I believe efforts to shield the young nisei during the internment and assimilate after didn’t allow for emotional vulnerability for the issei, impacting relations between generations in my family. My relatives encouraged me to participate in my culture from childhood, as they yearned for the opportunity when they were younger.
It was our duty as yonsei to learn the stories of the survivors of the internment. My parents welcomed open discussion in our family, but we rarely talked about the internment or what effect it had on the family. Sometimes it felt like the sansei in my family were “too busy” to reclaim their cultural identity, and that learning about our culture was simply a hobby, or something they could let fade. Bitterly writing my last name kanji in my homework wrong and erasing it yet again, I often silently wondered, “If it’s so important, why don’t you ask? Why are you comfortable not knowing?”.
It would have been validating to hear about my relatives’ struggles with identity, and the generational divide.
Learning about generational trauma, I realized my own need to make time to explore that, but recognize it as a privilege as well. Meeting other yonsei triggered my own introspection. I was emboldened to ask my family about some of our discussions, and realized they hadn’t taken the time to consider their own feelings or think of them as important to the continuing legacy of the issei. Every generation has had distinct struggles in coping with this shared trauma and the changes it brought to the community. I learned a lot from asking, but I also learned a lot from what they did not know.