Welcome, dear readers, to Open Mic Friday!
Today I am so honored to introduce you to Fredrick Cloyd, whom I met a year ago at the Oakland Word reading. I was very moved by Fredrick’s reading from his memoir-in-progress, and it’s another excerpt from that work that he shares with you here.
Dream of the Water Children, dream of the water children
By Fredrick Douglas Kakinami Cloyd
Dedicated to my mother: Kiyoko Kakinami Cloyd.
Written to the legacy of the Mothers, children, fathers, and the forgotten Black-Pacific
All contents property of Fredrick Douglas Kakinami Cloyd. No part of this may be copied or used without written consent from the author.
Copyright © 2011 Fredrick Douglas Cloyd.
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This is a work of creative non-fiction. It combines memories from recall, conversations with parents and other relations, friends, journal entries, dream journals.
This first book of a planned trilogy: Dream of the Water Children, dream of the water children focuses on sociological haunting and legacies of race-relations, gender, and war-trauma, told through the lens of the mother-son relationship. Its specific focus is on the mother, Kakinami Kiyoko. It is a work for all those interested in Black-Japanese mixed-race people and their parents, the US militarization of the Pacific after World War II and its complex legacies through Black-Asian identities, and gender relations, and the will to freedom.
Note for the Reader
All the incidents and events in this work, including dreams, are actual events and constructed and/or recorded from memories including recall and meditations, journal entries, conversations and interviews. Although memory and journal entries have been recalled and used, I have taken liberty in the writing of memory itself, using certain tones and descriptions in lieu of not remembering or knowing completely, certain details of past events. Some names have been changed to protect people’s identities. I have noted references to those events, facts, and comments that are not from memory or conversation.
Since I am a ethnographic research scholar, as well as all of the categories that identify me as person, race, gender, socio-economic class, sexual orientation, from a certain region, time-period in history, with certain relations with history, my parents and friends, places, and my ways of thinking and remembering, the vignettes I produce for you, the reader, in this book, represent all of these parts of me, without leaving things at the door. In this, there are silences. There are spaces where I hope that the reader will think and question, along with feeling, remembering, in order that we may transgress dominant norms, and therefore easy categories of life. Often these categories keep us apart, afraid, angry, unreal. Memory as a disjointed recall, told through the passages of transnational homelessness, disjunctures and juxtapositions, and the continual legacies that dot the different landscapes, is where I leave you, the reader, with, in order to open dialogues toward peace, social justice, and a different imagination of homelands.
Monsters 1950 Shôwa Year 25
化け物 1950 年 昭和 25年
From a leaflet from the US armed forces made available to the occupation soldiers during the strongest period of attempting to implement the anti-fraternization policy which tried to discourage relations between Japanese women and occupation personnel:
“[Japanese women] have been taught to hate you. They do as their men tell them, and many of them have been told to kill you. Sex is one of the oldest and most effective weapons in history. The Geisha girl knows how to wield it charmingly. She may entice you only to poison you. She may slit your throat. Stay away from the women of Japan, all of them.” (Time Magazine, 27 August 1945)
What racisms and gender-constructions and violence did leaflets such as these reinforce, reproduce, construct? It soon becomes the ‘normal’ and everyday. For years. Does it just stop, cease to be alive when the leaflets disappear or when atomic bombs are dropped or when people marry? How long do these words form lives?
1950. American soldiers were all around all the time. I was still afraid of them. My friend Mieko and I would talk about how the Japanese soldiers looked so handsome and hot (kakko-ii) in their uniforms. My older brother was a soldier. He had fought in Burma and went through hardships there that he never spoke to me about. Now instead of Japanese soldiers, we see Americans. Everywhere. Jeeps all over. Walking around, usually in bunches. They looked sexy too. Even the women soldiers, they were sexy. We’d never seen women soldiers before! I wanted to be around them all. They beat our soldiers. They won the war. I was afraid of them. We were told by some people in the neighborhood that the Americans were monsters and they would rape us. I wasn’t scared but I had to believe it too.
One day Mieko and I decided we would try to get closer to the Americans. Yes we grabbed the candies and chocolates they threw from their jeeps when we were younger, but now I want to see them in a different way, closer. We knew about the US military base that had been set up just a little walk from Mieko’s house. So we walked slowly with our arms linked with each other at the elbows so we wouldn’t be kidnapped so easily by the monsters. On this day we decided to go, there must’ve been something special going on. As we reached a huge and endless wire-picket fence, we see hundreds, or thousands of American soldiers in straight lines, line after line, on the other side of the fence. There were huge airplanes there and tanks and jeeps everywhere. American soldiers were everywhere in crisp uniforms. We heard some other soldiers in different uniforms–probably officers, screaming something at them we don’t understand. There were hundreds of us Japanese girls there, leaning against the fence, peering through, staring and ogling and wondering, in awe. We were attracted. But there was something very familiar. We watched our brothers and friends and uncles in similar lines with similar people yelling orders. So it must’ve been the same with Americans.
As we got closer, Mieko and I wondered “don na kao shiteru no ka ne, Amerika-jin wa?” (wonder what kind of [true] faces Americans have?). We stayed clinging to each other as we leaned our faces through the spaces in the wiring, our noses sticking through, our eyes piercing and big. We looked to see American faces, the faces of the enemy my brothers and uncles went off to fight against and who killed my older sister in the Hiroshima bomb–the monsters. I notice one soldier. He looks like he is my age, like 16 or something. He’s a boy! I see beads of sweat. I somehow see the look of fear in his eyes. I slowly work my stare down his body and notice that the hand holding his huge military rifle, is shaking, trembling. Why is he trembling? I turn to Mieko and ask her. She says “Kowai no yo, kitto. Amerika wa ima Chôsen de sensô shiteru no yo” he’s probably scared, you know, America’s now fighting a war in Korea. Then we both realized . . . . . . Americans were human too! This boy in his uniform was scared. I felt sorry for him. My body shook. Suddenly I felt different. I began to see all of the soldiers’ faces. They were all different now. They were boys like our soldiers who went to war and never returned. The tanks, the jeeps, the planes, the rockets, the uniforms, the faces, the shaking, the sweat, the guns, all rolling by, rolling by, more and even more, an endless parade.
