India Bown



Throughout this semester, this class has given me the opportunity to have many different experiences, both positive and negative. In all learning situations nonetheless, I was able to gain new insight and perspective on news writing overall. Personally, in terms of disappointments, I’d say I was more so disappointed in how some people value journalism. In the process of getting interviews and involvement from outside sources, it was hard to get engagement with people if you didn’t have a direct phone number. The correspondence took longer than normal, which is to be expected with different people’s schedules, but some responses were a little discouraging. 

On the successful side, I feel like I have learned a lot more about what it means to be a good writer, but also a good news writer. I find the information on the writing process to be very valuable, along with the experience we had as college students to get a feel for what it’s like to work on bigger stories for publication. I think it’s also a success that so many amazing writers also decided to take the class, so there is always feedback when needed. I think collaboration is so important, so taking Voices of Utah was extremely beneficial for my group and individual growth as a writer. 

I’ve learned that if I’m going to partake in the journalism industry, the writing topics have to be more tailored to my interests or things I want to learn more about. Writing within the news industry doesn’t allow for as much freedom and creativity as I’d like for a future career. Writing is and always will be a passion of mine, but when it comes to reporting or going out for investigative journalism, I don’t think those careers work long term for me. 

Opinion editorial writing is more my style and I really enjoy the writing process when it comes to reviews. Other areas of the news industry like design layout also really interest me for the future, so either way at some point after school I’ll be able to try different jobs. 

I fully plan on continuing to explore more Asian American communities here in Salt Lake City. Along with supporting businesses in the area, I want to continue staying up to date on social issues surrounding Asian Americans and be more conscious of community gatherings. The important thing for me is to support local and minority groups as opposed to places that don’t need my business. I won’t just be supporting the businesses covered in my articles, but as many as I can.

Especially now that as a class we’ve gone through so much on the topic, I can only imagine the rest of the history and interesting stories that can be done. I’m not certain if I’ll follow the beat as closely as before, but I will be keeping myself updated. 


India Bown is pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Communication at the University of Utah. Since she was a kid, India has always enjoyed writing, and joining a journalism elective in high school sparked her passion for it. For extracurriculars, India is a staff writer for the arts desk at the Daily Utah Chronicle and the communications director for Fashion in Business, an organization through the Eccles Business School.

India continues exploring her interests outside of school, like fashion, arts, and being outdoors. In her free time, India loves making photoshoot sets, styling outfits, and designing graphics/layouts. India plans on meshing her two passions, fashion and journalism, after college and has dreams of one day having her own brand. 

Mother-daughter team run a pho restaurant: soup for the soul 

Story and photos by INDIA BOWN

With the snap of the wooden chopsticks, squeeze of the sriracha bottle, and slurp of the broth, having a bowl of pho is more than just about the eating. It’s also about the fresh ingredients. The side dish of assorted veggies including bean sprouts, limes, onions, mint, and jalapeño, enhances the flavor of the broth and can be modified truly any way you want. 

In typical pho house fashion, the soup speaks for itself. The restaurant, in its simplicity, puts the quality of taste in the food, making the decor and house toned down to let the foods shine as the main attraction. No decked-out tables, just the essentials — hoisin sauce, chili paste, and sriracha.

A gem within a neighborhood in South Salt Lake City, Pho Tay Ho brings Asian communities and other groups the experience of eating traditional Vietnamese soup, pho.

A bowl of beef pho and a side dish of assorted vegetables.

Pho is the ultimate comfort food. Pho Tay Ho is run by Mai Nguyen and her daughter Michelle.

The noodle house opened in 1995 after Mai came to the United States in the 1980s to seek safety during the Vietnam War. With a passion for cooking and Vietnamese food, Mai went from starting her business in an apartment, now where Penny Ann’s cafe resides, to having her own house down the street converted into a pho restaurant. 

When the rent agreement was terminated for the apartment building in 2008, Mai was forced out of her business and made the future of the pho restaurant uncertain. Michelle Nguyen would describe the move as a “blessing in disguise.”

The home-turned-restaurant at 1766 Main St. was how the dynamic duo got their business back up and running. This gave the two ownership and the freedom to manage the restaurant their way. 

