Mori, Toshio 1910–1980

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Mori, Toshio 1910–1980

PERSONAL: Born March 20, 1910, in Oakland, CA; died 1980.

CAREER: Writer and botanist. Worked in family-owned horticultural nursery.

AWARDS, HONORS: American Book Award, Before Columbus Foundation, 1985, for Yokohama, California.


Doitsugo yonshukan: Deutsche sprache in vier wochen (German textbook for Japanese speakers), Daigaku Shorin (Tokyo, Japan), 1938.

Yokohama, California (stories), introduction by William Saroyan, Caxton Printers (Caldwell, ID), 1949, with introduction by Lawson Fusao Inada, University of Washington Press (Seattle, WA), 1985.

Woman from Hiroshima, Isthmus Press (San Francisco, CA), 1978.

The Chauvinist, and Other Stories, introduction by Hisaye Yamamoto, Asian-American Studies Center, University of California (Los Angeles, CA), 1979.

Unfinished Message: Selected Works of Toshio Mori, introduction by Lawson Fusao Inada, foreword by Steven Y. Mori, Heyday Books (Berkeley, CA), 2000.

Contributor of stories to periodicals; editor of Trek (newspaper), Topaz Relocation Center, Topaz, UT, c. 1940s.

SIDELIGHTS: Toshio Mori, a second-generation Japanese immigrant or "nisei," was one of the first Japanese Americans to make a mark on the American writing scene. His first novel, Yokohama, California, was scheduled to be published in 1942, but World War II intervened. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Mori and 100,000 other Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps. Mori continued to write while in the Topaz Relocation Center in Topaz, Utah, and edited a newspaper for his fellow internees. One of his novel-las, The Brothers Murata, also makes use of Topaz as a setting. After the war, Yokohama, California eventually found its way to print, although not until 1949.

Many of Mori's numerous short stories also draw on events in his own life, including the decades he spent working in his family's horticultural nursery business. In "Through Anger and Love," the protagonist is a nine-year-old boy, the son of a flower-seller, who, angry at his father, sets off to sell flowers by himself. Another story, "The Chessmen," "is a prize, a heart-rending tale of an old nurseryman-gardener who is about to be put out to pasture," Akira Tofina wrote in Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy, and the Humanities online.

Unfinished Message: Selected Works of Toshio Mori collects more than a dozen of Mori's stories. Lonny Kaneko, who reviewed the volume in the International Examiner, noted that "there are three or four traditional conflict-based stories in the collection, but many others demonstrate a touch that is unique and off-the-beaten path." Kaneko called Unfinished Message "a delightful read."



International Examiner (Seattle, WA), April 30, 2001, Lonny Kaneko, review of Unfinished Message: Selected Works of Toshio Mori, p. 12.

MELUS, summer, 1988, Margaret Bedrosian, "Toshio Mori's California Koans," p. 46; winter, 1999, Benzi Zhang, "Mapping Carnivalistic Discourse in Japanese-American Writing," p. 19.


Heyday Books Web site, (August 16, 2005).

Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy, and the Humanities Online, (August 16, 2005), Akira Tofina, review of Unfinished Message.