Lily Harvey -Courtesy photo
Lily Havey was born in Los Angeles in 1932. Ten years later, along with 120,000 other people of Japanese descent (many native-born American citizens), she was incarcerated in American prison camps, first at Santa Anita Assembly Center and then at the Amache Relocation Center. After World War II her family moved to Salt Lake City. She graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music, earned an MFA from the University of Utah, and taught English, creative writing, and humanities in high school for thirteen years before establishing a stained glass business. In the 1980’s, reading accounts of Vietnam vets dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, she realized she had long dealt with some of the same symptoms—unusual startle reactions to loud noises, unease with enclosed spaces and bright lights. She wondered if it had to do with her childhood imprisonment and began painting watercolors to explore these emotions. As she began to display the watercolors in galleries and art shows, she was asked for descriptions of the paintings. These vignettes led to a creative memoir, Gasa Gasa Girl Goes to Camp: A Nisei Youth Behind a World War II Fence, published in June of 2014 by the University of Utah Press.
Lavishly illustrated with her original watercolors and vintage photographs, the book offers a unique perspective of the Japanese American internment experience, familial relationships, and the interplay of art with remembered experience.