Wendy Cheng previews my upcoming book: Dream of the Water Children

cloyd - COVER - FINAL -v2

A Black-Japanese Amerasian reflects on life in the present, with the traces of wars and their aftermaths. 2Leaf Press is pleased to announce the publication of Fredrick D. Kakinami Cloyd’s first book, DREAM OF THE WATER CHILDREN, MEMORY AND MOURNING IN THE BLACK PACIFIC, in June 2016. In Dream of the Water Children, Fredrick Kakinami Cloyd delineates the ways imperialism and war are experienced across and between generations and leave lasting and often excruciating legacies in the mind, body, and relationships.

READ The Preview Here:   http://2leafpress.org/online/preview-dream-of-the-water-children-wendy-cheng/

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Bathing in Japan

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Living in Japan from my earliest memory into childhood, and then returning when I was an early teen, included one of the most important and pleasurable events of most Japanese peoples’ daily and monthly life— bathing.  In Japan, bathing is not only a way to wash ourselves, and not only an individual pleasure, but a way of healing, relaxing, conversing with friend(s) and/or family, and ritual.

Many people are familiar with the Japanese bath in the home, which resembles what the Americans call a “hot tub.”  The tradition of bathing is not exclusive to Japan, of course.  While I was doing research in Turkey, it was a pleasure to learn of the Turkish bath traditions and to partake in its histories and pleasures there, and to think of the similarities and differences.

The private bath, in the home, is called お風呂 — Ofuro, in Japan, and is the most familiar to people who do not make their lives in Japan.

But in addition to this, I want to mention some other bathing traditions in Japan, mainly the public baths.

When I was growing up in Japan, once a month, my mother and I would visit a neighborhood public bath — 銭湯 Sentō. In addition, once a year or two years, when my mother could afford it, she would take us to the hot springs baths ­­­—  温泉 Onsen.   The neighborhood public baths have been losing business and there are fewer and fewer in Japan nowadays, as people individualize and the tradition of bathing is becoming increasingly private and preferred. Also, public baths are getting expensive as well as Japanese people having less leisure time. Many corporations in Japan sponsor their workers’ public bathing. Even so, these remain important cultural traditions that would most likely never die out in Japan, and remain one of the special Japanese traditions of healing, cleaning, and relaxation.

 

MY BOOK – Coming Fall 2014

1 - Web Version

My Book will be released this Fall 2014, by 2Leaf Press!!

Introduction by Gerald Horne

Foreword by Velina Hasu Houston

Cover Art by Kenji Chienshu Liu

Here are just a few preview comments about the book:

Fredrick Douglas Kakinami Cloyd has written a profoundly moving and thought-provoking book. He courageously challenges our neat categories of identity, going beyond broadening our understanding of mixed race to touch what is human in all of us. This book will shift readers’ perceptions and assumptions and may change many lives. Above all, Cloyd is a master story-teller who honors and respects memory.

–Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, historian and writer

This is a mature book that moves fluidly, as the mind moves, untroubled by traditional distinctions between writing considered to be academic vs. creative, memoir vs. personal essay, sure-footed in unexpected ways. This genre-bending book is not “experimental writing.” The author knows what he wants to say and he knows how he wants to say it, seeking, in his own words, “restoration and reclamation” for silenced voices and histories never erased because they have not yet been written. Dream of the Water Children demands that its reader rigorously consider the constructed nature of memory, identities, and historical narrative. And it is also an enormously kind and passionate chronicle of a son’’s long journey with his mother. To read it is to marvel, to learn, and to discover anew what surrealist poet Paul Éluard said: “There is another world, but it is in this one.”

–Patricia Mushim Ikeda
    Buddhist teacher / activist
    Oakland, California

Can be read as a ghost story, a meditation on how to disassemble the heartbreak machines; a catalog of copious tears and small comforts. This is a challenging example of personal bravery and filial love. It puts the “more” in memory.

