Authors to Gather for Inaugural Little Tokyo Book Festival

The Japanese American Cultural and Community Center and Shotokio Crew will welcome over 30 authors at the inaugural Little Tokyo Book Festival on Saturday, Sept. 24, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Aratani Theatre.

Amy Uyematsu

The Little Tokyo Book Festival is the collaboration of JACCC and the Shotokio Crew, which is composed of local, prominent community leaders who have a strong desire to bring Asian American writers and all people who love books to Little Tokyo. Members of Shotokio Crew — Naomi Hirahara, Sherry Kanzer, traci kato­kiriyama, Iku Kiriyama and Carolyn Sanwo — have been developing a new and different concept of a book festival that encourages literacy and literature in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles.

Not your typical run-of-the-mill book festival, the Little Tokyo Book Festival will feature three dynamic panels and two “round-robin” style readings on the Aratani Theatre stage. The theater will be transformed to provide intimate and interactive participation from writers, readers and participants.

Angela Panaredondo

“This book festival will cultivate how stories, both spoken and on paper, sustain our collective and oral histories, as well as stimulate our imagination and dreams for the future,” says Hirahara, author of the Mas Arai and Ellie Rush mystery series.

The theater’s lobby will be brimming with books from invited vendors: Heritage Source, Kinokuniya Bookstore, Chin Music Press and Kaya Press, with authors signings on the Aratani Veranda. The day will culminate in a post­festival reception.

The festival will introduce new books written within the past 24 months as well as old favorites. The program will feature panel sessions with Lily Havey (“Gasa Gasa Girl Goes to Camp”), Todd Shimoda (“Why Ghosts Appear”), Nick Nagatani (“Buddhahead Triology”), Karen Ishizuka (“Serve the People: Making Asian America in the Long Sixties”), Sonoko Sakai (“Rice Craft”), Sesshu Foster (“World Ball Notebook”), Nina Revoyr (“Lost Canyon”), Sarah Kuhn (“Heroine Complex”), and Cynthia Kadohata (“The Thing About Luck”).

Chiwan Choi

“Little Tokyo was the birthplace of the Asian American movement in Southern California,” Ishizuka stated, “so having ‘Serve the People: Making Asian America in the Long Sixties’ at the Little Tokyo Book Festival is like proclaiming, ‘Tadaima! I’m home!’”

Lending their talents to the round-robin readings are Angela Penaredondo, Kenji Liu, MariNaomi, Yumi Sakugawa, Chiwan Choi, Neelanjana Banerjee, Taz Ahmed, Amy Uyematsu, Mia Nakaji Monnier, Sunny Seki, Sarena Kuhn and traci kato-kiriyama, reading from “Lament in the Night.” With a rich and diverse array of participants, there is something for everyone.

Cynthia Kadohata

The schedule is as follows:

10­ to 10:10 a.m. — Opening remarks

10:10­ to 11:20 a.m. — “Past” panel with Lily Havey, Nick Nagatani, Todd Shimoda, Naomi Hirahara (moderator)

11:30 a.m.­ to 12:30 p.m. — “Little Tokyo” round robin with Amy Uyematsu, Mia Nakaji Monnier, traci kato­kiriyama, Sunny Seki, Serena Kuhn, MariNaomi

12:30­ to 1:45 p.m. — Lunch break/book-signings on JACCC Plaza

Karen Ishizuka

1:50 to ­2:55 p.m. — “Community” panel with Karen Ishizuka, Sonoko Sakai, Sesshu Foster, Oliver Wang (moderator)

3­ to 4:10 p.m. — “Identity/Self” panel with Nina Revoyr, Cynthia Kadohata, Sarah Kuhn, Traise Yamamoto (moderator)

4:20­ to 5:35 p.m. — L.A. Asian American Pacific Islander authors round robin with Angela Penaredondo, Kenji Liu, Yumi Sakugawa, Taz Ahmed, Chiwan Choi, Neelanjana Banerjee

Kenji Liu

5:40 p.m. — Closing remarks

5:45­ to 7 p.m. — Book-signings on JACCC Plaza

7 p.m. — Open reception on JACCC Plaza

The Little Tokyo Book Festival invites you to enter the rich literary world around us and be entertained, be surprised, be inspired.

JACCC and the Aratani are located at 244 S. San Pedro St. (between Third and Second streets) in Little Tokyo.

