News about the premier academic journal devoted to all aspects of cartooning and comics -- the International Journal of Comic Art (ISSN 1531-6793) published and edited by John Lent.

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Book Review: Tokyo Rose--Zero Hour: A Japanese American Woman’s Persecution and Ultimate Redemption After World War II.

 reviewed by John A. Lent

Andre Frattino and Kate Kasenow (ill.). Tokyo Rose--Zero Hour:  A Japanese American Woman’s Persecution and Ultimate Redemption After World War II. Rutland, VT:  Tuttle Publishing, 2022. 128 pp. US $16.99. ISBN:  978-4-8053-1695-5.

Those of us who grew up in the 1940s certainly heard about Tokyo Rose but had no idea who Iva Yoguri was, let alone were we aware of the injustices she endured from both the Japanese and U.S. authorities, an unfair judge, a manipulated jury, and shameful reporters the likes of Walter Winchell, Harry Brundidge, and Clark Lee.

Iva Yoguri was a Nisei (born of Japanese immigrant parents and educated in the U.S.) who fulfilled her family’s wishes and visited a sick aunt in Tokyo in mid-1941. Her passage back to Los Angeles was thwarted when war against Japan was declared by the U.S. on Dec. 8, 1941. By November 1943, she was coerced to join Radio Tokyo as an announcer of Japanese propaganda, using the name, “Orphan Ann.” During her broadcasting stint, Iva found subtle ways to change her messages from what the Japanese intended.

After Japan’s surrender, Iva was accused of being a traitor, suffered through a stacked courtroom that sent her to prison for ten years. After serving more than six years, she was released. In 1977, President Gerald Ford granted Iva Yoguri a full and unconditional pardon, and in 2006, she was honored by The World War II Veterans Committee for “her indomitable spirit, love of country, and the example of courage she has given her fellow Americans.”

This is an important story that, like other travesties of injustice and inhumanity, needs to be told (or retold). Fortunately, comics, comix, and graphic novels, in recent decades, have unearthed some of them, such as the sending of Japanese-Americans to concentration camps in February 1942; the brutalization of Native-Americans, and the sad history of African Americans. There are many other injustices or controversial events, both historical or contemporary, deserving to be treated by graphic novels (e.g., the circus-like, 1930s trial of Bruno Hauptmann for the kidnapping/death of aviator Charles Lindbergh’s child; the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol insurrection, etc.)

This type of investigative cartooning requires much research and a yeoman effort to get the emotional and cultural modes correct. Andre Frattino was very much aware of these needs--pulling information from “recorded testimonies, personal interviews, and documented statements” and including in his seven-person team, three of what he called “sensitivity” readers. The team provided a few extras to aid in contextual, historical, and linguistic understanding, such as an epilogue, timeline, quotes from actual broadcasts by “Orphan Ann,” and a small bibliography. Letterer Janice Chiang shared her own experience of “straddling two worlds and two cultures,” as Iva Yoguri did, in the Foreword, bringing in issues of assimilation, racism, and xenophobia, while Frattino’s Preface prepared readers to enter the visual story with background.

The publisher, Tuttle, has a long and proud history of bringing awareness to East Asia. Its founder, Charles E. Tuttle, served on the staff of General Douglas MacArthur in 1945, charged with reviving the Japanese publishing industry. He founded the company in 1950, and since then, Tuttle Publishing has brought out more than 6,000 titles, including James Michener’s classic, Hokusai’s Sketches.

Tokyo Rose… is an eye-opening volume, written and drawn simply, but meticulously and authoritatively, making it a book that needs to be read by all who exited an educational system that favored only the America is flawless refrain.



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