Yoshiko Uchida (November 24, 1921 – June 21, 1992) was an award-winning Japanese American writer.

Yoshiko Uchida
Born(1921-11-24)November 24, 1921
Alameda, California United States
DiedJune 21, 1992(1992-06-21) (aged 70)
Berkeley, California United States[1]
Occupationshort story writer, editor, novelist, children's book author, teacher
Genrefiction, folktales, nonfiction, autobiography
Literary movementFolk Art Movement
Notable worksThe Invisible Thread
Journey to Topaz
Picture Bride
RelativesKeiko Uchida (sister)
Iku Uchida (mother)
Dwight Uchida (father)
Michiko Kakutani (niece)[2]

Early life and educationEdit

Yoshiko Uchida was born in Alameda, California, the daughter of Takashi ("Dwight," 1884-1971) and Iku Umegaki Uchida (1893-1966). She had an older sister, Keiko ("Kay," 1918-2008, mother of former New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani).[3] She graduated from high school at sixteen and enrolled at University of California, Berkeley.[3]


The Uchidas were living in Berkeley, California and Yoshiko was in her senior year at U.C. Berkeley when the Japanese attacked the naval base at Pearl Harbor in 1941. Soon after, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered all Japanese Americans on the west coast to be rounded up and imprisoned in internment camps. Thousands of Japanese and Japanese Americans, regardless of their U.S. citizenship, lost their homes, property, jobs, civil liberties, and human dignity.[3] The Uchidas were not spared. Her father was questioned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and he and his family, including Yoshiko, were interned for three years, first at Tanforan Racetrack in California, and then in Topaz, Utah. In the camps, Yoshiko taught school, and had the chance to view not only the injustices which the Americans were perpetrating, but the varying reactions of Japanese Americans towards their ill-treatment.[3]

In 1943 Uchida was accepted to graduate school at Smith College in Massachusetts, and allowed to leave the camp, but her years there left a deep impression. Her 1971 novel, Journey to Topaz, is fiction, but closely follows her own experiences, and many of her other books deal with issues of ethnicity, citizenship, identity, and cross-cultural relationships.[3]


Uchida became widely known for her 1982 autobiography Desert Exile, one of several important autobiographical works by Japanese Americans, who were interned that portray internment as a pivotal moment in the formation of the author's personal and cultural identities.

She is also known for her children's novels, having been praised as "almost single-handedly creating a body of Japanese American literature for children, where none existed before."[4] In addition to Journey to Topaz, many of her other novels including Picture Bride, A Jar of Dreams, and The Bracelet deal with Japanese American impressions of major historical events including World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II, and the racism endured by Japanese Americans during these years.

I try to stress the positive aspects of life that I want children to value and cherish. I hope they can be caring human beings who don't think in terms of labels—foreigners or Asians or whatever—but think of people as human beings. If that comes across, then I've accomplished my purpose.[5]

Over the course of her career, Uchida published more than thirty books, including non-fiction for adults, and fiction for children and teenagers. She died in 1992.


This is a partial list of Uchida's published work. Yoshiko Uchida wrote 34 books.



  1. ^ "Yoshiko Uchida, 70, A Children's Author", The New York Times, June 24, 1992
  2. ^ Kakutani, Michiko (July 13, 2018), "I Know What Incarceration Does to Families. It Happened to Mine.", The New York Times
  3. ^ a b c d e Niiya, Bruce. "Yoshiko Uchida". Densho. Retrieved July 14, 2018.
  4. ^ Encyclopedia of World Biography, accessed November 7, 2006
  5. ^ Grice, Helena. "Yoshiko Uchida" in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 312: Asian American Writers. Gale, 2005.

External linksEdit