Oral History Interview with Ai Tanaka
Kibei female, born in Loomis, California on November 18, 1918 to farm laborers. The family returned to Japan in 1921 to be with Aiâ€™s ill maternal grandmother. Parents were unable to return to the U.S. under the Oriental Exclusion act of 1924 which prevented Japanese laborers from entry. Ai was educated in Japan and after high school went to sewing school, then became a telephone operator. Eager to see her hometown of Loomis, Ai returned to California in March 1937 when she was 19. While working on a Loomis farm, she met and married Mitsuyo Tanaka. He became a motion picture projectionist and found jobs in Japanese and Caucasian theaters. In 1942, When Ai was twenty-four, Mitsuyo and two daughters went to Walerga Assembly Center but Ai remained in Sacramento for the imminent birth of a third child. The family was reunited, then sent to Tule Lake, California and finally, to Amache, Colorado where Mitsuyo made cloth flowers for funerals and memorial services. The family returned to Sacramento in the fall of 1945 and lived briefly in a Buddhist Church hostel in very crowded conditions. They eventually found better housing and Mitsuyo found a projectionist job, later became a mechanic at McClellan Air Force Base. Ai did domestic work for seven years but continued her artistic interests: teaching Japanese dancing, sewing kimonos for family members, arranging flowers, and won prizes as a poet of the Senryu style.
Transcript available at Sacramento State University, Sacramento University Library
3 Tapes of 3
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