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A Cold Wind from Idaho

Publication Date: January 2010


President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, resulting in a cataclysmic series of events affecting all persons of Japanese ancestry then residing on the West Coast of the United States. So calamitous were these actions that a noted scholar asserted that this action constitutes “the defining event in the history of Japanese Americans.”

What does this have to do with a book of poetry titled Cold Wind from Idaho? Those Americans familiar with the Pacific Northwest Japanese American World War II experience will understand the imagery wrought by the title as being both evocative and apt. The metaphor of freezing winter winds chilling the body and then entering the soul of those affected conveys fittingly how the Japanese Issei and Japanese American Nisei encountered, braved, and then survived the cold iciness of Idaho’s winters while they were huddled in a primitive American barbed wire concentration camp.
-From the introduction by Tetsuden Kashima


“Just as Elie Wiesel spoke for the survivors of the Holocaust, Dr. Matsuda in simple, elegant, and heartbreaking poetry gives voice to the silent generations. I hope this beautiful work finds wide readership, so we can heal the wounds of injustice and all say, ‘Never again.'”

-Barry Grosskopf

“A Cold Wind from Idaho is the logical next step for Matsuda in his evolution from a community activist to a writer pursuing social justice issues. Because of my internment experience during World War II, the poems brought back memories and gave me another perspective to better understand the tragedy of the Japanese internment.”

-Mary Matsuda Gruenwald

“Some pains take lifetimes to assuage. Matsuda’s poems break for us all the Japanese American code of silence (gaman) toward the indignities of the nine U. S. government mandated internment camps of WWII like Minidoka in Idaho where Matsuda was born. He not only educates us in the specifics of the suffering of this time, but also brings us into the transgenerational implications of it, connecting this shameful period to both the war in Iraq and the bombing of Hiroshima where one of his relatives survived near ground zero. We have had an appointment with this book for a long time. I’d say it’s an American necessity to read it…I could not put the book down. It’s why I love poetry: its power to change hearts and to educate our souls.”

-Tess Gallagher

About the Author

© Tara Gimmer

Lawrence Matsuda

Lawrence Matsuda was born in the Minidoka, Idaho War Relocation Center during World War II. He and his family along with 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans were held in one of ten concentration camps without a crime and without due process for approximately three years. Matsuda has a Ph.D. in education and was recently a visiting professor at Seattle University. He was a junior high language arts teacher and Seattle School District administrator and principal for twenty-seven years. He studied poetry under the late professor Nelson Bentley at the University of Washington and participated in the Castilla Poetry Reading Series there. He has read poetry at numerous events in Washington, Oregon, California, and Idaho, including the famous Kobo at Higo’s venue in Seattle’s International District with his mentor, Tess Gallagher. His poems appear in the New Orleans Review, The Raven Chronicles, Floating Bridge Press, Plumepoetry.com, Cerise Press, Black Lawrence Press National Poetry month website, Nostalgia Magazine, and The Seattle Journal for Social Justice. In 2005 he and two colleagues co-edited the textbook Community and Difference: Teaching, Pluralism and Social Justice, Peter Lang Publishing, New York. The book won the 2006 National Association of Multicultural Education Phillip Chinn Book Award. He lives with his wife, Karen, and son, Matthew, in Seattle and is a consultant presently helping to re-design schools as better physical learning environments and also serves as a trustee for Cornish College of the Arts.

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