Friday, February 4, 2011

1969 by Jack

1969: I Spy Hotel
Edited by Dan Zhen

Chapter 1. Dossier #9066
In this section, Yamashita brings the reader into the mindset of analyzing a folder or document about Professor Tom Takabayashi. Within the document we learn that Takabayashi was born in Seattle in 1926. At 16 he is placed in internment camps with his family. We learn about Takabayashi’s education and the doctorate degree he receives on parole systems in America. The chapter includes his early career and his initial involvement with “radical protests.” In 1974, Berkeley School of Criminology is closed and the faculty blames Takabayashi and his protestors. Throughout the chapter, Takabayashi is portrayed as an instigator and a suspect of criminal activity. Eventually, Takabayashi’s wife leaves him after suspicious activity not highlighted by the report. Conspicuously, Yamashita chooses to blacken out names of popular stars and other professors to add to the mystique of the reading experience. This limited knowledge reflects postmodern literature, where authors seek to address realities of life and wish to reflect on individuals’ ignorance about specific events.

Memorable Quotes:
“I took actual parole cases and crossed out the names and decisions, sent them to justices around the state , and had them retry the cases…the decisions were ultimately preferential, personal, and ideological” (120).
“Students saw three choices: go to school, go to prison, go to war. We challenged the idea that society, and therefore education, should be controlled by the threat of punishment and the history of race” (127).

1. How does chapter 1's title (Dossier #9066) pertain to civil rights struggles in the book thus far?
2. What is your interpretation about the black-out names on pages 119, 121 etc?

Chapter 2. Recorded Live in Your Face
In this chapter, Yamashita displays this section as if it were a movie script. Each scene is detailed beforehand. Here, the chapter first follows the Asian American Experience class (Professor Takabayashi’s class) at Berkeley as it prepares a protest. Coincidentally, Takabayashi is portrayed as having almost nothing to do with the protests, simply offering a classroom for the students to meet. After the quick meeting, the students confront Takabayashi’s guest, Professor Haas and call him a racist for his book. Only one student is named by his actual name, James Baba, an important character later on. The scenes describe the hectic violence of the protests and demonstrate the extremism of both the students and of the police, nicknamed “the pigs.” Mo Akagi breaks in threatening to kill Baba. At the same time, though not related (at this point), a Minister of Defense meets with revolutionaries and teaches them to fire weapons. The chapter moves on to a JTC meeting (J-Town Collective) where members are screening a movie on police crackdowns in other neighborhoods. We learn that the JTC is trying to protect the Nihonmachi neighborhood from eviction. James Baba is an important organizer and talks strategy with other members, notably Aiko Masaoka. The chapter ends with James Baba packing up with many questions still remaining about the JTC’s mission in Nihonmachi. Significantly, James Baba is referenced by many members of the JTC as their James Brown, a popular voice of the civil rights movement.

Memorable Quotes:
“Check out what it says about mace and tear gas” (129).
“(Policeman 2) It’s not him…(Policeman 1)…Book him anyway. Resisting arrest. Assaulting a policeman. Obstructing entrance to a public space” (136).
“Molotov cocktails and stones are called criminal weapons, but how else can we defend ourselves?” (149).
“It is a conglomerate of well-to-do property owners and business interests…Their aims are selfish and do not account for the lives of longtime renters who have lived and operated their businesses in Nihonmachi for generations” (158-159).

1. In chapter 2, how does the reader's viewpoint of Professor Takabayashi change from chapter 1? What significance does this have with Yamashita's writing style?
2. What is interesting to you about Yamashita's view of the "pigs"?
3. What is the significance of the scene with Mo Akagi or the Minister of Defense?
4. Why does Yamashita reference James Brown at the end to many sections? What does this have to do with James?

Chapter 3. A Need to Know Basis
This chapter focuses on the relationship between the characters Nelson and Aiko. As their short relationship plays out, Yamashita interludes with a voice-over that talks about infiltrating an organization. First, Nelson is caught trying to steal Aiko’s car. James Baba shows up and recognizing Nelson, who plays it off as a joke, which was highly unlikely. James places Nelson under Aiko’s reluctant care and slowly, Nelson begins to develop a new identity within the community. As the voice-overs become more sinister and intense, Nelson reveals a stranger has been visiting the JTC’s offices looking for James. Unfortunately, Nelson nearly blows his cover with a character named Jay and mysteriously leaves. It is important to note that this story is given no timeline, so the reader must make their own assumptions about its chronology. Aiko’s feelings for Nelson were extremely strong, yet Nelson’s quick exit once again leaves the reader with many questions about Nelson’s true purposes within the JTC.

Memorable Quotes:
”We suspect the offices are bugged, so we move our strategy meetings around to other locations” (170).
“Say a white group and a colored group want to align themselves for power purposes. It’s easy. Pull the race card, shit about their ‘national’ position, see what I mean? No way they see eye to eye” (174).
“Anonymous letters…Anonymous phone calls. Someone calls with a tip. Same tip for another guy on the other guy. Could be regarding a woman or money. Either will do. Starts a fuckin’ war” (177).

1. In chapter 3, what does the voice-over add to the scene?
2. Was Nelson a spy? If not, who was? How can you be sure?
3. Why does Yamashita contrast the scenes of peace (children playing, lilies in a pond, grandparents) with the dark side of the voice-over? What does this say about society today?

1 comment:

  1. For my section, I found it difficult to understand the novella and decide what information was important and what information was not. The project as a whole was extremely helpful in understand the book because you only needed to closely analyze one section while the other sections were taken care of by the rest of the class. Not only did this help with the workload, but it enabled you to appreciate the book more as a reader. I thought the book was interesting and I learned a lot about that time period and the social struggles of minorities. I was very suprised to find how intertwined the movements were, whether it be black, latino, asian, or womens movements.

    Additionally, talking with Yamashita herself was equally interesting. She was able to explain many passages that we could not quite interpret (like the dancing section) and was able to give us pointers as writers as well. I would definitely suggest using this strategy again for other long (and complex) books such as I-Hotel.


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