Even before internment, Japanese largely lived in separate cultural communities from their West Coast neighbors. The first-generation American children, the Nisei, were American citizens, spoke English, and were integrated in public schools, yet were also socially isolated in many ways from their peers and subject to racism. Their daughters especially found rapport in a flourishing network of ethnocultural youth organizations. Until now, these groups have remained hidden from the historical record, both because they were girls' groups and because evidence of them was considered largely ephemeral. In her second book, Valerie Matsumoto has recreated this hidden world of female friendship and comradery, tracing it from the Jazz age through internment to the postwar period. Matsumoto argues that these groups were more than just social outlets for Nisei teenage girls. Rather, she shows how they were critical networks during the wartime upheavals of Japanese Americans. Young Nisei women helped their families navigate internment and, more importantly, recreated communities when they returned to their homes in the immediate postwar period.
This book will be a considerable contribution to our understanding of Japanese life in America, youth culture, ethnic history, urban history, and Western history. Matsumoto has interviewed and gained the trust of many (now old) women who were part of these girls' clubs.