Oregon resident Mitzi Asai Loftus and her son, David Loftus, will discuss her journey as a Japanese American during the 1940s internment camps to a successful career as a teacher. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear from a historian born on the cusp of The Greatest Generation and The Silent Generation.

A Japanese American girl born and raised partly in traditional Japanese farm style in Oregon—and unjustly imprisoned by her own country during World War II—eventually overcomes the self-hatred fostered by post-war racism of her hometown.

Mitsuko “Mitzi” Asai was not yet ten years old in the spring of 1942 when President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 sent 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry—about two-thirds of them US citizens—from their homes on the West Coast to inland prison camps. They included Mitzi and most of her family, who owned a fruit orchard in Hood River, Oregon. The Asais spent much of World War II in the camps while two of the older sons served in the Pacific in the US Army. Three years later, when the camps began to close, the family returned to Hood River to find an altered community. Shop owners refused to serve neighbors they had known for decades; racism and hostility were open and largely unchecked. Humiliation and shame drove teenaged Mitzi to reject her Japanese heritage, including her birth name. More than a decade later, her life took another turn when a Fulbright grant sent her to teach in Japan, where she reconnected with her roots.

In From Thorns to Blossoms, Mitzi recounts her rich and varied life, from a childhood surrounded by barbed wire and hatred to a successful career as a high school English teacher and college instructor in English as a Second Language. Today, Asai descendants continue to tend the Hood River farm while the town confronts its shameful history. Originally published in 1990 as Made in Japan and Settled in Oregon, this revised and expanded edition describes the positive influence Mitzi’s immigrant parents had on their children, provides additional context for her story, and illuminates the personal side of a dark chapter in US history. It’s the remarkable story of a transformation from thorns into blossoms, pain into healing.

Born on a fruit orchard in Hood River, Oregon, in 1932, Mitzi Asai Loftus spent three years of her childhood in government incarceration camps in California and Wyoming. For more than seventy years, she has given public talks about her family’s experience to audiences of all ages. Having lived much of her adult life in Eugene and Coos Bay, she now resides in Ashland.

David J. Loftus was born in Eugene, the oldest son of Donald and Mitzi Loftus. He graduated from Marshfield High School in Coos Bay, and from Harvard College with a bachelor’s in English. Loftus was a reporter for the Roseburg News-Review for three years and is the author of three books. Currently he is an actor and freelance writer in Portland, where he lives with his wife, Carole Barkley.


May 16, 2024


06:30 PM - 07:30 PM


Roundabout Books 900 NW Mt Washington Dr. Bend, Oregon United States

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Roundabout Books