—Paul Spickard, University of California, Santa Barbara
"Greg Robinson’s lively and informative The Great Unknown: Japanese American Sketches is a compilation of stories about a multitude of people, mostly Japanese Americans, but also non-Japanese allies, selected because their narratives unsettle the conventional narrative of Japanese America. The book is a model of engaging and accessible public scholarship, thoroughly grounded in archival research."
"Everybody who picks up a copy of this book will soon come to view [it] not only as an essential part of any home library of Japanese American literature, but also of American history in general."
In The Great Unknown, award-winning historian and journalist Greg Robinson offers a fascinating and compulsively readable collection of biographical portraits of extraordinary but unheralded figures in Japanese American history: men and women who made remarkable contributions in the arts, literature, law, sports, and other fields. Recovering and celebrating the stories of noteworthy Issei and Nisei and of their supporters, The Great Unknown provides powerful evidence of the diverse experiences and substantial cultural, political, and intellectual contributions of Nikkei throughout the country and over multiple decades.
What is more, The Great Unknown reshapes our understanding of the Asian American experience. By focusing attention on exceptional figures who deviated from social norms, Robinson subverts stereotypes of ethnic Japanese and other Asians as conformist or colorless. The collection also highlights a set of recurring themes absent from conventional histories—including the lives of Japanese Americans outside the West Coast, the role of women in shaping community life, encounters between Japanese American and African American communities during the struggle for civil rights, and the evolving status of queer community members.