Eating Graphic History: Japanese American Food Pioneers of California Cuisine

Saturday, January 5, 2019
Stevens C Prefunction (Hilton Chicago)
Sam Nakahira, Grinnell College
As a scholar, I believe in the premise of giving credit where it is due. I feel inspiration to study Japanese American farmers and food retailers in California in order to recognize Asian Americans’ history and accomplishments. In addition to my scholarly interests, I am a big comics fan. Long before entering college, I envisioned myself drawing stories that transform readers' worlds, perspectives, and thoughts as my favorite graphic novelists did for me. Noticing how many graphic novelists today create more historical and journalistic graphic novels that require deep research, I realized I can combine my two loves of comics and history to create historical graphic novels.

For my presentation, I will explain my ongoing process and challenges of creating nonfiction comics around my Mellon Mays research. My comic tells the story of one of my case studies, Bill Fujimoto, a Berkeley food retailer. In this presentation, I question how to tell history in an appealing, more human way but with the same complexity of a research paper. I share my struggles with creating a story as opposed to sticking to the format of an academic paper in my comic. I explain how I transcribe oral history interviews into comics. While I have faced many challenges, I argue that graphic novels and comics provide a useful and engaging format to tell the stories of history.

See more of: Undergraduate Poster Session
See more of: AHA Sessions