Sunday, August 3, 2008

Part III: Translating Dear Miss Breed

I visited the Museum again in 2004 and the Miss Breed Corner was established with a large photo. I was told that the Joanne Oppenheim had started interviewing Breed's children. I decided to wait for Oppenheim's book to be published. I saw her book two years later and found it truly inspirational.

I was determined to translate Joanne Oppenheim's Dear Miss Breed into Japanese for the young Japanese readers so that they could learn about what transpired. I look forward to the day when the Japanese boys and girls acquire enough English language skills so they can fully appreciate the author's original text.

I wanted them to know when they are as young as Miss Breed's "children" were, that there was a remarkable librarian named Miss Breed who loved the young disciplined Japanese Americans and gave them strength and inspiration by tirelessly sending them books. These interned children were confined and isolated, sent away to remote concentration camps. A collection of letters written by Miss Breed's "children" would surely strike the hearts of the Japanese young readers.

I expressed my wish to be a translator both to the author and publisher as soon as Dear Miss Breed was published in April 2006. The publisher replied in June and stated that I had to go through a Japanese book underwriter/publisher. I had a number of such publishing houses in mind but I realized that they would immediately ask for a manuscript, which I didn't have. I know translation without any publisher endorsement was risky, but I felt such a strong commitment to do it anyway. There's a Japanese saying "Knowing what is right without participating in it betrays one's cowardice." I knew that there was a risk of not obtaining translation rights.

In early 2007, Dr. Keiichi Ogawa (ex-President of Yokohama City University), paid his courtesy visit to the San Diego City Library, representing Yokohama City Library, since San Diego and Yokohama are sister cities. He happened to witness the 100th birthday celebration of Clara Breed, the Head Librarian, and he was presented Joanne Oppenheim's book by Anna Tatar, the current Library Director. He read the book upon his return to Japan and he introduced "Miss Breed" in the local Kanagawa newspaper. The paper stirred a lot of interest and many expressed ardent wishes to read it in Japanese. I was about half way finished with the translation when I found out about this interest. I redoubled my efforts with the help of compassionate friends like Mrs. Teiko Uemura (ex-Kumamoto Toastmaster, now Hachioji Toastmaster) and Mrs. Shida's group in Hino, Tokyo which was my home before I moved to Kitakyushu.

I had finished two-thirds of the book in August 2007. I sent the first third of the translated manuscript out in May / June 2007 as a sample to find a publisher. I sent it to several publishers without much luck. Then I saw a translation of Michael Moore's book published by Kashiwa. Encouraged, I sent Kashiwa a copy and they showed interest. By October, the full translation was completed and submitted. The first proofs arrived April. The next three months were spent mostly finishing the bibliography, indexing, more proofreading, translating Joanne's preface to the Japanese readers, ...etc. The book was finally released on June 25, 2008.

The publisher presented the translated book to Dr. Keiichi Ogawa, Director of Yokohama Central City Library.

His comments were:

"I am so pleased to see the accurate and faithful Japanese translation by Rio Imamura. I am refreshing the moment and my memory when I encountered the book two years ago. The book touched my heart. It was so moving and inspiring. Thank you for referring to my introduction of the book in the the local Kanagawa Newspaper. I am hoping that the younger generations will read the book from two perspectives. One is the absurdity of war, and the other is humanity, love for mankind. I hope this book will be read by many people. My hearty congratulations on the completion! Very well done!"


I wish to share the pleasure of getting the translated book published with my friends. I thought translating/publishing it into Japanese would be my way of thanking the Japanese American community for sharing the above Garden project, and for their support and cooperation in building and managing Minato Gakuen, the Saturday School for the Japanese expatriate children in the Sweetwater District. I have enjoyed the privilege of befriending many people in San Diego - Ben Sagawa, Liz and Joe Yamada, Saburo Muraoka, Moto Asakawa, Jack Hamaguchi, Don Estes, and Joyce and Bill Teague. It has been very rewarding and an honor to be involved in Clara Breed's legacy.

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