Picture Bride Stories

Hardback: $44.99
ISBN-13: 9780824866242
Published: June 2016

Additional Information

328 pages | 86 b&w illustrations


  • Winner of the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA) – Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature (various categories), 2017
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  • About the Book
  • During the 1885 to 1924 immigration period of plantation laborers from Japan to Hawaii, more than 200,000 Japanese, mostly single men, made the long journey by ship to the Hawaiian Islands. As it became apparent that they would never return to Japan, many of the men sent for brides to join them in their adopted home. More than 20,000 of these “picture brides” immigrated from Japan and Okinawa to Hawaii to marry husbands whom they knew only through photographs exchanged between them or their families.

    Based on Barbara Kawakami's first-hand interviews with sixteen of these women, Picture Bride Stories is a poignant collection that recounts the diverse circumstances that led them to marry strangers, their voyages to Hawaii, the surprises and trials that they encountered upon arriving, and the lives they led upon settling in a strange new land. Many found hardship, yet persevered and endured the difficult conditions of the sugarcane and pineapple plantations for the sake of their children. As they acclimated to a foreign place and forged new relationships, they overcame challenges and eventually prospered in a better life. The stories of the issei women exemplify the importance of friendships and familial networks in coping with poverty and economic security. Although these remarkable women are gone, their legacy lives on in their children, grandchildren, and succeeding generations.

    In addition to the oral histories—the result of forty years of interviews—the author provides substantial background on marriage customs and labor practices on the plantations.

  • About the Author(s)
    • Barbara F. Kawakami, Author

      Barbara F. Kawakami (née Oyama) was born in Japan in 1921 and immigrated to Hawaii with her family when she was three months old. She learned to sew at a young age, and for thirty-eight years was a dressmaker—a profession she continued after marriage while raising a family of three children. At age fifty-three, she entered college and earned a BS in fashion design and merchandising, and later an MA in Asian studies. Ms. Kawakami has been a researcher, writer, and consultant for a number of projects, including the film Picture Bride, released by Miramax Pictures in 1994. Her award-winning book, Japanese Immigrant Clothing in Hawaii 1885–1941, was published in 1993.
    • Akemi Kikumura Yano, Introducer

  • Reviews and Endorsements
    • This engrossing book continues Kawakami's exploration of this part of the American story to include a group not much previously noticed. She carries out her research and presentation with a courageous, individualized, and sensitive attention to amazing variations within this particular ethnic group. Highly recommended.
      —R. B. Lyman Jr., CHOICE
    • By letting her subjects, all issei (first-generation immigrant) women, tell their stories in their own words, taken from 250 hours of interviews she recorded with them, Kawakami gives voice to the silence-riddled history of picture brides in Hawaii and the reader feels an instant connection to them. . . . <i>Picture Bride Stories</i> is a scrapbook of memory and a treasure of local Japanese history. Along with their voices, the legacies of these women endure in these pages.
      —Misty-Lynn Sanico, Honolulu Star-Advertiser
    • This book is a great addition to Japanese American history because it focuses on a specific segment of picture brides, those that settled in Hawai‘i rather than the U.S. mainland. . . . [It] provides a needed historical account of the actual voices of picture brides from Hawai‘i that highlighted their agency and contributions to the Japanese American community in Hawai‘i.
      —Jeffrey Yamashita, Nichi Bei Weekly
    • Barbara Kawakami’s lifelong work in documenting the heartwarming—and often heartbreaking—stories of Hawaii’s picture brides is wonderfully chronicled in Picture Bride Stories. Barbara weaves together the first-person voices of the courageous Issei women with her remarkable knowledge of the history of Japanese immigration to Hawaii. Her book is a significant contribution to the documentation and preservation of the untold stories of Japanese women pioneers who, along with their families, were an important part of Hawaii’s tapestry. Picture Bride Stories has significance not only to the history of Hawaii, but to the historic relationship between the United States and Japan that endures today.
      —Irene Hirano Inouye, President of the U.S.-Japan Council
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