Thursday, December 13, 2007

Local Artist Crosses the Globe

by RYackley,

Well known Tri-City artist Joe Gagnepain is headed to Italy this winter, to compete in the annual International Snow Sculpture Festival with his team, The Starvin’ Carvists.

The Starvin’ Carvists, which includes Stephen Bateman and Jason Anhorn, both artists in Eau Claire, WI, has competed in three former snow sculpting events. This team took second place February 2007 in Mt. Prospect, IL, at the annual Snow Visions competition. In January, they took third place in the International category at Zehnder’s Snowfest in Frankenmuth, MI, and they finished in fifth place at their first competition in 2006, at Frankenmuth.

Now this team of creative talent is gearing up to head to Italy for the Snow Sculpture Festival, to be held from January 9 to 11, 2008 in Innichen, and from January 14 to 16 in San Viglio, where they will compete against teams from all over the world.

“We’re the only American team going,” said Gagnepain. “This is a sanctioned snow carving event. We had to be juried in to go.”

For the Snow Sculpture Festival, The Starvin’ Carvists submitted drawings for their two planned sculptures: “Fool of the World,” showing a boy and his dog on a clipper ship, flying in the clouds; and “Mother of Invention,” showing a woman’s face with gears comprising the back of her head.

At each event, Gagnepain’s team is given a huge 10 foot block of snow. Referring to a small clay model crafted ahead of time, the team sculpts their design using hand saws, ice scrapers, and sanding pads.

Snow sculpting competitions differ from ice carving events in that teams must use all hand tools, and, in general, the scale of the snow is much larger than when ice is used.

“We make our own saws out of aluminum. We use chain saw chains to cut out the big sections. We use a horse brush to smooth the snow, and we use a drywall knife for detailing,” Gagnepain said. “We work maybe 16 hours a day on the sculpture. We want it to be perfect.”

Italy is no stranger to snow sculptures. An Olympic sanctioned event, Bardonecchia, Italy was host to the 2006 Olympic Snow Sculpture contest, held as part of the cultural program of the TuriWinter Olympic Games, that year.

Maybe The Starvin’ Carvists will make it to the Olympics some day, but in the meantime, you will be able to see Gagnepain with his hands in the snow at a premiere snow event coming to Geneva February 18 to 22, 2008. According to Gagnepain, who is one of the coordinators for this first time local event, the City of Geneva is planning on providing a snow making machine for the competition.

The Starvin’ Carvists are currently raising funds to help pay for their airfare and transportation costs to Italy, as well as for winter gear for the team, such as matching parkas and snow pants. The Tourist Boards for the participating towns, which are located in the Italian Alps, are providing room and board, and about a third of each team’s airfare.

Interested businesses are invited to contact Gagnepain for information on getting promotional patches and logos on the team’s gear, which will be worn in Italy and at all future competitions. Visit for more information.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Wise words by others

"The American ideal is not that we all agree with each other, or even like each other, every minute of the day. It is rather that we will respect each other's rights, especially the right to be different, and that, at the end of the day, we will understand that we are one people, one country, and one community, and that our well-being is inextricably bound up with the well-being of each and every one of our fellow citizens." --Arthur J. Kropp, former U.S. Surgeon General

"The test of courage comes when we are in the minority: the test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority." --Ralph W. Stockman

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius to move in the opposite direction." - Albert Einstein

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Carol Stream girl to take lead victory lap at Kane County Relay For Life

Rachel Baruch Yackley
Posted Monday, June 18, 2007

“Sarah Beth is scared to death
’Cause the doctor just told her the news ;
Between the red cells and white
Something’s not right
But we’re gonna take care of you.”
— “Skin” by Rascal Flatts

Lorelei Fasetti of Carol Stream was driving down I-294 when she first heard the above song by Rascal Flatts.

“I was in outside sales and I was driving on the tollway when I heard a song about a girl diagnosed with cancer. I was so affected that I had to pull over. When you’re a mom, you know what that family would go through,” said Fasetti.

That was one week before Fasetti’s daughter, Nikki Diehl, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, the most common form of cancer which forms in bone. She was just 10 years old.

Nikki had been complaining that her knee hurt, and although Fasetti tried everything she could think of, including making Nikki trade her flip-flops for gym shoes, nothing helped. So she took her to the doctor for an x-ray, just to check things out.

