The other day, I was helping a student do research on Japanese-Americans who fought in WWII. While I was looking for resources, I had casually remarked that this topic was something that I was interested in. She looked at me and asked, “Are you JA?”
I’ve never heard the term before, but I quickly surmised that JA stood for “Japanese-American,” and without a beat, I answered yes. She then said, “There are so few of us here.”
And then I got chills up my spine.
As long-time readers of this blog know, identifying as Japanese-American was something that took me some difficulty to discover. But hearing this woman give this identity a name that sounded so assertive, and then in one sentence to include me in that identity– it felt like I’ve come home. I belong to a community I didn’t fully realize existed.
I had felt some of that kinship when I was practicing taiko– several of the members of my group are second- and third-generation Japanese-American. But I didn’t stay long with this group, alas, so I had lost this community.