A “community study” of Minidoka “Nichi Bei



Edited by Susan M. Stacy (Pullman, Wash .: Washington State University Press, 2020, 246 pp., $ 21.95, paperback)

During the May 1995 Symposium Mike Mackey hosted in Powell, Wyo. on the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans at the nearby Heart Mountain Relocation Center, Mackey toured with Bob Sims (1936-2015) and me around Powell. One topic that we, three non-Nikkei Japanese-American wartime incarceration historians (all indebted to Roger Daniels) discussed on this occasion was our common ardent desire to write a narrative history of an administered concentration camp. by the War Relocation Authority: Mackey of Heart Mountain. , me from Manzanar, Calif. and the Sims from Minidoka, Idaho.

Only Mackey’s dream came true when, in 2000, he published his book “Heart Mountain: Life in Wyoming’s Concentration Camp”. My ambition has been derailed by other more urgent projects. In the case of Sims, as revealed by his widow, Betty Sims, in her superb introductory essay in “An Eye for Justice: Robert C. Sims and Minidoka”, the main stumbling block to achieving her goal was “serious health problems for the last twenty years of his life” (p. xx).

It is therefore entirely appropriate that Susan Stacy eagerly responded to Betty Sims’ request, following her husband’s death from prostate cancer, to review the records on her behalf established by her family at Boise State University – made up of historical records amassed by Sims at the Minidoka Relocation Center for 40 years – before determining how best to make available to posterity his exemplary achievement as a leading Minidoka scholar. What emerged from this process was the expertly edited book by Stacy here under review, filled with strategically placed maps, photos and illustrations, relevant appendices, and a useful bibliography of sources.

The lion’s share of “An Eye for Injustice” is the first part of this three-part volume spanning 160 pages. The Sims articles and lectures in this section pay almost equal attention to the American-Japanese experience in Idaho, evidenced by the xenophobic, racist, and hypocritical actions of Chase Clark (both as governor of state and as a federal judge), as they do for the Nikkei population imprisoned in Minidoka. All of these articles bear witness to Bob Sims’ intense dedication to human decency, multiculturalism, civil liberties and social justice. In addition, they are embodied in his membership of the board of directors of the Friends of Minidoka, his central role in the establishment by this group of an annual conference.

Minidoka Civil Liberties Symposium, and its strategic efforts on behalf of Minidoka being designated as a unit of the National Park Service.

Luckily, Susan Stacy saw fit to include in “An Eye for Injustice” how Bob Sims envisioned the book on Minidoka that he would never write: “A community study … analyzing the history of the group since its forced withdrawal from their homes, through… the assembly centers (Puyallup and North Portland)…, the experience of the war in the camp and the variety of resettlement experiences, and finally, the return to the West Coast and efforts to establish their old “communities”. (p. 143).

The prodigious editorial gift that Stacy has offered to potential readers is to create a book as true to this vision as possible.

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