Sculpting History - by Steve Alden Nelson


In recent months, I’ve participated in several readings of Ken Narasaki’s “No-No Boy”.

It is a heartbreaking portrayal of the damages done to individuals, families, businesses, and entire communities when a government deems it legal to imprison a specific portion of society out of fear and paranoia.

The closest I’ve ever come to being locked up is having been raised a prisoner to poverty. That wasn’t because of any decisions made by the government, it was just the luck of the draw. Despite my early lot in life, I, along with all of my eleven brothers and sisters, worked and studied our way to very comfortable lives.

I’ve had advantages; I’m an America born Caucasian man. It’s no secret that those factors come with a generous amount of perks. Just ask most women or minority.

I attended private as well as public schools though college, where I was exposed to many history classes and textbooks, but thanks to the selective storytelling of the powers that be, there was never any mention of internment camps. (A name that sounds more like a rest stop than a prison).

I don’t recall exactly when I did begin to learn the truth about what our government did to the Japanese, both immigrants and American born during World War II, but it was, and still is, absolutely unconscionable.

Having married into a Japanese family, I’ve gotten first hand accounts from some of those prisoners of war, my husband being one of them. In addition, I’ve been exposed to art, theater, film, and museums that document the many of the brutal realities of that dark period in our history.

As an adult, my husband took a journey back to Amache, Colorado in hopes of finding some remnants of the camp where, as a young boy, he and his family were incarcerated. Having no map, or clear memory of its location, he asked a few of the locals in which direction he should go. No one had any idea.

Through luck and instinct, he finally found the area where the barracks once stood. There were no signs of the chair that he and his twin brother built from mud just days before their release. Not even a plaque of remembrance, only miles and miles of barren land leading up to the Rocky Mountains.

All these years later, we live in the hills of Silverlake, CA.

In our home is a beautiful wooden sculpture created by my husband’s late Father. It’s a whimsical portrayal of a young girl. She’s wearing a skirt, and has the ears of a cat. It doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t have to. She was carved from one of the very fence posts that once surrounded their prison.

Although much has been documented since that point in history, there are many more stories to be told. The human race needs to learn and remember. Ken Narasaki’s “No-No Boy” teaches all of us something unforgettable.

Steve Alden Nelson is a writer/actor living in Los Angeles.