Rally backs book rejected in Muskego for focus on Japanese-Americans

Outside Muskego High School, where educators were stopped from teaching a book about the US incarceration of Japanese Americans in WWII, over 100 residents and allies gathered Monday night to demand the school board approve the book.

Holding a “teach-in” before the Muskego-Norway School Board met Monday night, the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Coalition of Wisconsin handed out 100 copies of the novel.

The book, “When the Emperor Was Divine” by Julie Otsuka, had been chosen by a team of school staff but needed approval from a school board committee. After a June 13 school board committee meeting, staff were told to start their selection process over .

The Asian American and Pacific Islander Coalition and community members give out 100 copies of Julie Otsuka's novel

Board members have shared little about what happened at that committee meeting, which was not recorded. But emails obtained by the Journal Sentinel show there was concern that the novel focused too much on the Japanese-American experience.

The book was not on the agenda for Monday night’s board meeting and the coalition’s requests to speak at the meeting were rejected, coalition members said. Board members watching the event from afar, before their meeting, declined to speak with the Journal Sentinel.

One member, Kevin Zimmerman, sent a statement by email after the event. He argued the book was not “rejected,” but needed to be reconsidered without an objective to “pick a book from a non-white author,” which he said he heard staff had been told to do. He said staff could choose to send the same book back to the school board after redoing the process.

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