Shadow Traces: The Representation of Japanese/American Women in Photograph Archives
Shadow Traces examines visual archives of four groups of Japanese/American women from the early to mid-twentieth century in America. Through critical analyses of photographs of indigenous Japanese Ainu women at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, picture brides at the turn of the century, photographs of the incarceration of the Japanese-American population during WWII, and a post-war picture album kept by a Japanese war bride, this study builds a case for understanding the influential role of photographic archives in shaping Asian/American women’s history. Going beyond a critique of Orientalism, this book turns to both private and public archives to seek out the “shadow traces” of marginalized women who are rarely attended to in either American history or Asian American studies.
A hapa memoir about growing up and coming of age as the mixed-race daughter of a Japanese War Bride mother and an American GI father set against the backdrop of the pop culture of the 1960s and 1970s in Lawton, Oklahoma and Riverside, California told through prose, poetry, and family photographs.
"Wise Old Indian Pony"
Everything I know about horses I learned from my father. He was a Cavalry man who knew how to ride and hitch a team long before he could ever drive a car. Born in 1921, my father lied about his age when he was just sixteen and joined the Army which promptly put him on a Cavalry horse. Looking back now, I can see that becoming a soldier when he was just a teenager was just his creative way of fleeing the poverty of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. He always said that the town he was born and raised in was so poor that when the Great Depression came, nobody in East Lake paid any attention. All the same, he left home and served in the Army for the next twenty-seven years.
Under his watchful eye, he planted the seed in me that would later sprout into full blown horse craziness. On Sunday afternoons, I became a dare devil cowgirl when we would drive out to the nearby town of Cache where for $2 an hour you could rent a horse at the stable in Eagle Park—just a stone’s throw from the run down remnants of Quanah Parker’s star covered house. My favorite horse was a black gelding named Nigger Charlie who I thought was the handsomest black stallion in the world. I would ride dressed in short pants and sandals with my best friend and fake cousin, Shirley Dafoe, sitting behind me squeezed into the squeaky western saddle that was built for one.
The head wrangler would see us coming and tell his cowboys, “Ya’ll go and fetch Nigger Charlie for the girls to ride.” The outside world looked at our horse and saw a dilapidated nag gone gray in the face with cow hocked legs and angular bones jutting from both hips, but I saw something different. I saw a resplendent mount—brave and true like a wise old Indian pony. My father may have failed to teach me how to read people, but he taught me early on that there are two ways to look at a horse in order to judge his worth and know the content of his heart: “Baby, you can always tell if a horse is any good by looking him straight in the eye. Then you got to look at the curl on his forehead—it should sit just above and between his two eyes—dead center. The curl on his forehead will tell you if he’s a good horse, or a sonofabitch who wants to kill you.” Nigger Charlie had what my father called “kind eyes” and the curl of hair on his forehead spun counterclockwise exactly four inches above and between his large brown soulful eyes just under the shadow of a small white star. Definitely a good sign.
To the wrangler, Shirley and I were just two skinny half-Jap girls riding double on a broken down horse named after the N-word, but as far as we were concerned, we were proud Amazonian warriors ready to do battle against unseen forces lurking at the tree-lined edges of Eagle Park. Our enemies would never suspect the kind of lethal powers that two young girls on horseback could unleash at will. We were the proud daughters of warriors—brave men who survived two wars and had been decorated with medals and who loved to talk-story to anyone who would listen about where they had been and what they had seen in battlefields in far away places like Italy, France, Poland, Germany, North Africa, and Korea. As young men, our fathers may have lost their innocence fighting in foreign wars, but they both found true love in the arms of Asian women from Japan.
“36 Views of a Horse Nation” is a photo-poem collection about the horse culture on the Cheyenne River, Pine Ridge, and Standing Rock communities in North and South Dakota.