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  • Joe Shem

I love to sing Japanese children's songs and to write haiku (俳句)

I had the opportunity to speak with Mrs. Quade. This is her story.


Mrs. Susan Sumiko Quade, born in 1929, came to the US with her husband after World War II with her firstborn child. She first settled in El Paso, Texas, and did not speak much English. After receiving a taste of the US, she realized how naïve

she was to come to the US on her own, but she “bet on a better life” in the US. She struggled with learning English. For example, it was hard for her to distinguish between the letters "L" and "R"--a common struggle for Japanese speakers learning English. She missed Japanese food, and she would go out of her way to get Japanese food when she could. She would meet other Japanese people on her shopping trips and made friends that way.


She temporarily returned to Tokyo during the Korean war to accompany her husband who was deployed. There, her oldest daughter learned to speak some Japanese.


To date, she loves eating Japanese food such as umeboshi (梅干し - fermented plum), natto (納豆ーfermented soybeans), and takuan (たくあん - Japanese fermented pickles). It took her over 10 years to get used to living in the US. She became a US citizen in 1956, and in 1968, she moved to the Bay Area for good weather, diversity, and a job opportunity for her husband.


Her favorite word is “gaman” (我慢 - to persevere or to withstand), a trait she had to pick up to live happily and comfortably in the US. She was employed at Yu-Ai-Kai (友愛会), a place for Japanese and Japanese Americans to socialize, and worked on an outreach program. She was also a member of their Haiku club. She loves Japanese children's songs and still sings to this day.


She values the Japanese culture of bringing something when visiting someone. She also values her mother’s wisdom of “give always and it will come back to you” and “be nice to people, they will be nice to you.”


She currently feels she is about 60% American and 40% Japanese.


We would like to share one of her haikus:

父の日の

無口の子より

電話かな

(On Father's day,

From our quiet son,

A phone call)

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