Toucan interview with Keiko Kasza

You might have seen Sammy the Interviewing Toucan talk to some Indiana authors recently. Sammy is releasing a new video every Tuesday at 2 p.m Eastern Time via the Indiana State Library’s Facebook account. You can see past interviews on YouTube.

Indiana author Keiko Kasza preferred to do her interview via email and Sammy was more than happy to accommodate her. What follows is their interview.

Sammy: We always start our interviews by talking about Indiana. Can you share with us, what is your connection to Indiana? It’s very exciting to me that you were born in Japan, but you are now a Hoosier!
Keiko: We moved to Bloomington in 1985, when my husband got a teaching job at Indiana University. I’m happy to announce that we have witnessed the IU men’s basketball team winning the national championship. We screamed for joy in our little apartment in Bloomington.

Sammy: Do you consider yourself to be a Hoosier?
Keiko: After living here for more than 30 years, I think I have won Hoosier citizenship.

Sammy: Let’s talk about your work. All of your books feature animals. What made you choose animals to star in your books?

Keiko: I think there are four reasons why I use animals. For starters, animals are perfect characters when you write universal stories. Not specifying a race or a nationality of the human book characters really helps me create universal stories and focus on the theme itself. Therefore, I believe that my books have been translated into 15 languages, not because of the quality – though I’d like to believe that’s true, too – but mostly because it’s easier to translate universal stories into different languages.

Secondly, I have more freedom if I use animals. I can make a bad wolf look really bad, or make a hippo really fat, which might offend some people if I used humans.Thirdly, if I have to write a human story, I would need to do tons of research. What era is it? What is the social code like, and what kind of clothes or hairstyles are people wearing, etc. Although I read scientific information on the habitats of animals, their food and their enemies, the background information is minimal compared to writing human stories.

And lastly, I can’t draw humans too well.

Sammy: What is your favorite animal to draw?
Keiko: I don’t have a favorite animal to draw but I do have animals that I don’t want to draw. Horses, camels, zebras, etc.; those who have long legs. I often make animals stand up and walk on two legs like humans, so animals with long limbs look awkward.

Sammy: One of my favorite books of yours is “A Mother for Choco.” This is probably because I myself am a bird. This seems like a great book to share with children who are adopted. Did you have that in mind when you wrote the book?

Keiko: Not at all. The story came from my experience when I first landed in the U.S. I landed in LAX. I have never forgotten my shock at seeing so many different races of people walking around in the airport. Japan – especially back then – was a more homogeneous country; all you saw in Japan were Japanese people. I wanted to write multicultural stories. But since it was published, the “Choco” book has been well-received by adoption and foster families. And I’m glad!

Sammy: Several themes emerge in your books. Animals try to escape being eaten and I also notice stories about friendship and fairness. Why are you drawn to stories like these?
Keiko: When I write, I often think about what it was like when I was 5 years old. What kind of things would you remember from that long ago? Those incidents that gave you strong emotional reactions, such as happy, sad, frustrated and angry. My book, “The Rat and the Tiger,” is based on the frustration I felt dealing with a bossy friend from the time I was 5 until 7 years old. So, if there is a pattern in the themes I write, I would say it has to be my own childhood memories that have never left me.

Sammy: Do you have any advice to people who want to be authors someday?
Keiko: Just like real estate people say, “Location, location, location”, I want to say, “Read, read, read.”

Sammy: How are you doing in regards to the pandemic? I’m assuming this has made travel to Japan nearly impossible.
Keiko: Yes, I cancelled a trip to Japan this spring. Not only to see my family, but I was going to give two talks there. Other talks in the U.S. also have been cancelled.

Sammy: I’m so sorry to hear that. So much has changed due to the pandemic. Are you working on any new books at the moment? Can you tell us about them?
Keiko: I have been working on new stories. So far, I have four stories all dummied out. One is about the relationship between a grandmother and grandchild in Japan. Hopefully it will take my work into a new direction.

Sammy: Thank you so much, Keiko! This is your favorite Hoosier Toucan encouraging you to read local. So long!

This blog post was submitted by Sammy the Interviewing Toucan. 

Elizabeth “Betty” Wason, pioneering journalist and Hoosier cook book author

“I was young and wanted to see the world. I had no money, so I decided I would become a journalist.” – Betty Wason

Elizabeth “Betty” Wason was an American author and broadcast journalist. Born on March 6, 1912 in Delphi, Indiana, she grew up studying classical violin and painting. After high school, she enrolled in Purdue University, hoping to pursue a career as a dress designer.