Lily Havey

Currently, sponsors include Friends of Little Tokyo Library and Aihara & Associates Insurance Services. For questions regarding sponsorship opportunities, contact Helen H. Ota at

Author Bios

• Amy Uyematsu is a Sansei poet and teacher from Los Angeles. She has five published collections: “Basic Vocabulary” (Red Hen Press, 2016), “The Yellow Door” (Red Hen, 2015), “Stone Bow Prayer” (Copper Canyon Press, 2005), “Nights of Fire, Nights of Rain” (Story Line Press, 1998), and “30 Miles from J-Town” (Story Line, 1992). She was the first publications coordinator of the newly formed UCLA Asian American Studies Center, where she co-edited the widely used anthology “Roots: An Asian American Reader” in 1971. Now retired, Uyematsu was a Los Angeles Unified School District high school math teacher for 32 years. She teaches a creative writing class at the Far East Lounge for the Little Tokyo Service Center.


• Angela Peñaredondo, who was born in Iloilo City, the Philippines, is a Pilipinx, Pin@y poet and artist (on other days, she/siya identifies as a usual ghost, comet or part-time animal). Her book “All Things Lose Thousands of Times” is the winner of the Regional Hillary Gravendyk Poetry Prize. She/siya is author of the chapbook “Maroon” (Jamii Publications). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in AAWW’s The Margins, Four Way Review, Cream City Review, Southern Humanities Review, Dusie and elsewhere.

Mia Monnier

• Chiwan Choi is the author of two collections of poetry, “The Flood” (Tía Chucha Press, 2010) and “Abductions” (Writ Large Press, 2012). His most recent project is “Ghostmaker,” a book he wrote, presented, and destroyed in 2015. He is also currently working on a new collection of poetry, “The Yellow House,” to be published by CCM in 2017. Choi is also one of the founding partners of Writ Large Press, an indie publisher that uses the book to resist, disrupt, and transgress.

• Cynthia Kadohata is the author of “Kira-Kira” (winner of the Newbery Medal), “Weedflower,” “Cracker: The Best Dog in Vietnam,” “The Thing About Luck” (winner of the National Book Award), and “Half a World Away.” She is currently writing a novel about the daughter of a no-no boy.

Neelanjana Banerjee

• Karen L. Ishizuka is a third-generation American of Japanese descent who was part of the Asian American movement in Los Angeles. She is the author of “Lost and Found: Reclaiming the Japanese American Incarceration,” as well as many published articles, and co-editor of “Mining the Home Movie: Excavations in Histories and Memories.” An award-winning documentary film producer and museum curator, she helped establish the Japanese American National Museum and received her Ph.D. in anthropology from UCLA.

Nick Nagatani

• Kenji C. Liu is author of “Map of an Onion,” national winner of the 2015 Hillary Gravendyk Poetry Prize. His poetry is in numerous journals, anthologies and a chapbook, “You Left Without Your Shoes.” He has received fellowships from Kundiman, VONA/Voices, Djerassi, and the Community of Writers.

• Lily Yuriko Nakai Havey was born in Los Angeles. She was incarcerated in American prison camps along with 120,000 other persons of Japanese descent in 1942. After World War II, her family moved to Salt Lake City. She graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music, pursued an MFA at the University of Utah, and taught high school for 13 years before establishing a stained-glass business. Find her on Facebook!

Nina Revoyr

• MariNaomi is the award-winning author and illustrator of “Kiss & Tell: A Romantic Resume, Ages 0 to 22” (Harper Perennial, 2011), “Dragon’s Breath and Other True Stories” (2dcloud/Uncivilized Books, 2014), “Turning Japanese” (2dcloud, 2016), “I Thought You Hated Me” (Retrofit Comics, 2016), and her self-published Estrus Comics (1998 to 2009). Her work has appeared in over 60 print publications and has been featured on numerous websites, such as The Rumpus, The Weeklings, LA Review of Books, Midnight Breakfast, BuzzFeed, PEN America and more. MariNaomi’s comics and paintings have been featured in such institutions as the De Young Museum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Cartoon Art Museum, and Asian Art Museum in San Francisco; Japanese American Museum of San Jose; and Japanese American National Museum. In 2011, she toured with the literary roadshow Sister Spit. She’s the creator and curator of the Cartoonists of Color Database and the Queer Cartoonists Database.