–Leonard Rifas, Ph.D
   Communications, University of Washington

2Leaf Press Book LINK: http://2leafpress.org/online/dream-water-children/

Upcoming Presentations I’m doing!

0 Reveries 250

October 26, 2013

8:00 pm

Reveries and Rage: On Colonization and Survival

Presenting with other Queer and Trans people against colonization

‘Dream of the Water Children’ Reading

at Audre Lorde Room, Women’s Building, Mission District, San Francisco

Tickets: $10-15  (Click here)

 

 

0 njahs lo

November 2013

1:00 pm

Generation Nexus: Peace in the Postwar

Artists’ Exhibition and Panel Discussion

National Japanese American Historical Society, Building 640 Learning Center

(at Controversial Military Intelligence Learning Center)

Presidio, San Francisco, CA

November 17: Exhibit Opening (I will have a kiosk with other artists)

November 23: Artists’ Panel Discussion on Peace in the Postwar

Video: Japanese Traditional Dance: Awa Odori – 阿波踊り

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Japan is a festival land.

There are many festivals throughout the year, some national, some regional, with most having ties to communal and/or ethnic memory and traditions that have long become non-ethnic and homogenized in Japan’s march toward joining the world community of nations.

Today, many young Japanese are only beginning to learn that Okinawa ‘may have not been’ a version of a Japanese identity, or that the Buraku and the Ainu people exist, or that Zainichi Koreans have had a precarious relationship to the Japanese nation in relation to what the mainstream has been taught.

Like most first-world nations today, National Festivals and associated dances have their origins in communities resisting the onslaught of the nation-builders, dominant clans that would massacre them and keep them controlled. Now they are part of a ‘mosaic’ of ‘traditional Japanese’ dances and festivals, where before, they may have been resisting that ‘Japanese’ identity, which comes from an amalgamation, like other national identities, of particular groups of allied ethnicities and clans.

Many festivals have their origins in religious or post-war and post-battle strategies of appeasement toward certain communities after battle.  Other festivals have roots in religious ceremonies in relation to the natural cycles of life or to honor gods and goddesses, while others have links with farmers and fishermen and bounty.  Still others are ceremonies of survival and empowerment. In more than a few instances, they are a combination of these named situations, and more.

Many of these meanings have lost their focus in modern Japan.  Most of the festivals and dances, of course, have needed to keep up with urbanization and modernization.  This also includes Japan’s notion of itself as a homogenized, unified nation of a single people.  The ‘other,’ then, are named legally other in laws and are distinctly excluded from nation, through micro-regulations, etc, much like most other nations of our present world.

Consequently,  these beautiful dances, are sometimes left to signify and represent ‘artistic beauty’ or exoticism and entertainment, merely a personal ‘fun’, perhaps. Many of these dances have their origins in Okinawa, Kagoshima, and from the Ainu, and/or other areas and communities that were nationalized through colonization in earlier times (and ongoing today as ‘minority’ communities). Many elders and well-thought younger persons, who have significant memory and links to what has been lost and what it has cost to maintain these dances and songs, feel these motions and tones, music and forms in a way much deeper than how most mainstream Japanese today may feel them.  Put another way: Japanese may be proud of these festival dances, and may even revere these traditions, but understand them as only a singular “Japanese” tradition from sometime long ago, through homogenized singular national ethnic myths or national versions of wars fought and natural disasters, stripping them of the uniquely diverse and possibly terrifying and most often empowering histories that point to people and communities that are not even recognized or trivialized.

In nations as old as Japan, what pre-figured (existed before) a “Japan,” is inside of these traditions. They are now considered ‘preserved Japanese traditions.’  In this way, it is a way for the people in the present, to feel their continuities and ancient histories, even though they are merely named ‘Japanese’ in the modern era.  Thus, a “Japanese-ness” could be crafted by way of naming these festivals and songs and dances, as ‘traditions of nation.’  They are, and they are not.  They may also signify resistance to nation, by communities and clans and ethnicities that were eventually assimilated into the Japanese nation.  For this reason, it is important that these traditions are preserved and empowered.

