Cover: American Sutra: A Story of Faith and Freedom in the Second World War, from Harvard University PressCover: American Sutra in HARDCOVER

American Sutra

A Story of Faith and Freedom in the Second World War

Product Details

HARDCOVER

$29.95 • £26.95 • €27.95

ISBN 9780674986534

Publication Date: 02/19/2019

Trade

400 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

34 photos

Belknap Press

World

Also Available As

Jacket: American Sutra

PAPERBACK | $21.00

ISBN 9780674244856

Trade

Add to Cart

Educators: Request an Exam Copy (Learn more)

Media Requests:

Related Subjects

Winner of the Grawemeyer Award in Religion

This groundbreaking history tells the little-known story of how, in one of our country’s darkest hours, Japanese Americans fought to defend their faith and preserve religious freedom.

The mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II is not only a tale of injustice; it is a moving story of faith. In this pathbreaking account, Duncan Ryūken Williams reveals how, even as they were stripped of their homes and imprisoned in camps, Japanese American Buddhists launched one of the most inspiring defenses of religious freedom in our nation’s history, insisting that they could be both Buddhist and American.

Nearly all Americans of Japanese descent were subject to bigotry and accusations of disloyalty, but Buddhists aroused particular suspicion. Government officials, from the White House to small-town mayors, believed that Buddhism was incompatible with American values. Intelligence agencies targeted the Buddhist community for surveillance, and Buddhist priests were deemed a threat to national security. On December 7, 1941, as the bombs fell on Pearl Harbor, Attorney General Francis Biddle issued a warrant to “take into custody all Japanese” classified as potential national security threats. The first person detained was Bishop Gikyō Kuchiba, leader of the Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist sect in Hawai‘i.

In the face of discrimination, dislocation, dispossession, and confinement, Japanese Americans turned to their faith to sustain them, whether they were behind barbed wire in camps or serving in one of the most decorated combat units in the European theater. Using newly translated sources and extensive interviews with survivors of the camps and veterans of the war, American Sutra reveals how the Japanese American community broadened our country’s conception of religious freedom and forged a new American Buddhism.

Recent News

Black lives matter. Black voices matter. A statement from HUP »

From Our Blog

A stack of five bestselling titles from Harvard University Press against a hot pink textured background

Ringing in the New Year with HUP’s 2022 Bestsellers

There is no better way for readers to usher in the new year than by looking back to the books that defined the last. For Harvard University Press, our 2022 bestsellers make up a diverse list of books across time and discipline.