Oliver Wang

• Mia Nakaji Monnier is a freelance writer with work published or coming soon in The Boston Globe, NBC, Los Angeles Magazine, and more. Before that, she worked in Little Tokyo — at The Rafu Shimpo and the Japanese American National Museum — for six years.

• Naomi Hirahara is the Edgar Award-winning author of two mystery series set in Los Angeles. Her Mas Arai series, which features a Hiroshima survivor and gardener, has been translated into Japanese, Korean and French. The first in her Officer Ellie Rush bicycle cop series received the 2014 T. Jefferson Parker Mystery Award. A former editor of The Rafu Shimpo, she has also published noir short stories, middle-grade fiction and nonfiction books.

Naomi Hirahara

• Neelanjana Banerjee’s poetry, essays and fiction have appeared in World Literature Today, The Rumpus, PANK Magazine, and many other places. She is the managing editor of Kaya Press, and teaches writing with Writing Workshops Los Angeles.

• Nick Nagatani, first time, “one-and-done” writer. Dorsey High grad, Tiger Youth Club participant, Vietnam vet, YB member, attorney supervisor at Children’s Law Center of L.A. Married to Wendy, three grown-up independent kids, jiichan of two. Wrote with intent of sharing experiences, struggles and resistance of his ancestors, family, extended family, tomadachis and community.

Sarah Kuhn

• Nina Revoyr is the author of five novels, including “The Age of Dreaming,” a finalist for the 2008 Los Angeles Times Book Prize; “Wingshooters,” winner of an Indie Booksellers’ Choice Award, one of O: Oprah Magazine’s “Books to Watch for,” and a Booklist Editors’ Choice for 2011; and “Southland,” which was a Los Angeles Times “Best Book” of 2003 and was recently named by the LAist as one of “20 Novels That Dared to Define a Different Los Angeles.” Her most recent novel, “Lost Canyon,” was one of The San Francisco’s Chronicle’s “Recommended Reads” for 2015 and is currently a finalist for the Southern California Independent Booksellers’ Association Book Award. Revoyr has taught at a number of universities and has also worked for two decades in the fields of child welfare and public education.

Sarena Kuhn

• Oliver Wang is an associate professor of sociology at CSU Long Beach and the author of “Legions of Boom: Filipino American Mobile DJ Crews of the San Francisco Bay Area.” He has contributed to NPR’s “All Things Considered,” KCET’s “Artbound,” KPCC’s “Take Two,” and The Los Angeles Times. He also writes an audioblog,, and is co-host of the pop culture podcast, “Pop Rocket.”

• Sarah Kuhn is the author of “Heroine Complex” — the first in a series starring Asian American superheroines — for DAW Books. She also wrote “The Ruby Equation” for the Eisner-nominated comics anthology “Fresh Romance” and the romantic comedy novella “One Con Glory,” which earned praise from io9 and USA Today and is in development as a feature film. Her articles and essays on such topics as geek girl culture, Asian American representation, and Sailor Moon cosplay have appeared in The Toast, The Mary Sue, Uncanny Magazine, Apex Magazine,,, Back Stage, The Hollywood Reporter,, Creative Screenwriting, and the Hugo-nominated anthology “Chicks Dig Comics.” In 2011, she was selected as a finalist for the CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment) New Writers Award.

Sesshu Foster

• Sarena Kuhn attends Los Alamitos High School and enjoys learning, writing, and going on adventures. With a Japanese American mother and a Caucasian father, she is proud to be “hapa” and values the importance of preserving and sharing culture. She has strong passions for literature and working with others.

• Sesshu Foster has taught composition and literature in East L.A. for 30 years. He’s also taught writing at the University of Iowa, the California Institute for the Arts and the University of California, Santa Cruz. His work has been published in The Oxford Anthology of Modern American Poetry, Language for a New Century: Poetry from the Middle East, Asia and Beyond, and State of the Union: 50 Political Poems. One of his last readings at St. Mark’s Poetry Project NYC is Mp3 archived at and local readings are archived at He is currently collaborating with artist Arturo Romo and other writers on the website, His most recent books are the novel Atomik Aztex and World Ball Notebook.

