Jonathan van Harmelen

Jonathan van Harmelen is currently a Ph.D student in history at UC Santa Cruz specializing in the history of Japanese-American incarceration. He holds a BA in history and French from Pomona College and an MA from Georgetown University. He can be reached at jvanharm@ucsc.edu.

Updated February 2020

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Joe Oishi’s Nursery and The Promised Year

In October 2022, during a trip to Berkeley, California to do research at the Bancroft Library, I stopped in at Eastwind Books. Normally, when I go book shopping, I usually look for copies of older works that are either out of print or unavailable online. Sometimes, by good fortune, I find a book that I have always wanted to read but never was able to purchase online. As I rummaged through the dollar cart at Eastwind, I pulled out a copy of Yoshiko Uchida’s 1959 book The Promised Year. I have long been intrigued by Uchida’s writing career, and I had previously published an artic…

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Fresno Stories

Dr. T.T. Yatabe, the American Loyalty League, and the Birth of the JACL

Today, the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) is the largest Japanese American community organization in the United States. Founded in 1929, the organization has evolved over the course of the 20th century from a small group of community leaders to a national civil rights organization with chapters across the U.S. Yet before the JACL existed, Issei and Nisei community leaders in several West Coast cities formed local political organizations to demonstrate the loyalty of the Japanese community to the U.S. In Seattle, future JACL president Clarence T. Arai formed the Progressive Citi…

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Father Francis Caffrey – A Priest for the Stars and Students Alike

In my previous columns on Maryknoll clergy, I profiled several noteworthy priests and nuns who assisted Japanese Americans during their wartime incarceration. The vast majority of these clergy worked in Los Angeles, where the largest Japanese American enclave in the United States existed until 1942. While most priests worked solely with the Japanese communities, several priests reached out to the greater community in Los Angeles. One such priest, Father Francis J. Caffrey, who served at the San Juan Bautista mission in the prewar years, developed a unique connection with several Hollywood …

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Remembering Roger Daniels—A Reflection

Last Saturday, I was saddened to learn of the passing of the esteemed historian Roger Daniels at 95 years old. To say that Daniels helped shape Japanese American history would be a real understatement. Over the course of his five-decade career as a historian at UCLA and the University of Cincinnati (among others), Daniels wrote or edited dozens of books relating to Japanese Americans and to their World War II incarceration. Many of his works, such as his provocatively-titled Concentration Camps USA, coincided with the Asian American movement and inspired readers to see the camps not as b…

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Fresno Stories

William Saroyan and the search for "The Japanese American Novel"

Normally, when we think about “California” cities, our minds tend to drift to popular destinations such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, or San Diego. Often absent from the list of locations noted as part of the “cultural heartland” of California are the cities and towns that dot the landscape from the Central Valley up to the San Joaquin Delta. This long network of settlements nestled within inland California is often seen as the last outpost before the East, and its endless stretches of farmland, mountains, and desert. Yet, these are truly Californian cities, with thei…

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