Diana Morita Cole publishes ‘Sideways: Memoir of a Misfit’

By P.C. Staff

Former JACL scholarship recipient Diana Morita Cole’s memoir, “Sideways: Memoir of a Misfit,” is set to be released on Oct. 22 at an event in Nelson, British Columbia, at the Touchstones Nelson: Museum of Art and History. “Sideways” is published by Diaspora Press with funding from the Columbia Basin Trust and the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance.

“Sideways” chronicles the childhood of a Japanese American born a prisoner in Minidoka after her family was expelled from Hood River, Ore., in 1942. As Cole set out to research and write her memoir, she was amazed to discover the depths of anger Japanese people experienced during the war.

“It was a really mind-blowing experience to realize that this wasn’t just unique to my country and to my family, but it was happening throughout the Pacific Rim,” Cole told the Nelson Star in a recent interview. “I would be misrepresenting myself if I said I’m not angry, but one has to channel that anger into something productive. I’m trying to achieve some form of transcendence, of self-understanding, but I also want to add to the literature that examines the displacement, imprisonment and resettlement of the Nikkei in the Americas.”

According to Martha Nakagawa of the Archives of the University of California, Los Angeles, “Sideways shatters any myth that newborn babies and children were unscathed by their unlawful imprisonment inside American concentration camps during World War II. [Cole’s] amusing and piercing revelations about the exile and resettlement of the Morita family are a welcome addition to the history of the Japanese Americans. Cole’s book concludes with a soaring anthem to the Japanese-Canadian experience.”

Cole’s story begins inside her mother’s womb, where she overhears the internment camp doctor speculate that her 44-year-old mother may not survive childbirth. “Luckily, I, a mere fetus at the time, had big ears, so I turned a somersault in utero — one of my rare moments of grace — and my 44-year-old mother survived,” said Cole.

Rita Takahashi, professor of social work and gerontology at San Francisco State University, said, “‘Sideways: Memoir of a Misfit’ is about imprisonment — based only on ancestry — and resettlement. It is the very portal through which we view the hidden aspects of three important cultural icons: William Hohri, who led a massive class-action lawsuit against the United States; Iva Toguri, who was convicted of treason and subsequently pardoned; and Roy Miki, who was born in exile in Canada.”

The first chapter in “Sideways” was published in the New Orphic Review and shortlisted in the Open-Season Competition of the Malahat Review creative nonfiction category for 2013. Cole’s book was also nominated for the Pushcart Prize Anthology for 2015.

In addition to her writing career, Cole, who has lived in Canada for more than 40 years, has initiated projects to help diminish racism and foster justice, peace and environmental awareness.

She is also the founder of the Seventh World, an association of biracial couples that created a writing contest for London Ontario K-12 children to promote racial harmony. This program has since been implemented in several other communities throughout southwestern Ontario.Cole currently resides in Nelson, British Columbia.

For more information on how to order “Sideways: Memoir of a Misfit,” email info@diasporapress.net or visit www.diasporapress.net.