September 6, 1999
David Takami of Kenmore was won a 1999 Governor's Writers Award for his book Divided Destiny: A History of Japanese Americans in Seattle, published by the University of Washington Press: Wing Luke Asian Museum.
Ten authors from Bellingham to Walla Walla will be honored as winners for their 1998 publications. The award-winning books, chosen from over 300 titles published by Washington authors, reflect the creativity and diversity of Washington's literary community.
Takami, currently a legislative aide on leave from his position of Public Information Officer for the Seattle Parks Department, has been a writer since 1982. A love of reading and books, as well as an interest in the process of writing, were the stimuli for his own venture into the literary world.
After graduating from the U.W. with a major in English, Takami went to Japan for three and a half years. While there, he started writing professionally about his experiences and also did some reporting for one of the English newspapers in Tokyo.
"I went to Japan because I was interested in learning more about my own ethnicity and culture," says Takami. "It was there that I discovered more about my own identity."
Takami's grandparents emigrated from Japan at the turn of the century and although he had lived in places with large Japanese-American communities, he had never felt a part of the culture. Living in Japan gave him the opportunity to feel more deeply connected to his roots and embark on his process of self-discovery.
In the mid-1980s, Takami worked as a copy editor for the Seattle Times and did freelance work for various publications. In 1991, he was asked to be the project writer for an exhibit on Japanese-American history at the Wing Luke Asian Museum. He wrote the exhibit's catalogue while doing extensive research about the Japanese community in Seattle and the immigrants' experiences.
In 1997, the Wing Luke received a grant to expand the catalogue into a book. It took Takami about nine months to complete the process and the resulting work, Divided Destiny: A History of Japanese Americans in Seattle, published in 1998.
"From my research, I came away with so much respect and admiration for what the immigrants went through and what they built up despite the odds and the discrimination against them," said Takami. "They were able to establish a rich and vibrant community in Seattle. It was a wonderful experience to talk to many of the old immigrants living here, and hear their stories and gain their perspectives on history."
Takami was obviously delighted that his book received the Governor's Writers Award. "It is very gratifying to receive such recognition, especially since this is my first book," he said. "I am most proud of the fact that this story was told from different personal perspectives and not just a reiteration of the progression of history. It is told through the eyes of the people who experienced it."
Takami's next project is a novel about living in Japan.
The 33rd annual awards ceremony for the winners of the 1999 Governor's Writers Award is sponsored by the Washington State Library and the Washington Commission for the Humanities. It will be held on September 15, at 7 p.m., at the Evergreen State College Longhouse, and will feature readings and comments from the award winners. The public is invited to the event, which is free of charge.