For our series “Letters To My California Dreamer,” we’re asking Californians from all walks of life to write a short letter to one of the first people in their family who came to the Golden State. The letter should explain:
What was their California Dream?
What happened to it?
Is that California Dream still alive for you?
Here's a letter from Sonia Prasad Quesada. She has lots of immigrant roots in her family: her dad is from India, her mom is Japanese-American, and she's married to a Filipino-American. This is a letter to her Japanese grandfather:
Dear Ojiichan (Grandfather),
In 1929, you embarked on a journey that promised economic opportunity in America. You were just 19 years old.
You left the family farm in Fukuoka, Japan in hopes of getting a higher education, and someday working in an office. But the Immigration Act of 1924 heavily restricted Japanese immigration into the United States. So, upon arrival in San Francisco, immigration officials ushered you onto a train bound for Mexico, where you had bought 10 acres for $1,000. But the deal was a hoax and you had been swindled. So, you stayed in Mexico and labored on a fishing boat.
Later you located a family friend in California, and after a perilous border crossing made your way back to San Francisco. There you met, courted and married my grandmother. The two of you settled into a small apartment on Union Street above your newly opened dry cleaning business. The California Dream was blossoming in ways you never imagined.
But after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, Executive Order 9066 dismantled your life and shattered your dreams.
Within three months, you, your wife and son were herded into internment camps, along with 120,000 other people of Japanese descent. Like your wife and son, two-thirds of them were American citizens.
After three years of enduring squalid conditions, sweltering heat and killing frost at Topaz -- called “the Jewel of the Desert” -- you and your family were finally released from that dusty desert prison.
You then ventured to Chicago to find a job. Through hard work, you were able to buy a business and a house. In 1961 you returned to California and settled in Palo Alto, where Obaachan, my grandmother, now 101 years old, still lives.
I miss you, Ojiichan. Although you never realized your dreams of getting a college education or coveted office job, your hard work and commitment to family paved the way for your descendants to realize our dreams. Many of us are still here in California.
We’ve forged careers in government and military service, business, technology, journalism, academia, and pastoral ministry - to name a handful.
You’d be proud. But more importantly, your quiet strength and kindness still characterize three generations of family that have come after you.
We’d love to see your letter to your family’s California Dreamer. Maybe it was a parent, a great-great grandparent or maybe even you were the first in your family to come to California with a dream. Fill out the form here and share your story with us!
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