1968. Yuu Lob Dat Neega Bitch!!!!!???? (You love that nigger bitch!!!!!????) Then the throwing of whatever was near: cups, bowls, plates, forks and knives. Things flew at Dad, then shattered all over the wall, the floor, the table, the chair. Dad would silently and quietly open the door to leave the house while he quietly yet sternly told her “don’t yell at me woman” as objects flew at him in rapid succession from Mama. She neega bitch Uguri neega bitch!!!! (ugly nigger bitch). She had found the photos of beautiful black “woman-friends” that Dad had hidden in the folds of the encyclopedia sets in our home. He must’ve thought that since Mama wouldn’t/couldn’t read them, the photos were safe there. But Mama cleaned every nook and cranny. That day, during one of those cleanings, she found those photos. She wondered why she was alone most of her life, in that house, raising me. Where was he every night? He was never home, even when he was supposed to be the father of the house. Sometimes I wouldn’t see Dad for two or three days afterward. This happened two or three times when I was a kid. Our home was hardly ever calm unless it was late at night or early in the morning. But Dad never raised his voice or hit or yelled. But Mama did, though. The more Dad became quiet, holding things in, the more angry Mama became. She wanted expressions, warmth, companionship, something Dad couldn’t give her. Dad was a charming man who was peaceful and controlled. And when she would use the word nigger . . . it was meant to hurt him. It also hurt me when I heard it. It might’ve been the only counter-force she had to fight a battle with a man. American man. Victorious. Occupier. Class inferior. A warrior against the occupier white America. To counter the dutiful ‘geisha-wife-that-must-serve-him’ image, she began questioning that since before the war with Japanese men. Although for the Japanese men, she didn’t need to be a gentle geisha, she certainly had to know her place as second-class and subservient to men’s commands. In the postwar period, the demands of becoming the ‘correct’ Japanese woman that the elite Japanese men propagated amongst their class, was now deployed across the entire populace with the help of the Americans, Brits and Australians. What were the monsters that now ran rampant in our home in an open way? Where were they from? Wasn’t this now, an impossible place? What now would love act like, look like, feel? I began to understand the complexity of race and gender, in those early years, even if I could not articulate. I began to understand at this early age, that life was a not-so-simple thing. And as much as Mama was my caretaker and savior during my tiny years, those times marked a beginning of my wanting to separate from her and to recognize an aloneness that no one could assuage. There was something, I thought for awhile, that she hated in me. And Dad couldn’t be a solace for me either. Whenever I did something he didn’t like, he would always say to me: “you’re your mother’s son.” He made me separate from him whenever I displeased him. A quiet exclusion. I began to know ‘my place.’ I became a symbol. The three of us were a nexus of displacements by nation, race, and gender. I was already defeated in a space alone, alongside, but not the same space as Mama. Or Dad. But Mama had her own battles—those of having to be my mother.
“You ain’t nothin’ but a nigger bitch!” the white woman said to Mama in the PX. There were three of them standing with their shopping carts in the aisle. Mama had brought me with her shopping at the PX. ‘YOU SHUT UP!!” Mama yelled at them. The three white women came up to Mama. Mama rolled up her sleeves and her face changed. Just then, a tall white man came and asked if anything were the matter. The three white women hurriedly left the aisle to take their carts to the check-out stand. When Mama and I left the PX, she gripped my hand and we stopped in our tracks. I looked up to see her looking all around, checking to see if those women were around. They called her those names because they saw me. They knew that my Dad, her husband, was black. I was the cause of Mama’s pain, I thought.
Copyright © 2011 Fredrick Douglas Cloyd.
Fredrick Douglas Kakinami Cloyd was born in Japan shortly after the US occupation officially ended. His African-American/Cherokee father was an occupation soldier in Korea and Japan while Fredrick’s mother—a Japanese/Chinese/Austro-Hungarian girl of the war-ruins was from an elite nationalist family in Japan. Transnational racisms and sexisms during the rise of US and Japanese global stature present a foundation through which Fredrick weaves his stories of memory and family history. He received a masters degree from a postcolonial/feminist-oriented social cultural anthropology program at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. He feeds his love of Asian and Latin foods, coffee, TV shows, music and steam trains while working on his first interstitial auto-ethnography entitled: ‘Dream of the Water Children, dream of the water children.’
Find Fredrick online at ainoko.wordpress.com, and his book at wix.com/swordglint/waterchildren.
This is very, very powerful for me. Your masterful use of details makes it even more so. These issues are heartbreaking for me, but fascinating at the same time. Thanks for sharing this bit of your family’s story with us here.
Thank you sparksinshadow, for reading this. I, of course, want to move people and get people to think. There is alot in all of our stories. For me, this period of history made me, and Mama’s story is more buried and invisible. The Occupation story of Japan is also “invisible.” So I’ve chosen to write it. I’m touched that you were moved. Thank you.
This is absolutely beautiful. I have been thinking of something more “profound” to say about it since I read this last Friday, but I can’t think of anything… Beautiful.
Thanks higuerita! I am hoping that these stories I will tell in “Dream of the Water Children, dream of the water children” will get folks to feel disturbed, sad, excited, anxious, fragmented, and historical.
You can visit my book promotion site, although it will have the same excerpt, plus a couple more things.