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I Become a Nisei collects an essay by Isamu Noguchi written from a prison camp for Japanese Americans in 1942, with a selection of artworks and documents from The Noguchi Museum Archives.
Noguchi voluntarily entered the Colorado River Relocation Center (Poston), Arizona, in May 1942 with ambitious plans to reinvent it as a model community with gardens, recreation areas, and arts programs. He arrived into the entirely different reality of what we now know to be concentration camps, with scant resources, intense heat and dust storms, and no support for his plans. To the management he was a prisoner, and to most of the other prisoners he was suspicious due to his background.
From this place of alienation, he responded to a request from DeWitt Wallace of Reader’s Digest for an article on the situation with a complex and moving piece which went unpublished at the time. The text intertwines observations on the daily realities of the camps with personal reflections on cultural identity and community, and with formative articulations of visions and conflicts that would resonate through his later work.
This book was printed letterpress from metal type and hand bound by Jon Beacham of The Brother In Elysium, and was designed and published in collaboration with the artist. It includes a foreword by Brian Niiya, Content Director at Densho, an organization which preserves stories of the WWII incarceration of Japanese Americans in order to promote equity and justice today.
Second printing. Edition of 400.
Written by Isamu Noguchi
Foreword by Brian Niiya
Published by The Brother In Elysium / The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, 2020
Text set in Univers Light, cast by The Bixler Letterfoundry
Typesetting, letterpress printing, and binding by Jon Beacham
Book design by Jon Beacham and Amelia Grohman
Softcover with letterpress dustjacket. 32 pages, 6.25 x 9 in.
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