“Nikki was diagnosed July 6 of 2005. I got a call at 2 p.m. from the doctor’s office. I was in there for 20 minutes. The doctor held my hand, flipped her chart, and I could see it was cancer in her femur bone of her right leg.

“Of course I just broke down. The doctor told me to get Nikki to the hospital by 8 p.m. that night, and to promise her not to be alone this weekend. I was helpless ... I pulled myself together and drove home. What do I tell Nikki?”

Nikki entered Loyola Hospital in Maywood, where she remained until June of 2006. She received 48 rounds of chemotherapy. She also had surgery on her leg in October of 2005, during which her femur was removed and replaced with a magnetic metal rod, which will lengthen as she grows.

Fasetti still becomes upset when she remembers the toll all this took on her little girl.

“Nikki never came out of her room. She didn’t talk to anyone. They had a little school and everything, but for some reason, she didn’t want to be associated with the ward. She was so sick and so quiet and so small.

“I stayed with her for the first five months, and slept on a little bench. I would wake up at 4 in the morning, drive to Carol Stream, let the dog out — he would run away — take a shower, and go to work. Then I found out that the other moms go home at night, so that’s what I started doing. Nikki would cry every night. I’d get home and that call would come: ‘Mommy, mommy, help me. Mommy, mommy, take me home,” said Fasetti, crying.

“When she was in the hospital for 365 days, I tutored her. I would pick up her homework and return it the next Monday when I picked up the next batch. I really pushed her. Without a doubt, I knew she could do this,” said Fasetti.

“The doctors said she should lay off the schoolwork; that Nikki would fail. I was reprimanded on four occasions. But she passed, and when she was going into sixth grade this past year, she was so happy to be with her class.”

Nikki will be 13 in September. She’s going into seventh grade. She passed sixth grade with high Bs. Although she had to use a wheelchair after the surgery, she has regained much of the mobility of her leg through physical therapy.

“Before she got sick,” Fasetti said in a tearful voice, “Nikki used to dance, she played basketball, she loved music, she loved animals and wanted to be a veterinarian.”

Nikki still can’t play basketball, dance, ride a bike or walk fast, but her thankful mother said, “She is doing awesome.”

She can swim, she’s active in her Girl Scout troop, and next month she will be going to One Step At A Time, a summer camp offered through Children’s Oncology Services Inc.

Any family would have been overwhelmed faced with a young child with cancer. For Fasetti, a single parent, it was even harder. To make matters worse, Fasetti was laid off from her job in November 2005. And for a while, things got even worse.

“I took a part-time job over the holidays,” she said. “Then I was shoveling the driveway and fell and broke two bones in my leg. I was in a cast and couldn’t work. It really took a toll on us financially.”

One of the things that helped Fasetti make it through that dire year was emotional support from others, including Nikki’s fifth-grade teacher, Liz Sharf, at Spring Trail Elementary School.

“Bless her heart, this lady kept Nikki’s desk in the room, in memory of Nikki. She never moved it out. And she called at Christmas and on her birthdays. That made Nikki a part of (the class),” Fasetti said. “Her teachers and our friends and our neighbors — their support and their prayers — I don’t know if we would have made it without that light.”

Nikki is now “one year clean,” said Fasetti. And she is walking.

A meaningful expression of how far this brave girl has come is her participation in this year’s American Cancer Socity Relay For Life in Geneva Friday night, at which she will be the honorary survivor.

Nikki and her mom will be participating as members of St. Charles resident Loretta “Doogie” Mayberry’s team. Nikki met Mayberry just by chance while eating at a Baskin-Robbins after performing in a school play.

Relay For Life begins with an opening ceremony Friday evening, and then things get going with a Survivor Lap, for which Nikki will be in the forefront. All survivors take one lap around the warning track which circles the baseball field in Elfstrom Stadium, cheered on by friends and family on the sidelines. Golf carts are available to participants who are unable to walk the track.

Then everyone present joins in, with somebody from each team walking in the relay at all times, until the event culminates with a closing ceremony at 6 a.m. Saturday morning.

This emotional, hopeful, supportive event is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. All proceeds raised for the Relay For Life fund continued cancer research and treatment. Anyone and everyone is welcome to come experience this event; you don’t have to walk.

