Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 628
Yoshiko Uchida was born on November 24, 1921, in Alameda, California, and grew up in Berkeley with her father, Dwight Takashi Uchida, a businessman, and her mother, Iku Uchida. As a little girl, Yoshiko liked to draw, and by age ten she was writing short stories. During her summers, she...
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Yoshiko Uchida was born on November 24, 1921, in Alameda, California, and grew up in Berkeley with her father, Dwight Takashi Uchida, a businessman, and her mother, Iku Uchida. As a little girl, Yoshiko liked to draw, and by age ten she was writing short stories. During her summers, she would travel, once going to Japan when she was about twelve years old.
In 1942 Uchida graduated with honors from the University of California, Berkeley, but her diploma arrived through the mail because by then she— like many other Japanese-Americans— had been evacuated from her home to the Tanforan Race Track. From the race track, she was moved to the Topaz, Utah, internment camp. She and others of Japanese ancestry who lived on the U.S. West Coast were taken from their homes and sent to inland camps after war with Japan broke out. Most of these Japanese-Americans lost their homes and businesses; much of what they could not carry, they had to sell or give away. They experienced humiliation and were deeply marked by their miserable internment. Although she found useful work teaching second grade at Topaz, Uchida's strongest memories are of the awful living conditions—snakes and scorpions were everywhere in the camp—and of the abiding sense of being unjustly treated. Even though she was allowed to attend Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, on a fellowship in 1943, her year in internment left a permanent impression on Uchida.
In 1944 Uchida received a master's degree in education from Smith College. During 1944-1945, she taught second grade at Frankford Friends' School in Philadelphia. While working as a secretary for the Institute of Pacific Relations from 1946 to 1947, she decided that she wanted to write. From 1947 to 1952, she worked as a secretary for the United Student Christian Council in New York, and in 1949 her first book, The Dancing Kettle and Other Japanese FolkTales, was published. Her first book of modern fiction, New Friends for Susan, was published in 1951. Unlike most of Uchida's later books, this one did not deal specifically with Japanese or Japanese-American topics.
Uchida spent 1952 in Japan on a Ford Foundation Foreign Study and Research Fellowship; during this time, she researched the materials for The Magic Listening Cap. She remained in Japan until 1954, writing articles for the Nippon Times of Tokyo. During the years 1955-1964, she was the West Coast correspondent for Craft Horizons of New York, and she wrote a column "Letters from San Francisco" for the magazine. From 1957 to 1962, she also worked as a secretary for the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley.
Published in 1971, Journey to Topaz was an American Library Association Notable Book for 1972. Samurai of Gold Hill received the Commonwealth Club of California Medal for best juvenile book by a California author in 1972. In 1981 Uchida received the Distinguished Service Award from the University of Oregon for her work in helping Americans better understand Japan and the heritage of Americans of Japanese descent. In 1982 her book for younger children A Jar of Dreams (1981) received the Commonwealth Club of California Medal for best juvenile book. The Best Bad Thing (1983), the first sequel to A Jar of Dreams, was named an American Library Association Notable Book for 1983. The Happiest Ending (1985) received numerous awards, including the Young Authors' Hall of Fame Award by the San Mateo and San Francisco Reading Associations, and the Child Study Association of America's Children's Book of the Year Award.
Yoshiko Uchida's accomplishments are many. She speaks Japanese and French, as well as English, and she has been active in improving understanding between American ethnic groups. Her writings for adults include Desert Exile: The Uprooting of a Japanese American Family (1982), which is an important resource for those interested in learning about the internment of Japanese- Americans during World War II, and Picture Bride (1987).