My First Hundred Years:
The Memoirs of Nellie Nakamura from 1902-2002
Co-Authored by Shizue Seigel and Nellie Nakamura, with Margaret Emmy Cooper
Pease Press, 2019
(8.5 x 11 inches, paperback. 197pp, 100 historic photos,
My First Hundred Years is a lively chronicle by centennarian Nellie Nakamura's life. The rich blend of oral history and historical and social context begins with her mother Rui Sasaki's flight from the repressions of Meiji-era Japan marriage to a Kyoto fabric shop. There, Rui finds common cause with an independent New England spinster who takes her through Asia and Europe to Washington, DC, and Boston before circling the globe back to Kyoto.
When Rui returns to California, she learns that immigrant life is much harsher than serving as a companion to a kindly benefactor. Her daughter Nellie recalls toiling in California orchards when the Santa Clara Valley was described as "The Valley of Heart's Delight. When she marries a handsome immigrant, she loses her American-born citizenship due to the Cable Act. Nellie's keen eye for detail captures key moments in the daily life of Japanese Americans as she describe cutting apricots for drying, making clothese out of cat offs, working for car dealerships and wealthy Angelos, losing a dry cleaning business during the Great Depression, and a son during their World War II incarceration at Heart Mountain. Through one heart-rending challenge after another, Nellie's sunny disposition, strong work ethic and spiritual values carry her through.
(First published privately in 2003 as A Century of Change: The Memoirs of Nellie Yae Sumie Nakamura). ©2022 by David Nakamura, published by Pease Press.