Relay For Life will be held at Elfstrom Stadium at the Kane County Events Center. Admission is $25 per team of 10 to 15 people.

Campsite setup begins at 3 p.m.; team registration and Cancer Survivor Celebration will start at 5 p.m.; and the Opening Ceremony and Cancer Survivor Lap is at 7 p.m.

For more information about the American Cancer Society or the relay, call (630) 879-9009 or visit

If you want to donate to the Relay For Life, send it to the ACS office at 143 First St., Batavia, IL 60510, marked “RFL of Kane County.” Include your team name and your name.

If you go

What: Kane County Relay For Life
When: 5 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday
Where: Elfstrom Stadium, Kane County Events Center, Kirk Road and Cherry Lane, Geneva
For details: Call 9630) 879-9009 or visit

Junk is his palette

By Rachel Baruch Yackley
Daily Herald Correspondent
Posted Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Joe Gagnepain -- or Frances Joseph Gagnepain IV, his full name -- has considered himself an artist since the age of 3. It is astounding to see how much artwork this 29-year-old sculptor and muralist has created in a relatively short period. And he pretty much does it all using items everyone else discards.

Known for sculptures made from bicycle parts, Gagnepain said, "Some would call it junk; I call it potential. When I see junk, I want to use it.

"Usually, finding an object reminds me of part of an animal, and inspires me to sculpt. Then I find the rest of the pieces to fill in the form."

Gagnepain, who sees himself as an environmentalist, is a freelance artist in the Tri-Cities. He creates virtually anything of a visual nature for communities, businesses, schools and private homes.

A native of St. Charles, Gagnepain lives in Batavia with his wife, Rebecca, and their two children, Logan and Hannah.

In the Tri-Cities alone, Gagnepain has numerous public murals, monumental sculptures and eye-popping signage on display.

More than 24 murals, over 30 sculptures, at least a dozen signs for businesses around the country, as well as drawings, photographs, railings, metalwork, posters, and even art cars, have all been created and crafted by Gagnepain's magic touch.

"There are a number of emerging young artists who work with found objects," said prominent St. Charles artist Ray Kobald. "Oftentimes emerging artists use these materials because they are less expensive, and it's a fun way to express yourself."

Gagnepain's success in painting at a young age gave him the confidence to press on.

Gagnepain left St. Charles High School in January 1994, after the first semester of his junior year, and transferred to the Chicago Academy of Arts High School. He graduated with honors and won a Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation scholarship, which took him to Colorado Springs for summer classes.

Gagnepain's formal education continued at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design for two years, where he won a MCAD Merit scholarship.

Work easily seen

One of the skills which Gagnepain has put to good use is the art of self-promotion.

"To be an artist you have to believe in yourself and promote yourself," Kobald said.

It doesn't hurt to have entire blocks taken up with your art, either. Anyone who has passed by the triangular intersection at Illinois, First and Second streets in St. Charles over the past year or two has witnessed the growing number of murals and sculptures surrounding Jalapeño Grill. With a tiny bit still to do, there's virtually no exterior surface of this business that's been left untouched by Gagnepain.

"He really improved the look of our building," said Mary Calderon, who along with her husband, Anastacio, owns Jalapeño Grill. Although the Calderons do not own the building, they got permission from the owner to have it transformed with Gagnepain's artwork.

"I love to look at it. I drive to and from (the restaurant), and I can't wait to get to the corner each day to look at it. I love having his sculptures out there, too. It all give people something to look at. It's very colorful, and very inviting," Calderon said.

The Calderons also have a mural by Gagnepain in their new restaurant, Anastacio's, in East Dundee, and plan to commission sculptures from him for outside.

Calderon first met Gagnepain when he was eating at the Grill with his family.

"I'm happy I met him. It's gotten me more involved in art, and in getting my kids involved in art programs," she said.

Each artist finds his or her own muse, and for Gagnepain it seems to be the shape of things.

"I can see form. I was really good in geometry (in school). A lot of this is geometry and proportion. And with that proportion is how I can do big murals and sculptures with found objects. They already have the proportions," he said.

Inspired by bicycles

"Bike parts are great for sculpting animals because you already have circles and other shapes in proportions, and the frames are skeletal looking. The pieces dictate form; it's sometimes effortless," he said. "And the easiest to work with is steel, because I can weld it. I use MIG (metal inert gas) welding."

