Alumna publishes book about World War II romance

University of Oklahoma Press is pleased to announce the release of In Love and War: The World War II Courtship Letters of a Nisei Couple by Melody M. Miyamoto Walters ('97).

The events of December 7, 1941, rocked the lives of people around the world. The bombing of Pearl Harbor had intimate repercussions, too, especially in the territory of Hawai‘i. In Love and War recounts the wartime experiences of author Melody M. Miyamoto Walters’s grandparents, two second-generation Japanese Americans, or Nisei, living in Hawai‘i. Their love story, narrated in letters they wrote each other from July 1941 to June 1943, offers a unique view of Hawaiian Nisei and the social and cultural history of territorial Hawai‘i during World War II.

Drawing on her grandparents’ letters, Miyamoto Walters fleshes out what it meant to live and work on the islands of Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, and Hawai‘i. during the war years. Although, to outsiders, twenty-somethings Yoshiharu Ogata and Naoko Tsukiyama were both “Japs,” the couple came from different socioeconomic classes and cultures. Naoko, the author’s grandmother, hailed from a prosperous Honolulu merchant family, whereas Yoshiharu grew up poor, part of the laboring class on a sugar plantation on Kaua‘i. Their courtship was riddled with challenges. He stayed on O‘ahu, then moved to Kaua‘i; she moved to the Big Island. Yoshiharu faced the possibility of being drafted into the military. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, they both lived under martial law.

Some Americans, operating under nativist and xenophobic beliefs, questioned Japanese Americans’ loyalty to the United States. But, as the letters collected here show, the Nisei were patriots. Naoko and Yoshiharu spoke English, participated in the YMCA and the USO, and taught in public schools. They embraced American popular culture—quoting lines of pop songs in their correspondence—and celebrated both Japanese and American traditions. Through their experiences, Miyamoto Walters shows how Japanese Americans’ negotiation of race, ethnicity, and cultural space in wartime indelibly shaped Hawai‘i’s postwar economic, political, and social landscape.

Melody M. Miyamoto Walters is professor of history at Collin College in McKinney, Texas. Her articles have appeared in Overland Journal and the Journal of Documentary Editing and in the Encyclopedia of Immigration and Migration in the American West.

University of Hawai‘i Alumni