Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
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Monday
Apr132015

Selling vs. Preserving History

Two important things happened last week. The first, was that Seattle's Panama Hotel (depicted in Hotel on the Corner of You Know What) was officially named a National Treasure, thus ensuring that a very valuable piece of real estate and the belongings of the 37 Japanese families therein, will never be flattened and turned into condos.

Yay, preservation! 

This was such welcome news. Because on the flip side of the historical spectrum, I found out that something less praiseworthy was happening.

Poet Janice Mikikitani found a propaganda photo of her cousin, Jimmy, for sale in the auction. Jimmy Mirikitani's life and struggles are detailed in the documentary, Cats of Mirikitani.Rago Auctions, an esteemed auction house, is selling a collection of artwork, photos, and documents that once belonged to Japanese families who were incarcerated in the US during WWII because of their race.

The artwork, created by people who had been wrongfully imprisoned, and the photos, many of which were used for propaganda, are part of a collection amassed by Allen Eaton. That collection, which was never meant to be sold, is now being sent to the auction block by someone who obtained the items from one of Eaton's descendants.

If this sounds wrong, well, that's because it is.

The auction house has issued a statement that basically says that the seller can't afford to donate these things.

Really? I find it hard to sympathize with the financial plight of the seller when compared to the Japanese Americans who created these items in the first place. They couldn't afford to lose their homes, farms, and businesses. But they did. Many lost everything and still fought in Germany, losing arms and legs and lives. Their suffering, their sacrifice, shouldn't be someone else's payday.  

These items should be donated to a museum, or given back to the artists and their familes. Anything else is just adding insult to injury. And an exhaustive list of organizations and individuals agree.

To sell these items to the highest bidder is shameless, to make museums and family members bid against each other is greedy, and for an auction house to profit via sellers' fees and buyers' premiums on items created beneath a cloud of injustice is culturally illiterate at best and morally reprehensible at worst.

To learn more about this auction and how to stop it, please visit this Facebook group.

**UPDATE**

I finally spoke with Tom Martin at Rago Auctions. He expressed his shock and awe that people feel so strongly about this auction (but that he is powerless to change anything).

He also said that he had no idea 120,000 people had been incarcerated, that people were born in camps, died in camps. (And again, he's totally helpless).

Face it, this is an extremely reputable institution (heck, David Rago is on Antiques Roadshow) but on this subject they're culturally tone-deaf in both ears. Tom was proud of their press in the New York Times. But there was no outreach on the West Coast, the area affected by the Internment. And they contacted the Smithsonian and the California Historical Society, but not any Japanese newspapers, museums, or foundations. (Also, the water-colors and oil paintings in the auction are from a prison camp in Wyoming, so the California Historical Society might be off by a few states).

Oh, and did I mention that he's also incredibly powerless to do anything?

Sorry for the snark, kids, but I took his repeated apologies of powerlessness to mean "I don't care enough to do anything, or even try."

Well, now that THOUSANDS of people are calling on Rago Auctions to halt the sale of these items, including a petition at Change.org, and Eric L. Muller, the historian who wrote the auction's catalog copy (and whom I admire) has cancelled his lecture at the auction house this week, maybe--just maybe, someone with authority will care enough to do the right thing. C'mon Rago Auctions, you can do it.

In the meantime, here's an article in tonight's Sacramento Bee: Japanese Americans protest auction of internment camp art. And a follow up piece in the NYT: Auction of Art Made by Japanese-Americans in Internment Camps Sparks Protest. Also, Rafu Shipo weighs in: Community leaders protest auction of JA camp artifacts.

Tuesday
Apr072015

Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat.

There's a big Hugo Awards kerfuffle which I'll delve into later in the week, but at the moment, I'm reeeelaxing. Okay, I'm trying to relax, as I wait to hear back from my editor on the new manuscript. 

I can't quite bring myself to dive into a new project, though I'm quietly gathering research materials. And I can't quite go back into the current book. So, I'm catching up on interviews and I even signed a contract for a new story called The Uncertainty Machine which will appear soon in the third volume of the Apocalypse Triptych. 