Among his most recent works is a commissioned fleur de lis steel statue which was installed earlier this year at St. Charles East High School; two sculptures -- "Fisonomia" and "A Bucklaew Bison" -- which are part of the "Sculpture in the Park" exhibit in Mount St. Mary Park in St. Charles; a statue of a mustang commissioned for Munhall Elementary School in St. Charles; a kinetic sculpture commissioned for the DuPage Children's Museum in Naperville; and a sign for Fox Valley Institute, a new Geneva business.

Completed earlier this month were 12 sculptures for "Medicine Woman, Metal Man," an exhibit at Beacon Street Gallery, 410 S. Michigan Ave. in Chicago, running through June 30. Among these is a large lion made mostly of bike parts, fashioned after the lions in front of the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as a fish with saw blades for gills and a catalytic converter cover for a body.

"You have whimsical sculpture with an edge to it," said Gagnepain, while brushing off the saw blades. "That's the nature of it."

You also have to be flexible, well-organized, and have a lot of energy if you're Gagnepain, as he gets calls for commissions "sometimes every day, and some days it's once a week," he said.

With so many things going on at once, some of the work happens in a very short period of time. He had the idea for the lion a few years ago, and made it in less than a week.

"I imagined making it to scale with the lions at the Art Institute," he said.

Scaled down a bit to accommodate the doorways and elevators at the gallery, Gagnepain's lion is no less majestic, and unquestionably more ingenious, with a movable head and tail.

Always needing more room to spread his wings, Gagnepain recently moved into a studio space near Kirk Road and Route 38 in Geneva Township, near Kirk Road and Route 38. It has a metal shop, office space, and even a shipping container in which he stores about 100 bicycles (which he refers to as "bike mound.")

When he's not in the shop welding, you may spot Gagnepain working on murals around the area.

"The painting makes more money, and I'm quicker at it," he said. "The sculpture is a public thing. I keep doing it because it is so unique."

To learn more about Gagnepain, visit

Look for it

Where to see Joe Gagnepain's works of art:

"Medicine Woman, Metal Man," through June 30. Sculptures by Joseph Gagnepain and Sonja Henderson at Beacon Street Gallery, 410 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago.

"Mustang Spirit," a 10-foot black mustang sculpture at Munhall Elementary School in St. Charles.

St. Charles "Sculpture in The Park:" "Fisonomia" and "The Bucklaew Bison" on display through September.

Swedish Days Parade: "Joe's Truck" will be redefined as a large clipper ship, with deck, portholes, sails, rigging, and lots of swashbuckling pirates, to boot.

Visit for details on these projects and more.

Career highlights

Francis Joseph Gagnepain IV is known for his murals, sculptures, art cars, and in smaller circles for his performance art, costume design and improvisational dancing. Here's a look at his career, so far ...

Previous mural commissions include:

In 2006: Jalapeño Grille; Fox River Cafà and Deli; and Dimitri's Mediterranean Grill.

In 2004: Cocoa Bean; East Side Sports Pub; and Martini Blu.

In 2003: Miguel's on the Fox; Hansen Baking Co.; and Pizzeria Venti franchises (ongoing).

Public sculpture includes:

In 2006: "Medusa" for "Hose Idea is That Anyway?;" "Tri-Tops" for "Sculpture Under The Sky;" and "Racine Raven" for Bird is the Word.

In 2005: "Bucklaew Bison" and "Iron Face" for Algonquin Public Art; and "Dolphin, Turtle, SeaHorse" for "Wire You Doing That?"

In 2003: "Mooseart" for St. Charles Moose Lodge; and "FoxCycle," a St. Charles Public Art Committee purchase.

In 2000: "ReCycled Dali Horse" for "Pedal Geneva."

Gagnepain made signs commissioned by the following businesses:

Geneva Police Department (2005); Northwest Community Hospital and "Historic Downtown Geneva" City of Geneva (2004); and ACT II Hair Salon (2002).

He has designed posters for:

"Les Uncomfortablos," Danny's Skybox, Second City, Chicago (2006); Festival Concours (2004); Swedish Days Custom and Classic Motorcycle Show (2004); Venetian Boat Parade (2003); and Art Around the Fox (2003).


For his murals at Jalapeño Grill, Gagnepain won a 2006 Downtown Pride Award presented by the St. Charles Downtown Partnership, and a 2006 Community Image Award presented by the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce.

