Kokomo Joe

University of Nebraska Press

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Christgau masterfully unearths a story about a small man with a giant spirit struggling to realize a dream in the midst of racial hatred and fear.
Satsuki Ina, Producer
From A Silk Cocoon

John Christgau has given us the bittersweet story of 'Kokomo Joe' Kobuki, who carried the American dream on his tiny shoulders, and of those whose fear of others tried to wrest the dream from him.
Dr. Stephen Fox
Fear Itself: Inside the FBI Roundup of German Americans during World War II

If there is a Triple Crown for long shot sports books, this is it.
Dave Newhouse, Oakland Tribune

Semi-finalist
Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award, 2009


KOKOMO JOE was the first Japanese American jockey in the country, and he burst like a comet onto the scene of horse racing in northern California during the summer of 1941. He won race after race, despite conspiracies against him by antagonistic jockeys. As war with Japan loomed, his continued victories and his amazing records aggravated fans who feared and hated anything Japanese. When war finally came, and with it invasion rumors, not even his flight to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona provided escape from the government's espionage and sabotage dragnet.

The story of Kokomo Joe, caught in a web of wartime fear and hysteria, stands as a compelling illustration of the tragic fate of Japanese Americans during World War II. It is a story with the drama and heartbreak of good fiction. But there is nothing fictional in the tale of how invasion panic and longstanding American racism prevent Kokomo Joe from the promise of stardom in the Sport of Kings.

More on Kokomo Joe:

NPR (KOKOMO JOE interview)

Podcast from The Bay Area's KALW-FM, "Crosscurrents:" (KOKOMO JOE Interview)

Writers Block, KQED SF
(John Christgau reads a selection from KOKOMO JOE)