This video is of an excellent performance group performing in August of 2012.

This style of dancing is called ‘Awa Odori’ 阿波踊り.   The Awa Festival is a 3-day festival celebrated on Shikoku in Japan, in August, as one of the hundreds of events celebrating O-Bon  お盆 (National Buddhist Festival honoring the Dead). Awa, is the old term from the middle ages, naming what is today–Tokushima prefecture. This style of dancing is believed to have begun in the late 1500s.

A fairly good overview of the Awa dance and festival is at wikipedia.

Today, most watch the thousands of trained dancers in parades through the streets.  Originally, Everyone in the community would dance together.  Today, most people feel too embarrassed to dance or say they ‘can’t’ (internalized oppression in the nation-state).  People listen to and watch these dancers in parades and in one or more the hundreds of performances on the streets and in entertainment halls.  There are, however, many smaller celebrations where some choose to participate themselves, accompanied by the traditional instruments (flute, shamisen, bells, taiko drums).

When history is lost and manipulated by various forces in nation-making, ideas become contested along the lines of haves and have-nots, and what is ‘best for the nation.’  When reading histories of the Awa-Odori, its religious and communal roots and relations to nations are fairly clear, yet bring up many questions and silences.

In any case, this performance of Awa-Odori by this group is wonderful.  The clip contains short snippets of a few of the performances, where one can see the beauty of this form of Japanese dance.  Each hand gesture, finger movement, leg and foot movement, degree of bending and leaning, signifies something.  One can see the elements of nature (mountains, wind, oceans, etc.) in these movements and gestures.

I always remember these dances from childhood and remember them as more than just something ‘pretty.’  There is history in these dances, no matter how urbanized and nationalized and homogenized they are.  They retain that spark of beauty, grace, and some of its original forms.

My Poem published in KARTIKA REVIEW!

Kartika Review is one of the best literary journals dedicated to Asian-Americans.

The current issue– the Spring 2012 issue has just come out.

My first poem has been published in it (page 54).

It is entitled: For Kiyoko, Epitaph/Chikai – which is dedicated to my mother who recently passed, just this past September.

