parents went from buying war bonds and voting in every election to renouncing their citizenship during the World War II mass incarceration. As you view photographs and read her parents' letters, diary entries, and lyrical poetry, you can't help but feel their anxiety, fear, anger, and emotional turmoil as they lose faith in the U.S. and decide their future lay in Japan. In writing this family memoir, Satsuki Ina pays tribute to her parents' courageous protest and love of family while also showing how their suffering inspired her support of recent Central American migrants experiencing indefinite detention and family separation." -- Alice Yang, Professor of History and Co-Director of the Center for the Study of Pacific War Memories

"The Poet and the Silk Girl is one of the most compelling accounts of the forced removal, unjust incarceration, and family separation experienced by the Japanese American community during WWII. Born in an American concentration camp, Satsuki Ina weaves her own experiences into conversation with her parents' wartime letters and father's haiku poetry from behind barbed wire to show how family history is a part of the very fabric of the struggle to belong in America. A beautifully-crafted memoir and community history that brilliantly reveals how past, present, and future are interlinked." -- Duncan Ryūken Williams, Professor of Religion and East Asian Languages and author of The Other Side of Zen: A Social History of Sōtō Zen Buddhism in Tokugawa Japan

About the Author:

Satsuki Ina is a licensed psychotherapist specializing in community trauma. She helps victims of oppression to claim not only their voice but also their power to transform the systems that have oppressed them. Her activism has included cofounding Tsuru for Solidarity, a nonviolent, direct-action project of Japanese American social justice advocates working to end detention sites. Ina has produced two documentaries about the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans, Children of the Camps and From a Silk Cocoon. She has been featured in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, TIME, Democracy Now! and the documentary And Then They Came for Us. A professor emeritus at California State University, Sacramento, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.