(Illustration by Chris Kindred for The Washington Post)

Virginia Matsuoka was 10 years old when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

She was playing tag football with her older brothers when her mother came outside and told them what had happened.

“And I remember my father came up behind me there,” Matsuoka said. “He put his arm around me and he said, ‘This is so bad, Ginger. This is bad.’”

Matsuoka’s mother was American and white, but her father was Japanese. By April 1942, her family was torn apart. Her father was working in Colorado, spared a stint in the internment camps because he had helpful law enforcement connections. He taught martial arts to police officers there. Two of her brothers were serving in the U.S. Army. And Matsuoka and two of her other brothers were in the Tanforan Assembly Center, an internment camp built around a racetrack near San Francisco.

Despite being displaced and separated, Matsuoka and her family remained patriotic. She recalls asking her father what it was like for her: “He said, ‘You know, Ginger, this was my country. I came here, they gave me the opportunity to make a name for myself, and then the war came along so you do things that you’ve got to do.’”

Hear Matsuoka recall her experiences in Tanforan and talk about what it was like returning to school after being separated from her friends and family.

New episodes of “Other: Mixed Race in America” will publish every day for a week, starting May 1. Subscribe to the series on Apple Podcasts or RadioPublic.

Read a transcript of this episode here. 


Learn more about the other episodes here:

  1. Race is more than just black and white. This new podcast explores some of that middle ground. 
  2. Why it can be hard to date as a multiracial person
  3. What happens to your cultural heritage when you marry someone of a different race?
  4. The long history and legacy of passing in America
  5. Why it’s so powerful to see yourself represented in pop culture
  6. ‘That’s my story’: Heidi Durrow on why stories about multiracial identity just aren’t niche offerings
  7. How Ruth Ozeki renamed herself