Wakako Yamauchi

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Wakako Yamauchi
BornOctober 23, 1924
Westmorland, California, U.S.
DiedAugust 16, 2018(2018-08-16) (aged 93)
Gardena, California, U.S.
Genre Drama
Notable worksAnd the Soul Shall Dance
The Music Lessons
Notable awardsLos Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award (1977)

Wakako Yamauchi (October 23, 1924 – August 16, 2018) [1] was a Japanese American writer. Her plays are considered pioneering works in Asian-American theater.



Yamauchi (née Nakamura) was born in Westmorland, California. Her mother and father, both Issei, or first-generation Japanese immigrants, were farmers in California's Imperial Valley. Many of her stories and her two plays, And the Soul Shall Dance and The Music Lessons , are set in the same dusty, isolated settings". [2] Her plays and stories examine the hardships that Japanese Americans faced in California's agricultural communities and in the internment camps during the second World War. [3] In 1942, at seventeen, Yamauchi and her family were interned at the Poston, Arizona camp; the title of her play 12-1-A refers to the family's address in the War Relocation Authority camp. While there, she worked on the camp newspaper, the Poston Chronicle, alongside fellow writer Hisaye Yamamoto (with whom Yamauchi would maintain a lifelong friendship). [4]

After a year and a half in Poston, Yamauchi resettled outside camp, first in Utah and then in Chicago, where she began to take in interest in theater. In 1948, she married Chester Yamauchi, with whom she had one child before the couple divorced. She returned to the Los Angeles area, where she studied painting at Otis Art Institute (now called Otis College of Art and Design) [5] and continued to write. Her first published story, And the Soul Shall Dance, appeared in Aiiieeeee! An Anthology of Asian-American Writers . Encouraged by East West Players director Mako, she soon after adapted the story into a play. [4] The stage version of And the Soul Shall Dance was first performed at the East West Players in Los Angeles in 1974, and won the 1977 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for best new play. It was later produced for public television. [2]

Rosebud and Other Stories, a collection of stories she wrote in her seventies and eighties, was edited by Lillian Howan and published by University of Hawai'i Press in 2010. A collection of her plays and stories was published in 1994 under the title Songs My Mother Taught Me: Stories, Plays and Memoir. [6]

In 2018, Yamauchi died in Gardena, California at the age of 93. [1]


Some of Yamauchi's best-known short stories depict the tensions between the aspirations of Issei women and the patriarchal norms of Issei culture. The stories And the Soul Shall Dance and Songs My Mother Taught Me both depict Issei women struggling to fulfill ambitions that contradict traditional gender roles. And the Soul Shall Dance represents one of the most straightforward depictions of an Issei woman's rebellion. By depicting the complex relationships among the female characters, Yamauchi portrays Issei women's resistance and containment. [3]

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  1. 1 2 Gelt, Jessica (August 24, 2018), "Wakako Yamauchi, a pioneer playwright of the Japanese American experience, dies at 93", The Los Angeles Times
  2. 1 2 Wong, Shawn. Asian American Literature. New York: HarperCollins, 1996.
  3. 1 2 Tudeau, Lawrence J. Asian American Literature: Reviews and Criticism of Works by American writers of Asian Descent. Farmington Hills: Gale Research. 1999.
  4. 1 2 Wakida, Patricia. "Wakako Yamauchi," Densho Encyclopedia. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
  5. "Wakako Yamauchi". Densho Encyclopedia. Densho. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  6. Genzlinger, Neil (September 9, 2018), "Wakako Yamauchi, Japanese-American Playwright, Dies at 93", The New York Times

Scholarly studies

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