Mitzi Asai Loftus and David Loftus — 'From Thorns to Blossoms: A Japanese American Family in War and Peace'

A Japanese American girl born and raised partly in traditional Japanese farm style in Oregon—and unjustly imprisoned by her own country during World War II—eventually overcomes the self-hatred fostered by post-war racism of her hometown.


Third Place Books is delighted to welcome Mitzi Asai Loftus and David Loftus to our Ravenna store! The mother/son duo will be discussing their new book, From Thorns to Blossoms: A Japanese American Family in War and Peace, a remarkable story of a transformation from thorns into blossoms, pain into healing. This event is free and open to the public.

For important updates, registration is highly recommended in advance. This event will include a public signing and time for audience Q&A. Sustain our author series by purchasing a copy of the featured book!

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About From Thorns to Blossoms. . .

Mitsuko “Mitzi” Asai was not yet ten years old in the spring of 1942 when President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 sent 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry—about two-thirds of them US citizens—from their homes on the West Coast to inland prison camps. They included Mitzi and most of her family, who owned a fruit orchard in Hood River, Oregon. The Asais spent much of World War II in the camps while two of the older sons served in the Pacific in the US Army. Three years later, when the camps began to close, the family returned to Hood River to find an altered community. Shop owners refused to serve neighbors they had known for decades; racism and hostility were open and largely unchecked. Humiliation and shame drove teenaged Mitzi to reject her Japanese heritage, including her birth name. More than a decade later, her life took another turn when a Fulbright grant sent her to teach in Japan, where she reconnected with her roots.

In From Thorns to Blossoms, Mitzi recounts her rich and varied life, from a childhood surrounded by barbed wire and hatred to a successful career as a high school English teacher and college instructor in English as a Second Language. Today, Asai descendants continue to tend the Hood River farm while the town confronts its shameful history. Originally published in 1990 as Made in Japan and Settled in Oregon, this revised and expanded edition describes the positive influence Mitzi’s immigrant parents had on their children, provides additional context for her story, and illuminates the personal side of a dark chapter in US history. It’s the remarkable story of a transformation from thorns into blossoms, pain into healing.

 

Praise for From Thorns to Blossoms. . .

“After World War II—when her family was removed from their community and incarcerated in concentration camps on American soil—grade schooler Mitzi Asai returned home to find herself ignored by former friends and classmates and her family alienated from neighbors. Mitzi’s hometown gained national notoriety for its venomous ‘No Japs Wanted’ ads and for its actions against Mitzi’s brother and other Japanese American military veterans. Mitzi Asai Loftus decried being treated as an ‘invisible object’ and eventually became a teacher and public speaker, bluntly revealing her family’s treatment. Loftus’ updated memoir offers fresh insights—from her father’s uniquely frank viewpoints to her own more recent reflections—inspired by queries from audience members and from her sons. In From Thorns to Blossoms, Loftus candidly and refreshingly tells her story ‘with [her] chin up.’”
—Linda Tamura, author of The Hood River Issei and Nisei Soldiers Break Their Silence: Coming Home to Hood River


Born on a fruit orchard in Hood River, Oregon in 1932, Mitzi Asai Loftus spent three years of her childhood in government incarceration camps in California and Wyoming. After earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Oregon, and a year-long Fulbright scholarship to teach in Japan, she taught English and French as a high-school substitute in Eugene and Coos Bay, Oregon for nearly a half century. She also taught English as a Second Language for 25 years at Southwestern Oregon Community College. For more than seventy years, she has given public talks about her family’s experience to audiences of all ages. At 91, she resides in Ashland, Oregon, but continues to travel and patronize local arts organizations.

David Loftus is a former newspaper reporter and book editor who now works as Legal Editor for a large law firm in Portland, Oregon. He has acted on stage and in videos and indie films, danced with performing folk dance troupes, recorded books for the blind, and sung in choirs and played violin and percussion in chamber orchestras. David currently reads literature aloud to live audiences every month at Rose City Book Pub, and voices principle characters for two science-fiction podcast series, “Exoplanetary” and “253 Mathilde.” You might have seen him singing Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” on the back of an electronic tricycle a year ago; it went viral on TikTok and racked up nearly 13 million views.


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