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The Great Unknown

Japanese American Sketches

by Greg Robinson

Hardcover Price $47.00
Paperback Price $36.95
Ebook Price $28.95
30-day ebook rental price $14.00

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“One comes to a book by Greg Robinson prepared to reach into the thesaurus for a dozen synonyms for ‘excellent,’ ‘scholarly,’ ‘original,’ ‘archivally rich,’ and ‘clever’ and string them together into sentences. The Great Unknown does not disappoint.”

—Paul Spickard, University of California, Santa Barbara

"Each of the [selections] attest to Robinson’s insatiable curiosity about and unquenchable passion for virtually every aspect of Japanese American history, society, and culture; his extraordinary expenditure of time and energy in unearthing previously unmined source material and extracting rich and engaging information and perspectives from it; and his enthralled devotion to converting his findings into fluid narrative prose pieces that are lively, thought-provoking, and far-reaching. . . . This is truly a first-rate book."

Nichi Bei Weekly

"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."
American Quarterly

"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."
Discover Nikkei


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.




Greg Robinson is professor of history at Université du Québec à Montréal. He is the author or editor of several notable books on Japanese Americans, including A Tragedy of Democracy, which was awarded the history book prize of the Association for Asian American Studies; After Camp, winner of the Caroline Bancroft History Prize in Western US History, and By Order of the President. He writes a regular column, “The Great Unknown and the Unknown Great,” for the Nichi Bei Weekly in San Francisco and is an active speaker and writer in the public arena and the blogsphere.

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  • Hardcover Price: $47.00
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-60732-428-7
  • Paperback Price: $36.95
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60732-752-3
  • Ebook Price: $28.95
  • 30-day ebook rental price: $14.00
  • EISBN: 978-1-60732-429-4
  • Publication Month: September
  • Publication Year: 2016
  • Pages: 400
  • Illustrations: 31 figures
  • Discount Type: Short
  • Author: by Greg Robinson
  • ECommerce Code: 978-1-60732-428-7
  • Get Permissions: Get Permission

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