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The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Fifth Edition
Paul Lauter, General Editor

Janice Mirikitani
(b. 1942)

Janice Mirikitani, sansei, a third-generation Japanese American, was born in Stockton, California, just before World War II, during which she and her family were interned in concentration camps, along with 110,000 other Japanese Americans. Mirikitani is the editor of several anthologies, including Third World Women, Time to Greez! Incantations from the Third World, and AYUMI, A Japanese American Anthology, a 320-page bilingual anthology featuring four generations of Japanese American writers, poets, and graphic artists. She has published in many anthologies, textbooks and periodicals, including Asian American Heritage, The Third Woman: Minority Women Writers of the United States, Amerasia, and Bridge.

Mirikitani is a poet, dancer, and teacher, as well as a social and political activist; she has been program director of Glide Church/Urban Center since 1967 and director of the Glide Theater Group. Her commitment to Third World positions against racism and oppression is reflected in the protest content in her major collections, Awake in the River (1978) and Shedding Silence (1987). George Leong says of her: “From the eye of racist relocation fever which came about and plagued America during World War II, Janice Mirikitani grew/bloomed/fought as a desert flower behind barbed wire. She grew with that pain, of what it all represented; from the multinational corporations to war from Korea to Vietnam to Latin America to Africa to Hunter’s Point and Chinatown” (“Afterword,” Awake in the River).

Much of her work seeks defiantly to break the stereotypes of Asian Americans prevalent in mainstream American culture. Her voice is often angry, aggressive, blunt, and direct. But it can also be elegiac. Because she is finding new ground, Mirikitani takes the time to explore her family history, and she anchors her identity securely in the details of Asian American experience. In this manner she manages to escape easy nostalgia and cultural sentimentality. Mirikitani does not separate her writing from a social and political platform and sees the necessity to write out of a political agenda. Identifying her community as Third World, she says, “I don’t think that Third World writers can really afford to separate themselves from the ongoing struggles of their people. Nor can we ever not embrace our history.”

Shirley Geok-lin Lim
University of California, Santa Barbara

In the Heath Anthology
Breaking Tradition (1978)
Desert Flowers (1978)
For My Father (1978)
Recipe (1987)

Other Works
Awake in the River (1978)

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Why is Preparing Fish a Political Act?
The text of Mirikitani's poem.

An Analysis of The Poetry of Janice Mirikitani
The text and analysis of Third World Students Strike.

Breaking Silence
An article from Poetry Flash about San Francisco's New Poet Laureate.

Janice Mirikitani
Notes on Mirikitani's style and themes.

Janice Mirikitani
Biographical sketch and a cover scan of We, the Dangerous.

Secondary Sources

Deidre Lashgari, "Disrupting the Deadly Stillness: Janice Mirikitani's Poetics of Violence," Asian America 2 (1993): 141-155

Janice Mirikitani, "The Survivor." Amerasia Journal 7.1 (1980): 121-127

Janice Mirikitani, "Introduction: Silence is Not Golden," Watch Out! We're Talking: Speaking Out About Incest and Abuse, ed. Mirikitani, 1993: ix-xiv

Kyoko Nozaki, "Four Generations of Japanese American Women in the Works of Janice Mirikitani." Acta Humanistica et Scientifica 12.4 (1993): 216-250

"The Woman and the Hawk." Ayumi: A Japanese American Anthology, ed. The Japanese American Anthology Committee, 1980: 219-228

Stan Yogi, "Yearning for the Past: The Dynamics of Memory in Sansei Internment Poetry," Approaches to American Ethnic Literatures, 1996

Stan Yogi, "Japanese American Literature," An Interethnic Companion to Asian American Literature. Ed. King-kok Cheung, 1997: 125-155