His business, Art by Joseph, won the First Place Business Showcase Award in the 2006 Miracle on 64th St. St. Charles Christmas Parade.

As a member of the Starvin' Carvists -- a snow sculpture team -- he won second place in the 2007 Snow Visions event in Mount Prospect, and third place in the International Category at the 2007 Snowfest in Frankenmuth, Mich.

In art exhibitions, he won the Arts Infusion Purchase Prize 2005; Spotlight on the Arts First Prize 2002; and the Winter Show First Prize at the Campbell House Gallery in 2000 .

Friday, April 27, 2007

Book Review (this one's from a while ago)

"On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft" by Stephen King
by Rachel Baruch Yackley

Devotees of his often graphic fictional stories may not be lining up to read this newest work by Stephen King, but if you admire the writer, and if, by chance, you have aspirations toward the same dream, then this is a book for you. 

Prefacing the first half of the book is a captivating forward (titled “First Forward,” as it is followed by “Second Forward” and “Third Forward”), which provides the reader with a brief glimpse into King’s heart and what makes this creative man tick. 

Have you heard of the rock-and-roll band who called themselves “The Rock Bottom Remainders,” aka “The Remainders,” aka “Raymond Burr’s Legs?” This musical menagerie originally consisted of Dave Barry on lead guitar, Ridley Pearson on bass, Barbara Kingsolver on keyboard (who was later replaced by Mitch Albom), Robert Fulghum on mandolin, and King on rhythm guitar. The back-up singers consisted of Kathi Kamen Goldmark, Tad Bartimus, and Amy Tan. 

It is Tan to whom “On Writing” is dedicated, who King credits with helping him see that this particular book was okay to write. 

What fills the first half of the book is King’s own story of how he came into his craft. 

“This is not an autobiography,” writes King. “It is, rather, a kind of curiculum vitae-my attempt to show how one writer was formed.” 

Memories of his childhood draw us through this writing, with wonderfully supportive statements for writers woven through King’s enjoyable storytelling style. My own copy is dog-eared wherever I ran across comments such as, “There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky.” 

King does share how some of his works came about, and spends much of this part of the book reflecting on the development of “Carrie.” His descriptions of the struggles of unpopular high school girls is compelling enough in itself to make me want to read the book again. But this time I would pay particular attention to the heart of the main character, as King has now made me care so much more about her. 

Through the descriptions of himself and how he evolved as a writer, King teaches us that it is work, it is art, and it is magic. 

“Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around.”

The second half of the book, aptly titled “On Writing,” is filled with extremely useful advice for all writers, professional, amateur, and those who are still in the fantasy stage. Throughout this section, “read a lot and write a lot” emerge as the mantra King most wants to pass on to each of us. 

This is a 288 page quick read. As a freelance writer, a teacher, and a mother, I don’t have much consistent time to read, but I managed to tear through this book in just three days. King’s comments on writing will be welcomed and easily incorporated into any writer’s process. Some of the ones I’ve also dog-eared are: 

“Description is what makes the reader a sensory participant in the story.” 

“When a simile or metaphor doesn’t work, the results are sometimes funny and sometimes embarrassing.”

“Not all agents are good agents.”

“You must begin as your own advocate.”

As far as practical advice, there’s plenty, from where to write, how to edit your work, things to avoid (accompanied by often hilarious examples), and how to get published. King even takes on the roll of English teacher in this book as he provides a reader with two printings of a story: the first in its raw form, and the second covered with his own editorial marks, followed by reasons for the changes.

Being a person who actually does seem to practice what he preaches, King has included a three page book list. As he has been inspired and entertained by every book he has ever gotten his hands on, he includes many of his favorites, which resulted in a list of easily accessible books for every reader and writer.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Q&A with author Julie Otsuka

Family’s experience colors novel about internment
by Rachel Baruch Yackley
Posted Saturday, March 24, 2007

Julie Otsuka
Born: California, 1962
Resides: New York
Family: Single with plants
Occupation: Writer
Unique factoid: “I can’t think of anything. I had a normal suburban upbringing. And I’m a creature of habit.”

Julie Otsuka’s first book, “When the Emperor Was Divine” (Knopf, 2002), is not a lengthy novel, yet it narrates the epic tale of survivors during a troubling time in our country’s history.

