At the Day of Remembrance program held at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington D.C., curator Peter Manseau asked me, “Why now? Why look at the history of the WWII incarceration of Japanese Americans now?”

My response was that in truth, I had missed my earlier publication goal, which would have resulted in American Sutra being published during President Barack Obama’s administration. Some may recall that Obama had commented on religion and America,  saying” Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation—at least, not just... We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, and Hindu nation, and a nation of non-believers…” Publishing American Sutra at this particular moment in time gives it a very different resonance, an urgency, and in hindsight, I feel glad it was late, and that it came out now. So much has changed in just a few years under the new presidential administration, and there are so many meaningful lessons from our nation’s histories.

On that note,  I’m grateful that today, Lapham’s Quarterly graciously published "Muddy Waters," an excerpt from American Sutra, which draws up on these stories from the experiences of Japanese Americans during World War II and their struggle to rise above the suffering caused by incarceration to still practice Buddhism and strive for enlightenment. Read the excerpt here (and please do share!)

Lastly, if you have read American Sutra and are inspired to leave a review on Amazon, I would be most grateful. These reviews not only help potential readers, they also help stimulate interest in the book in general.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding American Sutra or this newsletter, please email me.

Kindest regards,


At the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s Day of Remembrance program, I was blessed to be featured along with musician Kishi Bashi. Afterwards, we were joined with NMAH curators Peter Manseau and Noriko Sanefuji.


The 260-seat theater was at capacity—with several dozen more people watching a video feed of the program from an overflow area. It was a diverse, multi-generational audience.


The evening concluded with two affirming comments from the audience, the final one coming from a woman whose family had been incarcerated at Topaz. She had never previously met anyone involved in documenting the WWII JA removal/incarceration who did not have a personal connection to it. She was encouraged to know that people value and care about this history—that people will continue to remember, share, and draw meaningful lessons from these histories even beyond the living memories of those who directly experienced them.


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