After graduating from Purdue on June 13, 1933, Wason went to work selling yard goods in the basement of the L.S. Ayres Department Store in Indianapolis. It wasn’t until her first broadcasting experience, working on a radio program for a cooking school in Lexington, Kentucky, that she would move toward a career in journalism. This would eventually lead her to New York.

Wason wrote, “I went around to New York editors announcing I was going to Europe and would like to be their correspondent.” She was once asked by Herbert Moore, president of Transradio Press, a wire service for radio newscasters, where she expected to go. Wason said boldly, ‘Wherever things are happening!”

During World War II, Wason traveled Europe as a war correspondent, but remained unrecognized as being one by her employer, CBS. During this time, she worked for, and with, Edward R. Murrow. Despite her significant contributions she, and a handful of other journalists working with Murrow, were barely recognized for their work in the famed group of war correspondents known as the “Murrow Boys.” After several months of traveling, she ended up in Greece for six months during the Axis invasion.

After her time in Europe, Wason returned to the United States where she had become one of the women pioneers in war-time correspondence. Wason was inundated with interview requests, lecture requests and press attention. “Everyone made a fuss over me, but CBS,” Wason wrote. “When I went to see [news director] Paul White, he dismissed me with, ‘You were never one of our regular news staff.’ Then what, I wondered, had I been doing for CBS all that time in Greece?”

After a disappointing career with CBS, Wason lived in Washington, D.C., New York and Portugal while working in public relations and as a freelance writer. She authored 24 books, with her most successful book being her 1942 story of the Axis invasion of Greece, “Miracle in Hellas: The Greeks Fight On.”

However, Wason’s other books were about one of her longtime favorite hobbies, cooking. Her personal and professional travels gave her firsthand knowledge of food history and traditions.

Her bibliography of cookbooks includes:
“Cooking Without Cans” (1943)
“Dinners That Wait” (1954)
“Cooks, Gluttons & Gourmets: A History of Cookery” (1962)
“The Art of Spanish Cooking” (1963)
“Bride in the Kitchen” (1964)
“The Art of Vegetarian Cookery” (1965)
“A Salute to Chinese” (1966)
“The Art of German Cooking” (1967)
“A Salute to Cheese” (1968)
“Cooking to Please Finicky Kids” (1968)
“The Language of Cookery” (1968)
“Betty Wason’s Greek Cookbook” (1969)
“The Everything Cookbook” (1970)

Wason settled near her daughter and grandchildren in Seattle in 1985, where she died on Feb. 3, 2001.

For more information on Wason, please visit the following resources: Betty Wason, Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame, Wikipedia and “Gender Discrimination in the 1940s: Why a Correspondent Turned from War to Cookbooks.” Additionally, the Indiana State Library currently has a display of Wason’s works on the second floor.

This post was written by Chris Marshall, digital collections coordinator for the Indiana Division at the Indiana State Library.

Emily Kimbrough, Hoosier native and European traveler

“I believe that there are no memories that are okay to forget. Every man’s memory is his private literature. Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same. Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose. Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That’s why it’s a comfort to go hand in hand.” – Emily Kimbrough

Emily Kimbrough. The Indianapolis Times collection, ISL L722.

Emily Kimbrough was born in Muncie, Indiana on Oct. 23, 1899. At the age of eleven, her family moved to Chicago. She attended Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania before moving to Paris, back to Chicago, Philadelphia and finally settling in New York.

Kimbrough began her writing career in Chicago in 1923 with Marshall Field Magazine, the department store’s quarterly catalog. In 1926, she moved on to become the fashion editor and then managing editor for Ladies’ Home Journal. She wrote about her years at Marshall Field’s in “Through Charley’s Door,” published in 1952. From the 1930s to 1950s, she wrote freelance with articles published in Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker.

While raising a family, she began to write and lecture about her fascinating travels, misadventures and experiences. “Our Hearts Were young and Gay,” co-written with her closest friend and actress, Cornelia Otis Skinner, describes their 1920s tour of England and France, as young women in their 20s. She continued to write several books about her European travels, eventually having a bibliography of 16 books.

In 1976, the city of Muncie created the Emily Kimbrough Historic District, later being placed on the National Register in 1978.

By Nyttend - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18019895

Emily Kimbrough Historic District

Kimbrough died Feb. 10, 1989, in Manhattan, New York City.

This post was written by Chris Marshall, digital collections coordinator for the Indiana Division at the Indiana State Library.

Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emily_Kimbrough
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Hearts_Were_Young_and_Gay
http://www.muncie-ecna.org/kimbrough.html
https://www.nytimes.com/1989/02/11/obituaries/emily-kimbrough-90-magazine-editor-and-popular-author.html