Laid-out in five chapters, each told in a different voice, this novel takes the reader back to a not-so-distant time during World War II, when the United States reacted to the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor by arresting, displacing and interning more than 110,000 Japanese-Americans as well as Americans of Japanese descent.

Told through the voices of a woman, her husband, daughter and young son, Otsuka has painted a clear picture of a confusing, frightening time.

“When the Emperor Was Divine” and “Weedflower,” a young adult novel by Cynthia Kadohata, have been chosen for this year’s “Our Community Reads” program, sponsored by the St. Charles Public Library, in partnership with Community Unit School District 303 and Elgin Community College.

Otsuka received her bachelor’s degree from Yale University in 1984, and a master’s in fine art from Columbia University in 1999.

“When the Emperor Was Divine” won second place in the 2002 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award, for fiction.

Otsuka will be at the St. Charles Library at 7 p.m. April 18 to discuss her book and sign copies. This program is free. She will also visit middle and high schools in St. Charles, and will visit with students at ECC.

Related programs will be offered throughout the month, including a discussion of Otsuka’s book on April 12; a cultural film about Japan along with Japanese treats from local restaurants on April 13; calligraphy and origami demonstrations as well as a performance by the Spring Valley Koto Ensemble on April 15; and folktales of Japan on April 20.

For more information on these events, visit:, or call (630) 584-0076.

Q. How did this story, “When the Emperor Was Divine,” come to you?

A. It was a visual image — a picture of a woman reading the evacuation order for the first time. I tried to imagine what she might do after reading the sign. I imagined following her home.

Up until then I’d been writing comedy. I was in my second year at Columbia, as a comedy writer.

My mother was interned, and over time, I became more and more intrigued with what happened.

Q. Did you do a lot of research?

A. I did. I thought I’d get a lot of information from my mother, because she was a child when she was at “camp,” as she referred to it. But when I started, she was already in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, and wasn’t able to (provide any information).

I think a lot of people in my mother’s generation created very normal, very American childhoods for their kids. We only spoke English. I don’t think I understood what my mother had gone through until I was much older.

Q. Your mother, her brother and their father were interned in a camp in Topaz, Utah, just like the mother and two children in your book. Are your relatives in this story?

A. The personalities of the characters are very different. In terms of what happened (in the story), it is based on what happened to them.

My grandfather was put in a series of camps for dangerous enemy aliens. My mother, uncle and grandmother spent three years in Topaz.

Q. In a description I read of the internment camp in Topaz at, the experiences of many people at the camp sounded like those of the characters in your book — after being forced to leave their homes, they were housed at Tanforan Race Track (in California), then several months later, endured a long train ride to the desert in Utah.

A. Anyone who lived in the (San Francisco) Bay area would have first gone to Tanforan.

Q. Have you been to Topaz? Have you seen where your mother lived?

A. I went to the museum. It’s in an old barrack (from the war). It was very eerie. I felt like I spent years creating this place in my mind. It’s very desolate; very barren. You could still see foundations of the barracks, and shards of crockery. Then in the town, there are some structures from the camp that survived (and were moved).

Q. Chapter 2, “Train,” is written in the voice of “the girl.” During the arduous train ride from California to Utah, why is the girl slipping playing cards, one-by-one, out the window?

A. It’s like putting a note in a bottle; like saying “I was here.” It’s also an angry act. She’s cooped up on a train with her mother. She’s an adolescent, and she’s just angry.

Q. Chapter 3, “When the Emperor Was Divine,” is in the voice of “the boy.” Why is this chapter titled the same as the book, and why did you choose this title?

A. It’s about it being safest to suppress their Japaneseness; safest not to make any reference to Japan.

The Emperor is also a stand-in for the father. In both the children’s minds, he is bigger than life. He’s also a stand-in for all the men; a communal voice.

Q. Are stories of the American response to being attacked, and especially the stories of the experiences of Japanese-Americans during World War II relevant, today?

A. Definitely, especially in terms of what is happening to Muslim-Americans. People are disappearing, people are being questioned. It’s eerily familiar, just a different ethnic group.

Q. Do Japanese-Americans ever fear being rounded-up again?

A. I can’t speak for all of them, but for my mother’s generation, they did feel like if they didn’t behave well, it might happen again.

I don’t think it will happen again. I don’t think there could ever be a mass roundup, again.

