Copyright 1995 ABC-CLIO. This review was taken from the ABC-CLIO Video Rating Guide for Libraries on CD-ROM, a 5-year compilation of over 8900 video titles and reviews, 1990-1994. For information regarding order VRGL CD-ROM, contact: ABC-CLIO, P.O. Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911; 805-968-1911

This following text has been included in the UCB Media Resources Center Web site with the kind permission of the publishers.

A Family Gathering

  • Series: American Experience
  • Rating: *****
  • Audience: High School to Adult
  • Price: Public performance: $59.95
  • Date: Copyright 1989. Released 1989.
  • Descriptors: United States - History - 20th century. Japanese Americans - History. Internment.
  • Production Information: Live action. Produced by Lise Yasui, Katherine Kline. Revised edition. Color. Closed captioned. 60 min.
  • Production Company: WGBH (Boston) WNET (New York) KCET-TV (Los Angeles)
  • Available from: PBS Video 1320 Braddock Pl. Alexandria, VA 22314-1698 (703)739-5380
  • ISBN: ISBN 0-7936-0080-4.
  • Cataloging: 973.992 Japanese Americans - Evacuation and relocation, 1942-1945||Yasui family
  • Print Entry #: 1:1882
  • Reviewer: Will K. Covington

    Considering the current wave of Japan-bashing, it isn't hard to understand the hysteria and racial prejudice that led to the internment of more than 100,000 West Coast residents of Japanese ancestry during the first year of US involvement in World War II. What is more difficult to comprehend is the depth of the suspicion and hatred directed at people who were once productive members of their respective communities. A Family Gathering, from the American Experience series, probes beneath the surface to expose the dire consequences of Executive Order 9066, not only for those Japanese Americans but also for the American conscience.

    This is not your typical family reunion. It is more of a reclaiming of the Yasui clan's psyche. Narrator/producer Lise Yasui, seeking to fill a gap in her family's history, causes all viewers to come to grips with the realities of confinement, family dissolution, and shattered lives, for which no compensation exists.

    Family patriarch Masuo Yasui followed his father and brothers from Japan to the "land of opportunity" in 1903. He opened a dry goods store and worked hard to achieve the American dream, enterprisingly accumulating property by purchasing stump land and by subsidizing newer emigrants from Japan. Masuo married a Japanese teacher in 1912, and they settled down to the good life in Hood River, Oregon, eventually raising nine children. Masuo gradually became the leader of the Japanese community in the Hood River Valley and a respected member of society. Life was grand - or was it?

    As far back as 1919, anti-Asiatic feelings were emerging in Hood River and all along the West Coast. That was the year in which Asian immigrants were barred from becoming American citizens. By 1923, they could no longer purchase US land, but the shrewd Masuo bought in his children's names, since they were Americans. Then came that fateful day in December of 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the Yasuis' world fell apart. Based on specious evidence, Masuo was arrested and imprisoned for the "duration." Even worse, his family members were "evacuated" from their home, and many of them were interned, even though some were US citizens. Masuo's son Minoru was one of only three Japanese Americans to legally challenge the curfew and exclusion orders. Minoru's vindication would come more than 40 years later, but none would be forthcoming for Masuo. He had lost everything and would regain very little after his postwar release. He ultimately committed suicide in 1953, a naturalized citizen but a broken man.

    As series host David McCullough points out, no act of espionage or sabotage was perpetrated by any American of Japanese descent nor by any Japanese noncitizen. The formal apology and the reparations for which Minoru had worked so long finally came in 1988, but came much too late for Masuo - and for most of the other 60,000 survivors of the internment camps, who are dying at a rate of 200 a month!

    Told through the use of home movies, photos, stills, letters from prison, etc., A Family Gathering is an emotionally powerful and poignant portrait of success, defeat, and eventual triumph, and of an American dream turned into an American tragedy. A technically excellent production with a haunting score by Sumi Toonooka, this program is properly included in the distinguished American Experience series. The sense it gives of the deep feelings of Lise Yasui, during the journey into her family's past, makes this program more personal but just as enlightening as Guilty by Reason of Race (Films Inc., 1972). Highly recommended for all high school, college, and public library collections.

    (Editor's Note: A shorter version of this program was released in 1988 by New Day Films. See review in the Winter 1990 issue, entry 1:452.)

    Go to Media Resources Center Entry Page

    Copyright (C) 1996 by the Library, University of California, Berkeley. All rights reserved.
    Document maintained on server: by
    Gary Handman, Head, Media Resources Center.
    Last update 7/25/96. Server manager: