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Virtual Asian-American Art Museum Project

Alexei Taylor, Author

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Shimomura’s Relationship with his Parents, Part I

What you’ve described leads me to ask to hear more about your relationship with your parents.

It’s pretty safe to say that my upbringing with my parents, especially my father, who was a very strong paternal figure, was always one of rebellion and tension and anguish. I mean, we got along fine until we scratched the surface of things, and then it got very tense very quickly. The divide between my parents’ American-born generation and their parents, the immigrants, was huge. Traditional Japanese thinking and values were so different and sometimes exactly opposite of those born in America. These differences became even more apparent between the second generation (my parents) and third generation (me), where it was difficult to see or appreciate where these differences in values came from. Even today it is difficult to know whether my beliefs and values came out of my own natural development or out of sheer rebellion.

But my father had his own issues,
as well. First of all, the incarceration was something that he wouldn’t allow to be discussed in the house. I mean, it simply wasn’t allowed to be talked about. But that was no different than most Japanese American families. They would talk about it amongst themselves, but they didn’t discuss it with their kids. The more that might be forgotten, through the generations, the better. But when the time came to talk about this publicly—when the reparations were being suggested—my dad was right there to all of a sudden start discussing it. But he had a line drawn as to how far he would go. And some of the best stories that he had, he wouldn’t allow to be published anywhere. There was always concern about what other people thought. I’ve always said that my grandmother cursed me for life when she used to tell me, “Remember, Roger, anything you say or do in life, good or bad, will reflect on the entire Japanese race.”

That’s a lot to carry around.

Yes, and she told me that on a regular basis. And to some extent I think I bought into it.
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