But for years, my mother would end telephone conversations with “The FBI will be checking up on you, soon.” She just did it with family.

Q. Did you take that as her being funny?

A. Oh, yes, I did.

But years ago we saw my grandfather’s FBI file, and they were watching him, and they did arrest him. There was nothing incriminating in the file.

But if you were a businessman and had ties to Japan, you were on the list. If you were in Japanese organizations in the community, you were under suspicion.

Q. Have you read Yoshido Uchida’s books on Topaz: “Journey to Topaz,” and “Desert Exile?”

A. Yes. What her family went through is pretty much what my family went through. I think her books are wonderful.

Q. Do you have more stories in the works?

A. I’m working on a new novel. It’s about the first generation of Japanese women to come to America as picture brides between 1908 and 1921. I’m writing about a group of young women who came over on a ship from Japan.

That’s how life in America started for many, many young Japanese women. They were very poor, and some were just desperate to escape poverty.

While my first book came to me in pictures, this book came to me in song — in a rhythmic pattern.

Q. What ever happened to your interest in writing comedy?

A. I wrote a lot of short stories when I was at Columbia. I feel like there’s a lot of humor in what I’m writing.

Lost Boys of Sudan

Lost Boys of Sudan plan fundraiser to aid homeland
Rachel Baruch Yackley
Posted Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Samuel Anei survived a war. At only 8 years old, he was forced to  run from his home, alone, from his family and friends, and find safety and security in a new land.
Anei is a Lost Boy of Sudan. You can hear his story as well as the  harrowing experiences of other Lost Boys at the Arcada Theater on Saturday when a local organization, Lost Boys Rebuilding  Southern Sudan Foundation, presents the 2006 Sundance Film Festival  award winning documentary, “God Grew Tired of Us.”
This fundraising  event will include a visit from former NBA superstar Manute Bol, also from Sudan.
The term “Lost Boys” was borrowed from the children’s story “Peter  Pan.” It is used to describe an entire generation of approximately 26,000 Sudanese boys who were driven from their tribal villages during a civil war between north and south Sudan in the late 1980s.
Regardless of age and current living situation, these survivors,  most of whom are orphans, continue to refer to each other as “Lost  Boys.”
“I left Sudan in 1987 for Ethiopia. It was very crazy,” said Anei,  who was only 8 years old when civil war engulfed the region. “My  village was attacked by militia (sent by the) Sudan government. A lot of people were running in different directions. I followed a group. 
“We walked for three months. I had no one to take care of me. No food,  no water. We survived by eating wild food and drinking stagnant water. In Ethiopia, I lived in a refugee camp for four years, then there was war in Ethiopia. We flee to Sudan. In Sudan there was still war.  Killing, still killing. So we flee to Kenya in 1992. We walked to  Kenya. We stayed in Pochalla (Sudan, on the Ethio-Sudanese border).  The town was attacked by the Sudan government. We were taken to  another town between Sudan and Kenya — Lokichokio. We stayed there.  It’s the base of United Nations Relief.
“But then the (Sudan)  government was sending militia to kill us. There were insecurities. Then we fled to Kakuma, Kenya. I lived there, in a refugee camp, for  nine years, until I had a chance to come here.”
Throughout all this, Anei said he came through with minor injuries,  but the emotional scars are great. “To run from war, you feel kind of depressed for a long time,” he said.
 The last time Anei saw his parents was in 1987. He does have two brothers left, an older and a younger,  who are still living in Kenya, in a refugee camp.
Anei came to Chicago on March 7, 2001. He, along with five other  boys, was one of the first Lost Boys to arrive.
“We were in a different situation (before 2001), under United  Nations care. Bill Clinton, the United States and the United Nations, arranged for (a group of) us to come here.
“The United States agreed to resettle 4,000 Lost Boys in 2001,” said  Jane Mooberry, who serves on the board of the The Lost Boys  Rebuilding Southern Sudan Foundation. “Then when 9/11 happened, the  resettlement stopped.”
Now, nearly 3,600 of the “lost boys” (now found men) have been  resettled in the U.S. For various reasons, only 89 “lost girls” have  been resettled in the U.S., according to
According to, more than 125 Lost Boys live in the Chicago area. These young men are dedicated to  helping the next generation of Sudan, especially now that a peace agreement has been signed between the government in the north and the  Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement in the south.