In the meantime, I wait, daydreaming. 

Wednesday
Apr012015

Hotel on the Corner of Hollywood and Vine: Vin Diesel cast as Henry Lee

After months of secret negotiations I'm happy to announce that HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET has finally been optioned by Hollywood mega-director, Justin Lin (The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift) with Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, X-Men: The Last Stand) as executive producer.

Production begins this fall with Vin Diesel signing on to star in the iconic role of Henry Lee, both as old Henry (with a lot of make-up and special effects) and as a baldish, swaggering, tattooed young 12-year-old Henry. And in this big-screen adaptation, Henry trades in his little red wagon for a '67 Mustang Fastback that tears up the streets of Seattle's Chinatown.

At first I was a little nervous about the casting of Vin as Henry, but it turns out that he's a huge fan of the book, literally and figuratively.

The Hollywood Reporter even quoted him as saying: "This book has everything. Racial tensions. Familial conflict. A message of social justice. A timeless love story. Even a father and son element. All it's lacking is muscle cars and booty quake."

Plus, when I found out that the filmmakers had also cast Chiaki Kuriyama, who played Gogo Yubari in the Kill Bill films, as Keiko, I was sold. Literally, because a giant Brinks truck backed up to my house and dumped a pile of cash in my garage.

At that point I thought, "What the heck, I always wanted a gold-plated swimming pool in my back yard, BOO-YA, let's do this crazy thing!"

Tuesday
Mar242015

Social media, it's not just for stalking anymore

Wowzers.

I just realized that I've had this blog-thing for ten years. That's kinda crazy, especially when you consider that I set up shop a few years before I ever finished, let alone SOLD a book. If you're curious what I was blathering on about in the dark ages, here ya go.

Nowadays, blogs are somewhat passe, especially with the ubiquity of social media (I'm looking at you Facebook). It seems that most of my online interactivity occurs in other venues, and interestingly enough, it's voiced in different ways. Sooooo...with that in mind, here's a thought-map of where I am, and what I'm up to.

***

Facebook - For those that want to friend me (please do!), I post about my current work-in-progress, travel (personal and book events) and also the regular things normal people post--like my kids' concerts, shoes that my dogs have mangled, and adventures of the Books & Brews Book Club.

Facebook/AuthorPage - Yes, I have an author page. Authors are recommended to do this since a normal FB account maxes out at 5,000 friends, but these so-called fan pages allow for unlimited followers. On my author page I tend to post more authorly things (surprise), like book tour info, tips for writers, and generally stuff germane to readers, book clubs, bookstores, and librarians.

Twitter - I love Twitter. Not sure why. Probably has something to do with my short attention span. On Twitter I tend to post humorous stuff, but also things with an activist bent. Twitter is so immediate and hashtags work so well that it's really the perfect venue to voice opinions on current events. Also, with a limit of 140 characters no one can go bananapants with some political screed. Less, indeed, is more.

Instagram - I'm a believer that IG is best used as a window, not a mirror, so you won't find a gazillion selfies, nor photos of Starbucks cups. Instead it's just weird, "Day-in-the-life" stuff. Enjoy.

Google+ - This is total mystery to me. By that I mean, I have 250,000 followers on G+. THAT'S INSANE, especially when you consider I have about 8,000 Twitter followers and 2,500 Facebook friends. What gives, Google? And there's hardly any activity, but since I have so many followers I feel like I should post something, so this tends to by my own personal click-hole where I post cool links.

***

I'm also on LinkedIn with a resume that goes all the way back to my paper route in the 6th grade, and I'm on Goodreads, but I don't do much on either venue, though this blog is aggregated to both places.

Which brings me to the big ol' WHAT WILL YOU BE USING THIS VENUE FOR?

I think this blog will become my home for long-winded responses to things in the author world. Stuff comes up that needs a full-explanation, like last year's spat between Hachette and Amazon, or a recent talk given at a major writers conference were authors were discouraged from voiceing opinions (I couldn't disagree more). That kind of thing. But also book updates, travel news, yada yada yada.

Speaking of, I really need to pack for Seattle. Emerald City Comic Con, here I come.