(left) Aug 2009 - Kiyo's visit to Katy Geissert Civic Library in Torrance, California; a youthful 86!
(center) Sept 18, 2010 - Kiyo drives 3 hours each way to join us in Clovis; AND shares her bountiful garden with us!
(right) Sept 25, 2010 - Kiyo joins us in at JanKenPo Gakko Craft Show, Sacramento CA; an energetic AND youthful 87!
KIYO SATO, the eldest child of a Japanese American immigrant family, grew up before World War II with her eight brothers and sisters in Sacramento, California. There her parents established a thriving family farm on a few acres, producing some of the finest strawberries and table grapes in the region. Home life in the Sato family was a pleasant mix of Japanese and American customs, which Kiyo describes at length in Kiyo's Story: A Japanese-American Family's Quest for the American Dream (previously published as Dandelion Through the Crack: The Sato Family Quest for the American Dream by Willow Valley Press). The family attended a local church, and Kiyo and her brothers and sisters went to school at a nearby one-room schoolhouse. Later, she attended Sacramento High School. She was attending Sacramento Junior College when World War II broke out and brought with it the evacuation of all Japanese Americans in 1942. In her book, Kiyo recalls the trauma of being forced to leave the family farm and ship out to a prison camp with little more than the clothes on their backs. At the end of the war, after their release from the prison camp and then working a season as hired laborers in Colorado, Kiyo and her family returned to their farm in Sacramento to rebuild their home and their lives. Kiyo’s parents were able to keep their farm, but many Japanese American families were not so fortunate and had to start over with nothing. Kiyo then joined the United States Air Force, completing her college education in nursing and achieving the rank of captain. She eventually returned home from the service, married, and started her own family in Sacramento. Her four children grew up frequently visiting and working on their grandparents’ farm, a vital part of every Sato family member’s experience.
Kiyo belongs to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Nisei Post 8985. She and other post members give talks about their experiences during WWII and have put together an educational video and workbook for school children about the Japanese American evacuation. The presentation, entitled "Lessons From Our Lifetime," received a grant from the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program in 1999. Kiyo has also been quoted in the Sacramento Bee and is part of the Japanese American Citizens League, Florin Oral History Project.
During her professional career as a public health nurse, Ms. Sato developed the innovative Blackbird Vision Screening System for detecting eye problems in young children. She continues to sell the Blackbird System, and lives in Sacramento, California.
Her poignant memoir of life growing up on her parents’ farm and the trauma of the wartime evacuation camps gives us a unique and touching portrait of an American immigrant family.
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