The incarceration of Japanese-Americans during World War II was recently brought to the forefront locally with the examination of the flower-growing community in Richmond and El Cerrito.

"Blossoms and Thorns" was a successful exhibit and program at the Richmond Art Center in 2010, and a short film with the same title is now shown at 2 p.m. Thursdays at the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historic Park Visitors Educational Center.

The topic of internment will get a more intensive examination at programs being held in West County in September and October by library branches and local historical groups, starting with a program from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Office Building, 1301 Pinole Valley Road in Pinole.

"Internment Memories: Japanese-Americans remember life during World War II," presented by the Pinole Historical Society and Pinole Library, will include video presentations and a panel discussion featuring local people who were sent to the internment camps during the war.

Details: www.pinolehistoricalsociety.org.

The Pinole program is the kickoff to events being held at area library branches under the statewide California Reads program.

"California Reads in West County: Searching for Democracy" will feature events sponsored by library branches under the internment theme.


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The selected books are "Farewell to Manzanar," a first-person account by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston about growing up in a camp, and " Lost City Radio," a novel by Daniel Alarcon about the consequences of war on society and the individual.

Free copies of the books will be available at the West Contra Costa library branches that are part of the county library system, and branches will be hosting special programs in coming weeks.

As part of the series, Peruvian singer, composer and band leader Julio Bravo will perform at 3 p.m. Saturday at Refugio Valley Park, 1515 Refugio Valley Road in Hercules.

At 7 p.m. Sept. 10, Delphina Hirasuna will discuss her book "The Art of the Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps" at the Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave.

"Effects of the Evacuation Order" will be the topic of a panel discussion at 7 p.m. Sept. 13 at the El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Ave.

The branch in El Cerrito will screen the documentary "Of Civil Wrongs and Rights: The Fred Korematsu Story," with speakers Karen Korematsu and Ling Liu, at 7 p.m. Sept. 20.

At 6:30 p.m. Sept. 22, the Rodeo Library will examine a different aspect of wartime restrictions with "Prisoners Among Us: Italian-American Identity & World War II" at the Lefty Gomez Recreation Center, 470 Parker Ave. in Rodeo.

Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston will discuss her book "Farewell to Manzanar" at 2 p.m. Sept. 29 at the Hercules Library, 109 Civic Drive.

A panel will examine "Japanese American Internment: Lesser Known Stories" at 7 p.m. Oct. 4 at the El Cerrito branch. "Through personal stories and academic research, a panel will discuss in depth the 'voluntary' and organized evacuation of 40 families to a former town in Utah and the forced evacuation and internment of Japanese Latin Americans to prisoner-of-war camps in the United States for future hostage exchange," the library notes.

Shirley Muramoto will present Koto music, which has its roots in the internment camps, at 1 p.m. Oct. 6 at the El Sobrante Library, 4191 Appian Way.

The branch in El Cerrito will also host a screening of "Blossoms & Thorns: A Community Uprooted," along with a panel discussion at 7 p.m. Oct. 11.

A panel of professors will join author Daniel Alarcon at 6 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Contra Costa College Library, 2600 Mission Bell Drive, to discuss his novel "Lost City Radio."

University of San Francisco Professor and editor Brian Komei Dempster will lead a panel with four concentration camp internees sharing their first-person accounts at 2 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Kensington Library.

A poetry on issues and themes in "Lost City Radio" and "Farewell to Manzanar" will be held at 3 p.m. Oct. 27 at the El Sobrante Library.

WEST COUNTY NOTES: El Cerrito Police Chief Sylvia Moir will be one of 30 people honored with Trailblazer Awards at "Out and Outstanding: We are Everywhere," a gala on Sunday celebrating the 30th anniversary of the East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club.

The event, which will present awards that "highlight the diversity of local individuals advocating for LGBT equality," starts with a 4 p.m. reception and 5 p.m. program at the Ed Roberts Campus at the Ashby BART station, 3075 Adeline St. in Berkeley.

Other honorees include an artist, a judge, a filmmaker, a rabbi, a musician, a reverend, a city manager, school administrators, a state senator and President Barack Obama.

Tickets are $50 each. For details or to RSVP send an email to eastbaystonewalldems@gmail.com or call Brendalynn Goodall at 510-635-8401 or Kriss Worthington at 510-548-8796.

  • The WriterCoach Connection at El Cerrito High School has landed its second major grant in three years from the Dean Witter Foundation.

    The program, which trains volunteers from the community to work with students on their writing skills, announced this week that it had been given $20,000 by the foundation.

    The program had earned a grant three years ago to support its expansion and provide assessments. WCC, which originated in Berkeley and is available at eight campuses there, has expanded in El Cerrito to Portola Middle School and efforts are under way to bring the program to Richmond High School. It is also offered in Albany and Oakland.

    With the start of a new school year, a call is out for volunteers who can train and provide one-on-one coaching for one to two hours a week.

    For more details, visit www.writercoachconnection.org or call 510-704-0538.

    Contact Chris Treadway at 510-262-2784 or ctreadway@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/christreadway.