On ‘Pearl Harbor Day’ : December 7th

On a certain You Tube video I found randomly on that site in my search for videos about Pearl Harbor to see how there were patterns on how information and memory are represented, I found some comments by viewers on a couple of sites, that mirror those of comments on Hiroshima 1945.  Some of the people on these sites, commented that the Japanese deserved the Atomic Bomb.  This echoes thoughts and sentiments expressed by many people I’ve known from the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, and other places where Japanese imperial forces committed atrocities.  So as we all must know and understand by now, is that the past is never gone.  The past lives in different ways and forms, in the present.
When I was eleven and twelve years old, our family lived in Hawaii, in an area called ‘Halawa’ in Aiea.  Until this time, we had moved from Japan to Albuquerque, New Mexico, then to Hawaii.  During these times, I remember that my mother grew steadily despondent and quiet.  But in Hawaii, my mother began to feel enlivened by company and a social life.  All around were families that were of Portuguese, Saamoan, Caucasian, Japanese-Hawaiian, Hawaiian, Black, Puerto Rican, and other ethnic groups that defied the notion of separate and divided.  Our neighbors immediately closest to us, with our front doors not even a meter apart, were the Aiu family.  I was close with the four kids of theif family.  They were Caucasian.  Mrs. Aiu, the mother of the nuclear family, was very friendly and kind and I remember her helping my mother with many adjustments to living in our new home.
She was in her teens on the morning of December 7, 1971.  When I asked her a couple of times, about that day, she would say how horrific it was and terrifying, and she would describe their run into the bomb shelters near the house.  We lived in a housing complex that had been through that attack and remnants of that day are seen in the bullet holes and craters created by Japanese pilots with their planes that day.
One day, I heard my mother crying in her room.  I went to see what was happening and she said to go back to my room and nothing was wrong.  I was afraid and sad.  When I was in my room I heard the front door open and Mrs. Aiu called out to us that she was in.  In those days, in Hawaii, people rarely knocked on doors of friends.  Just as it had been when I was a child in Japan, we enter homes without knocking or doorbells, announcing our presence.  That day I told Mrs. Aiu that Mama was in her room crying and I didn’t know what was wrong.  Mrs. Aiu went in to find my mother in her bed, crying, yet nothing was physically wrong.  Mrs. Aiu pulled my mother’s head gently into her chest and rocked my mother while stroking her hair.  I felt sad, relieved, and inept, not knowing what I–a twelve year-old could do in this situation.  My mother’s loneliness as a military bride in the US had not sunk in for me.
Later that same night, Mrs. Aiu returned with a pot she held with pot-holder gloves.  She carried this into my mother’s room and she opened the lid.  It was oka-yu, or as my mother called it: okai-san (rice gruel).  Mrs. Aiu had also placed an umeboshi (preserved Japanese sweet plum) in the middle of the okayu, with its distinct purple pink color.  My mother again began to sob and Mrs. Aiu held her for awhile, tellilng her that everything will be okay.  I remember this as a photo in my memory.  And soon, Mrs. Aiu began to feed the okayu to my mother as she cried and ate.  My mother said in her broken English: Sank- U, Sank-U.
I remember asking Mrs. Aiu a couple of weeks later why she was so nice to us, since she was a white-American who had been bombed by the Japanese.  She told me that governments and military people play games with people but that is no reason to hate a whole people.  She said that my mother did not create the war and did not make any hatreds and obedience on her own.  So she felt that we should all be taking care of each other as people.
December 1941, Hiroshima 1945, the fire-bombings of 66 major Japanese cities, the devastation of war on all sides of the Pacific and inside of it–all did not begin in 1941 or 1939 or 1925.  The dates are markers of certain events that are used by the people writing the stories.  They may all contain elements of a ‘truth.’  However, it’s never the way are told or shown.  We must think.  Japan’s rise to imperialism had a whole array of reasons that explain (but do not justify) its complexities in the international racisms that existed.  Elite militarisms in desperate contexts as well as moral superiorities.  No American or European group of men in world government, took any Asian nation seriously.  They were inferior.  This creates a certain kind of ‘blowback.’
But I remember Mrs. Aiu’s kindness and sober way of carrying herself in thoughtfulness.  The memories of December 7th, for her, were to be lived with increasing self-education, thought, care across difference.  This contrasts strongly with those who view vengeance as the priority.  However, pain is pain, memory is memory.  How will we, in the world, move forward.  It is easy for those who do not understand the horrifying life of living in war and domination, and who would admonish others to forget and ‘be peaceful.’  This is also violent.  We must work together to forge memories ‘with’ these pains of history in life and to transform them.  Others are still more attracted to violence and the only way they can attain their self-mastery is through the mastery of others.  Violence is a tool.
My mother.  Mrs. Aiu.  Hiroshima. Pearl Harbor.  But there’s always more behind the representations.  Shanghai, Nanking, Brussels, San Francisco Peace Treaty, Manchuria, Taiwan, South Korea, European colonialism, US economic and military wealth, Christian missionaries, racism.
In memory of soldiers who sacrifice themselves in the name of the game of governments, in the name of the military’s game of vying for supremacy or being killed, in memory of those families who suffer.  In the memory of deaths that make our nations and realities.  There is not much else in the world but that we are alive because of people who have died in the name of nation and its constructed honor.  The honorable, the valiant, the inescapable link between valor and violence. In memory, can we construct different memories?
Thoughtfulness.  Kindness. Commitments to forging peace across differences.