American Sutra: A Story of Faith and Freedom in the Second World War

American Sutra: A Story of Faith and Freedom in the Second World War


, Nonfiction, History, Religion, War, Literature

This groundbreaking history tells the little-known story of how, in one of our country’s darkest hours, Japanese Americans fought to defend their faith and preserve religious freedom.

The mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II is not only a tale of injustice; it is a moving story of faith. In this pathbreaking account, Duncan Ryūken Williams reveals how, even as they were stripped of their homes and imprisoned in camps, Japanese American Buddhists launched one of the most inspiring defenses of religious freedom in our nation’s history, insisting that they could be both Buddhist and American.

Nearly all Americans of Japanese descent were subject to bigotry and accusations of disloyalty, but Buddhists aroused particular suspicion. Government officials, from the White House to small-town mayors, believed that Buddhism was incompatible with American values. Intelligence agencies targeted the Buddhist community for surveillance, and Buddhist priests were deemed a threat to national security. On December 7, 1941, as the bombs fell on Pearl Harbor, Attorney General Francis Biddle issued a warrant to “take into custody all Japanese” classified as potential national security threats. The first person detained was Bishop Gikyō Kuchiba, leader of the Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist sect in Hawai‘i.

In the face of discrimination, dislocation, dispossession, and confinement, Japanese Americans turned to their faith to sustain them, whether they were behind barbed wire in camps or serving in one of the most decorated combat units in the European theater. Using newly translated sources and extensive interviews with survivors of the camps and veterans of the war, American Sutra reveals how the Japanese American community broadened our country’s conception of religious freedom and forged a new American Buddhism.

Title:American Sutra: A Story of Faith and Freedom in the Second World War
Edition Language:English

    American Sutra: A Story of Faith and Freedom in the Second World War Reviews

  • Penny Atcheson

    This book was the most comprehensive and readable account of Japanese American Buddhist influence during the years of Japanese incarceration of WWII, I've yet to come across. If you read; and pause, y...

  • Greg Soden

    This book tells such an important perspective on why religion mattered in the wake of Pearl Harbor. This is a deeply insightful, important, and compassionate book that explores an egregious violation ...

  • Melinda Lewis

    Thus I have heard ...

  • Martha

    If you're at all familiar with American history of WW2, you probably know about the mass imprisonment of Japanese-Americans. This book focuses on the religious aspect of that incarceration, namely the...

  • Mark Bourdon

    “America is a Christian nation and Christianity’s God given mandate was to Americanize and Christianize Asians and all foreigners who immigrated to the US; regardless of freedom of religion. Buddh...

  • Ray

    Duncan Williams provides a thoughtful exploration of the Buddhist Japanese American experience during World War II, particularly how the religion set a group of immigrants either further apart from th...

  • Gary Johnson

    A piece of our history or religious suspicion and persecution that is not well known. Highly readable and emotional. ...

  • Widad


  • Marleen

    A story of faith and how Buddhism traveled east from India, Tibet, China, Japan, the west coast and Midwest. Most Japanese Americans who were incarcerated during WW II were Buddhists. Their religion i...