Yoshio Kishi/ Irene Yah Ling Sun Collection

charliechanDate Range: 17002005
Survey Conducted: Wed, 2008-10-01
Creator: Kishi, Yoshio (1932-2012)

History: Yoshio Kishi (1932-2012) is an award-winning New York City-based film and sound editor whose credits include such classics as Jerry Schatzberg’s “Panic in Needle Park” (1971), Alan Parker’s “Fame” (1980), Martin Scorsese’s “Raging Bull” (1980), and Wayne Wang’s “Dim Sum” (1985). For four decades, Kishi has been an avid collector of materials that trace the depiction of Asian Americans in U.S. intellectual and popular culture and of materials produced by Asian American activists to counter such stereotypical images. His compulsion for collecting Asian Americana began in the mid-1960s when, in the midst of thinking about his identity, he began to regret not knowing more about his ethnic heritage.

A second-generation Japanese American, Kishi grew up in a mainly Irish and Italian tenement neighborhood. During World War II, afraid of being labeled as “enemy aliens”, his father, a houseman, and his mother, a seamstress, had avoided speaking Japanese and joined a local Lutheran Church. In an effort to reclaim his ethnic heritage, Kishi, with the help of Los Angeles-based veteran actress of film, television, and commercials and friend Irene Yah Ling Sun, began to scour flea markets to purchase any materials that related to Asian Americana. Over the years, his collecting efforts preserved and amassed over 10,000 items visually showcasing the demonization and activisms of Asian Americans and trace their depiction over two centuries of American history. In 1981, space concerns in his rapidly filling apartment necessitated him to sell 1,500 items to the National Diet Library in Japan, which promised to keep the collection together and provide open access to the public. Recognizing the value of his collection to Asian American history, Professor Jack Tchen, Director of NYU’s A/P/A Institute, worked to acquire and archive Kishi’s collection at NYU’s Fales Library and Special Collections in 2005.

Sources: “Demonizing all things Asian; [Sports final Edition]” New York Daily News. New York, NY: Aug. 19, 2005. pg. 65.

Hartocollis, Anemona. “In a West Side Apartment, a World.” New York Times (Late Edition, East Coast). New York, NY: May 1, 2005. pg.14.1.

McDowell, Edwin. “Publishing: Writers Congress Opens.” New York Times (Late Edition, East Coast). New York, NY: Oct. 9, 1981. pg. C.28.

“Archivist of the ‘Yellow Peril’: The Yoshio Kishi/Irene Yah-Ling Sun Collection (extended to July 15).” Discover Nikkei: Japanese Americans and Their Descendants. Feb. 1, 2005. Accessed February 3, 2015. http://bit.ly/1F2Hg6g.

Summary: The collection encompasses more than 10,000 items pertaining to the stereotypical construction and perpetuation of Asian American images in the mainstream American media and imagination. These materials include books, journals, manuscripts, pulp magazines, films, photographs, political cartoons, sheet music, recordings, artifacts, and other ephemera originating from the mid-1700s to the 1990s. Taken together, Kishi’s collection offers an expansive view of the evolution and continuities of the U.S. conflation of Asian and Asian American media representation into stereotyped oriental and yellow peril images through three centuries of U.S. history. The collection provides materially-rich contextual history for researchers of Asian American history. In the words of Kishi himself: “This is a collection of inestimable value for a university. The Collection makes it possible for a student, researcher or scholar to find all the material necessary for a presentation, a paper, a dissertation, or an exhibition without the enormous difficulty and expense of tracking down rare and out of print items not collected elsewhere.”

Total Size: 10,000 items
APA-related Size: 10,000 items
Languages of materials: English and Japanese
Arrangement: finding aid

Location: Fales Library & Special Collections, New York University
Finding Aid Link: http://dlib.nyu.edu/findingaids/html/fales/mss_292/
Conditions Governing Access: Contact repository for detailed information on conditions governing access.

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