Yokohama Yankee: An Ex-Pat’s Story about Life in Japan

Seattle Business magazine editor Leslie Helm pens a family history of mixed heritage.

By Seattle Mag

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March 29, 2013

This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of Seattle Magazine.

When reporter Leslie Helm (editor of Seattle mag’s sister publication, Seattle Business) began the process of adopting a Japanese baby in 1991, he had no idea that his quest to have children would lead to an intimate acquaintance with his forebears.

In his new book, Yokohama Yankee: My Family’s Five Generations as Outsiders in Japan (Chin Music Press; $16.95), Helm traces his history back to his German great-grandfather, whose search for a new life landed him in Japan in 1869, where he took the unorthodox step of marrying his Japanese housekeeper. Helm’s extended family has lived in Japan ever since.

With a narrative derived from old letters, diaries and recent interviews, punctuated by lovely vintage photographs, postcards and illustrations, the book offers a highly personal view of the immigrant and ex-pat experience. While the continued intertwining of American, German and Japanese families—links forged through genetics, customs, circumstances, laws and twists of fate—is a running theme, at the heart of the memoir is a story every family can relate to: that of love lost and found, through the generations. 

 Local appearances:

 March 28, 10:20 a.m. on KUOW’s Weekday with Steve Scher
March 30, 2:30 p.m at 
Magnolia Bookstore
April 3, 6 p.m. at Town Hall
April 26, 7 p.m.
 at Elliott Bay Books

 

 

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