Uncovering Forgotten Histories with Rahna Reiko Rizzuto

Rahna Reiko Rizzuto
Rahna Reiko Rizzuto

Author Rahna Reiko Rizzuto wrote the way many of us do as a child and teen, but didn’t truly turn to writing until she discovered, at the age of 30, that her Japanese-American mother, and her family, had been stripped of everything and put in an internment camp during World War II. The book she produced in her quest to understand these events, Why She Left Us, won the National Book Award. Her two subsequent books, Hiroshima in the Morning and Shadow Child, continue to explore themes of war, race, and historical blindness. Reiko also teaches writing; we met when she became my first faculty advisor in the Goddard College MFA program in 2007. We talk about Reiko’s start as a writer, including that pivotal discovery and the quest to learn more, her time in Japan just before and after 9/11 as she sought to learn from survivors of the Hiroshima bombing—and how 9/11 changed their willingness to speak—and how she taught herself to write and teaches her students those same techniques.

Episode breakdown:

[00:02:45] Family of writers encouraged reading, faced criticism.

[00:10:50] Multiracial Hawaiian culture with loose boundaries.

[00:15:19] Uncovering the family’s history in the Japanese internment.

[00:23:33] Discovering the art of crafting a book.

[00:28:33] Learning from students’ questions.

[00:37:37] Writing to convey human consequences of historical events.

[00:40:32] Nonfiction book about survivors of atomic bomb.

[00:48:58] Passion for teaching and nurturing writers’ stories.

[00:56:07] Best job, supportive colleagues, successful publication.

[01:03:09] Caregiving, love, loss, hoarding: a personal journey.

[01:06:48] Open the portal, practice showing up.

Please leave a review and in it, tell us about how discovering a part of your history changed you.

Show links

Reiko’s website




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