“They are all living in apartments, working, and going to school.  Some have already become American citizens. That is the goal for all of them,” said Mooberry. “The majority of them will remain in the  United States because they feel they can provide more assistance from  here, than if they were to return to southern Sudan. They see the  hope for the future, for the youth of Sudan.”
 Now 26 years old, Anei lives in a house on the North Side of Chicago with other Lost Boys. He works at Tri-Lite in Bridgeport, and attends Truman College, where he is majoring in business  administration and taking a minor in management.
“It’s very good. It’s not like the life I had in Africa,” Anei said. “I miss Sudan a lot. I miss the friends who used to play with me. I miss Sudanese food. I miss the culture. One day I might be going back there to help.”
Until that day comes, Anei is helping Sudanese children who are  still living in Africa by serving as a board member of the Fox Valley-based Lost Boys Rebuilding Southern Sudan Foundation.
This organization came together in September 2006.
“The Lost Boys (who are living in the area) wanted to give back to  Sudan. They didn’t know how to do it, and they looked to Americans for direction,” said Mooberry.
Lost Boys who serve on the foundation’s board live in Elgin, Carol  Stream, Wheaton, and Chicago.
“I’m one of the persons who has been in the life that was so hard,”  said Anei. “Children in southern Sudan (still) have no school to go  to, and no place where they can play games. My main goal is helping  with their education, and with the chance to bring this new  generation to a new situation.”
Before war broke out in southern Sudan, Anei’s father was a farmer,  and the family had cows, sheep, goats and chickens. He was also a  chief of the village where their tribe, the Dinka, lived.
Testimony to the figurative smallness of the world, Anei is from the  same village as Valentino Achak Deng, the main figure of Dave Egger’s popular new novel, “What is the What.” While Deng lives in Atlanta, he has been to Anei’s Chicago home to visit his childhood friend.
Come learn the modern history of Sudan, the largest country in  Africa, and support efforts to aid the children whose lives have been  destroyed by 20 years of civil war, by attending the Lost Boys fundraiser Saturday.
“God Grew Tired of Us” will be shown at 2 and 7 p.m.. The theater is at First Avenue and Main Street in downtown St. Charles.
“God Grew Tired of Us” covers the life of three of the Lost Boys over a four-year period as they leave the refugee camp in Kakuma and move to the United States.  This film is narrated by  Nicole Kidman, directed by Tom Walker, and produced by Brad Pitt, Molly Bradford Pace, and Peter Gilbert. To learn more about this  film, visit
Following the showing of this 2006 Sundance Film Festival award-winning movie, Bol will speak, and will then be joined on  stage by the eight Lost Boys who are on the board of the foundation for a questions from the audience.
Bol is believed to have been born on Oct. 16, 1962, in  Sudan. At the age of 18 he was recruited to play college basketball in the United States. Bol was drafted in 1984  and played until 1995. He is the only player to block more than 300 shots in his first two seasons.
“Since retiring from the NBA, Manute Bol  has been working tirelessly to improve the conditions for people of southern Sudan,” said Mooberry.
Joining Bol on stage will be William Mou, Mayom Majok, William  Majak, Arkangelo Dut, Samuel Mayoul, James Mum Ajuong, Deng Deng and Anei.
Tickets are $10 general admission, $50 and $100.
Patrons who purchase $100 and $50 tickets get preferred seating and  will be able to visit with Bol and the Lost Boys at a private reception at 1 and 6 p.m.
Tickets will be available at the door the day of the event. You can  also make donations and purchase tickets online at (click on events), or reserve tickets via e-mail to Include show time, number of tickets  and price. Tickets will be held at the Will Call window. Donations of any amount are welcome. All proceeds from this fundraiser will go to the foundation.
“The mission of this organization is geared toward providing hope  for the youth of southern Sudan. The main goal is to build schools  and community centers where they can nourish mind, body and spirit,” Mooberry explained.
Donations will go towards building costs, and to the purchase of  educational supplies, as well as recreational materials.
Donations can be made online, or mailed to The Lost Boys Rebuilding  Southern Sudan, P.O. Box 6264, Elgin, IL 60121-6264.

A favorite quote ...

"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearances, giftedness or skill. The remarkable thing is that we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past ... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play out the one string we have and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it."
-- Charles Swindoll