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Not Yo’ Butterfly is the intimate and unflinching life story of Nobuko Miyamoto—artist, activist, and mother. Beginning with the harrowing early years of her life as a Japanese American child navigating a fearful west coast during World War II, Miyamoto leads readers into the landscapes that defined the experiences of twentieth-century America and also foregrounds the struggles of people of color who reclaimed their histories, identities, and power through activism and art.
Miyamoto vividly describes her early life in the racialized atmosphere of Hollywood musicals and then her turn toward activism as an Asian American troubadour with the release of A Grain of Sand—considered to be the first Asian American folk album. Her narrative intersects with the stories of Yuri Kochiyama and Grace Lee Boggs, influential in both Asian and Black liberation movements. She tells how her experience of motherhood with an Afro-Asian son, as well as a marriage that intertwined Black and Japanese families and communities, placed her at the nexus of the 1992 Rodney King riots—and how she used art to create interracial solidarity and conciliation.
Through it all, Miyamoto has embraced her identity as an Asian American woman to create an antiracist body of work and a blueprint for empathy and praxis through community art. Her sometimes barbed, often provocative, and always steadfast story is now told.
"A most vivid and compelling storyteller, Nobuko Miyamoto gives us a memoir that is a beautiful and astounding testimony of social justice, hope, and resilience! A monumental contribution to the history of Asian American artists and their creative and political contributions to this country."—Martha Gonzalez, author of Chican@ Activistas: Music, Community, and Transborder Tactics in East Los Angeles
"Miyamoto is a master storyteller. The pages of her memoir are soaked with honesty and vivid recollection. This powerful, well-written story is also a tale of the struggles and triumphs within family, as well as personal self-discovery and transformation. The awakening of consciousness, the dance, the song, the social struggles, and the spirituality are all sculpted here into an amazing life. Celebrated teacher, beloved artist, dedicated activist, wife, and mother, Nobuku Miyamoto is definitely 'Not Yo’ Butterfly.'"—Kamau Daáood, poet, cofounder of The World Stage Performance Gallery in Los Angeles
"Nobuko's 'longest song' rises from the cultural chasms of America to have us reckon with the undeniable interconnectedness of all relations and the hard-earned journey of realizing oneself through each other. This astounding collection of moments, lyrics, and memories is a beautiful memoir and celebration of radical inclusion on the path to finding one's song."—traci kato-kiriyama, interdisciplinary performing artist and principal writer of PULLproject Ensemble’s TALES OF CLAMOR