Akemi Johnson

Author of
  • Night in the American Village
    The New Press, pub. June 2019

Akemi Johnson earned her MFA in fiction writing from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and an AB in East Asian Studies from Brown University. She has contributed to NPR’s All Things Considered and Code Switch, and her work on Okinawa has been published in The Nation, Roads & Kingdoms, The Asian American Literary Review, among others. She has taught creative writing at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa and the University of Iowa. She was a 2008-2009 Fulbright scholar to Okinawa, and is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize nomination (2016), a residency fellowship from Playa (2013), a John Leggett scholarship from the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference (2007), and the James D. Phelan Award in Literary Arts from the San Francisco Foundation (2006). In 2014, the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education selected her as one of 31 individuals celebrated during Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month for “the rich contributions Asian-Pacific Americans make and have made in the world of words.”

Books by Akemi

Night in the American Village

The Women in the Shadow of the U.S. Military Bases on Okinawa

At the southern end of the Japanese archipelago lies Okinawa, host to a vast complex of U.S. military bases. A legacy of World War II, these bases have been a fraught issue in Japan for decades—with tensions exacerbated by the often volatile relationship between islanders and the military, especially after the rape of a twelve-year-old girl by three servicemen in the 1990s.

But the situation is more complex than it seems. In Night in the American Village, journalist Akemi Johnson takes readers deep into the “border towns” surrounding the bases—a world where cultural and political fault lines compel individuals, both Japanese and American, to continually renegotiate their own identities. Focusing on the women there, she follows the complex fallout of the brutal rape and murder of a Japanese woman by a U.S. serviceman in 2016 and speaks to protesters, to women who date and marry American men and groups that help them when problems arise, and to Okinawans whose family members survived World War II.

Thought-provoking and timely, Night in the American Village is a vivid look at the enduring wounds of U.S.-Japanese history and the cultural and sexual politics of the American military empire.

Praise for Night in the American Village

Akemi Johnson's book is a lively encounter with identity and American military history in Okinawa and America. By turns intellectual, hip, and sexy, with the backdrop of one of the bloodiest battles of WWII and one of the darkest shadows of the American military empire, this is a new kind of personal historiographic memoir in the line of both THE ARGONAUTS and WOMAN WARRIOR. I admire it greatly for its ferocity, style, and vigor. Hard to define but impossible to put down, it's a wonderful book.

Anthony Swofford, author of JARHEAD

An accomplished storyteller, Johnson paints a nuanced portrait of Okinawa’s women as “players in the larger geopolitical game, influencing, challenging, and smoothing the way for the U.S.-Japan security alliance” who sometimes tell “truths others don’t want to hear.” This is a must-read look at the impact of the U.S.’s overseas military presence on the people who live near it, cultural collisions, and gendered violence.

Publishers Weekly, starred review

Johnson masterfully weaves historical details and current events into the interviews with her subjects, with each aspect enriching the broader tale. Highly recommended to readers with an interest in military history, women’s studies, women’s history, and Japanese-U.S. relations.

Library Journal, starred review
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