We kicked off our stay in East Los Angeles with two powerful stories. Miyo Ukita brought her mother, Nellie Mitani, into the booth to share her experiences in the Japanese Internment Camps during World War II. Nellie was living with her husband in Fresno, California and remembers the moment she heard that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. “That was the saddest time in my life.” Nellie and her husband were ordered to evacuate Fresno and sent by the government to an internment camp in Arizona. “Here we were, citizens of the country and we were treated like enemy aliens.”
Rueben Martinez, longtime owner of a Latino literature bookstore, and his granddaughters Samantha and Sabrina had a lively conversation about their love of literature.
Rueben became a barber shortly after moving to Los Angeles from a small mining town in Arizona. At the barber shop Rueben gave reading lessons to parents so they could go home and read aloud to their children. Many years later, a man visited Rueben’s bookstore to thank him for teaching his parents to read, a tradition he had kept up with his own children. Rueben works to keep his philosophy alive. “Books are el mejor regalo en el mundo (the best gift in the world),” he says.