Sonoko Sakai

• Sonoko Sakai is a Japanese cooking teacher and food writer. Her stories and recipes have appeared in The Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Saveur, Lucky Peach and Zester Daily. Sakai has appeared on national television, including the Food Network, and public radio — KCRW’s “Good Food” and “Sounds L.A.,” PRI’s “The World.” As a soba/buckwheat consultant, she has worked for the Port of Skagitt/WSU and Anson Mills. Sakai’s “The Poetical Pursuit of Food: Japanese Recipes for American Cooks” (Potter 1986) is about growing up in a Japanese kitchen. Her second Japanese cookbook, “Ricecraft” (Chronicle Books), is about onigiri. It was published in July and has been selected Amazon’s Best Book of the Month. She is the founder of Common Grains, a project to grow and restore heirloom grains and help create a sustainable food system in Southern California. She works with local farmers, chefs, bakers and grain enthusiasts.

Sunny Seki

• Sunny Seki is the award-winning author/illustrator of four children’s books: “Yuko-chan and the Daruma Doll,” “The Last Kappa of Old Japan,” “The Little Kokeshi Doll from Fukushima,” and “The Tale of the Lucky Cat.” He also teaches a Southern California Japanese senryu poetry group. His works include “Gardeners’ Pioneer Story,” an account of the 100-year history of Japanese gardeners through their sensitive senryu poems, and also “Hokubei Senryu Michi Shirube,” the poetic documentation of the milestones of Japanese Americans in North America. Seki graduated from Nihon Daigaku with a degree in photography. He then came to California, where he studied illustration at Pasadena Art Center, and for the next 32 years he operated Sunny Seki Photography in Rosemead. Today he presents his books at schools, libraries, and community events. He and wife Judy have nine children, and they live in San Gabriel.

Tanzila Ahmed

• Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed is an activist, storyteller, and politico based in Los Angeles. She is cohost of The #GoodMuslimBadMuslim Podcast that has been featured in Oprah Magazine, Wired, and Buzzfeed as well as live shows recorded at South by Southwest and the White House. An avid essayist, she had a monthly column called “Radical Love,” was a blogger for Sepia Mutiny, has written for Truthout, The Aerogram, The Nation, Left Turn Magazine, and more. She is published in forthcoming anthology “Good Girls Marry Doctors” (2016) and poetry collection “Coiled Serpent” (2016) and was published in the anthology “Love, Inshallah” (2012). Her third poetry chapbook, “Emdash and Ellipses,” was published in early 2016. Her artwork was featured in the shows “Sharia Revoiced” (2015), Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s “H-1B” (2015), and “Rebel Legacy: Activist Art from South Asian California” (2014).

Todd Shimoda

• Todd Shimoda has published five novels described as “philosophical and psychological mysteries with page-turning plots”: “Why Ghosts Appear” (Chin Music Press), “Subduction” (Chin Music Press), “Oh! A Mystery of ‘Mono no Aware’” (Chin Music Press), “The Fourth Treasure” (Nan Talese/Doubleday), and “365 Views of Mt. Fuji” (Stone Bridge Press). He received the 2010 Elliot Cades Award for Literature from the Hawai’i Literary Arts Council, the highest award in the state for literary achievement. His books have been translated into seven languages, “Oh!” was selected as a NPR Summer Best Read, and “The Fourth Treasure” was listed as a 2002 Notable Book by the Kiriyama Prize. He blogs about writing at His book reviews are at the Asian Review of Books.

Traise Yamamoto

• Traise Yamamoto is associate professor of English at UC Riverside. She is the author of “Masking Selves, Making Subjects: Japanese American Women, Identity and the Body.” Her articles, fiction and poetry have appeared in a number of journals and magazines. Currently, she is working on a mixed-genre memoir on Japanese American incarceration, memory and the metaphors of silence.

Yumi Sakugawa

• Yumi Sakugawa is an Ignatz Awards nominated comic book artist and author of “I Think I Am in Friend-Love with You,” “Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One with the Universe,” and “There Is No Right Way to Meditate and Other Lessons.” Her comics have appeared in BuzzFeed, The Believer, Bitch, The Best American Non­Required Reading 2014, The Rumpus, Folio, Fjords Review, and other publications. A graduate from the fine art program of UCLA, Sakugawa lives in Los Angeles.

Also on hand to sign their books will be Jon Shirota (“Chronicles of Ojii-chan,” “Ripples in a Pond”), Shig Yabu and Willie Ito (“Hello, Maggie,” “A Boy of Heart Mountain”), and Stan Sakai (Usagi Yojimbo series).

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The Rafu Shimpo has been the nation's leading Japanese American newspaper since its original publication. We are proud to have served the Japanese American community from our Little Tokyo office in Downtown Los Angeles since 1903.

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