For being in an actual house, location adds to the familiar feeling of home. Now being open for around 27 years, Pho Tay Ho is the place to get both great hospitality and any bowl of pho your heart desires. 

Michelle speaks on her role in the business and the experience of growing up in a noodle house. Living in Salt Lake City her whole life, Michelle has worked alongside her mother for as long as she can remember. 

Michelle Nguyen working her Saturday shift.

Growing up, Michelle’s childhood was a lot different from the other kids in town. “I didn’t have a typical schedule that most (children) did and since I was of age doing math and writing, I was being immersed into the restaurant,” Michelle said. Looking back, Michelle can confidently say that her childhood is heavily marked with memories at the noodle house that made her experience unique. 

Sitting in the restaurant after school, doing homework up until she was at the University of Utah, making her own food and being so close to home, Michelle loved her childhood being centered around the restaurant.

Michelle’s passion for pho is the reason why working at Pho Tay Ho felt like the perfect fit. She said, “I got a degree in communication and worked at a station for a while, but corporate life isn’t what I wanted, so that’s why I decided to do this (work at the restaurant) full time.”

Since she was a little girl when starting to help at the restaurant, Michelle has the unique perspective of having customers that have known her since she was a kid. “We have a joke up front that says employee of the month and there is my kid picture up there…so longest streak ever on employee of the month,” Michelle said.

As for the beauty of the kind of meal pho is, Michelle describes it similar to Subway. “You can make it your own, I always get upset when people say there is a right or wrong way to eat pho because you can spice it up differently… you can change it up however you like,” Michelle said. 

The inside seating and dining area at Pho Tay Ho.

It’s all about the broth for Michelle. Serving traditional Northern Vietnamese pho, Pho Tay Ho separates itself from a majority of pho places. With a lot of the influence being taken from the southern region of Vietnam, the Northern holds a lighter flavor compared to the deep richness of southern Vietnamese pho. 

Being a part of the community of Salt Lake City, many in surrounding areas also love the familiarity and home feel that the noodle house has. Kathy Chau, a second-year student at the University of Utah, is a regular at Pho Tay Ho and a big fan of Mai and Michelle. 

“I’ve been going there with my parents since I was really young and they had it in the apartment complex, it always felt homey and comfortable, like going to a family member’s house,” Chau said. Living in Utah her whole life, Chau loves the pho place for more than just the food, but for the service as well.

“I feel very calm in there, it’s not chaotic, very intimate, they care about the customers, very personable, not so much hustle and bustle, so that’s why I like it,” Chau said.

Being a Vietnamese American, Chau appreciates the quality of Pho Tay Ho’s cooking, along with the care they put into their service. 

“Usually other pho restaurants I’ve been to are trying to push you in and out, in and out” Chau elaborates, “so I really appreciate the tastes of the broth and how long they could cook all the meats and other stuff.” Chau agrees with the reviews, Pho Tay Ho does have the best broth in town!

The noodle house has been a staple to people in the Salt Lake City community for around 27 years and is a guaranteed spot for authentic and delicious pho. 

The cozy restaurant is a safe place to discover the world of pho. It stands for good family and good food, making sure that you’ll never feel homesick when eating there. 

Traditional Vietnamese iced coffee with assorted vegetables.

Brooke Williams



The past several months have been filled with learning, discoveries, connections, realizations, epiphanies, and everything under the sun to overwhelm my mind constantly. More than ever before, I find myself asking questions that have no answer at this time, questions that make me think and strategize and wonder about the possibilities, yet none of these could be answered with anything reportable.

As I write news, I often think about how it might hinder my creativity in writing. Being strictly limited to facts and quotes poses a serious challenge for my story writing and makes me feel like my stories are not as eye-catching as I want them to be. I find that my freedom in writing news is not so much about the words I can use to reel the reader in, but it’s the story itself; research and experience and especially interviews can make my stories captivating.

Typing out two hours’ worth of an interview with one person is a daunting task, but I can’t help myself when there is so much to talk about and I really enjoy the conversations I get to be a part of. I was able to use details from my interviews to make connections within my story, using nothing but presenting facts and quotes.

The questions that have taken over my thought space involve my future. I’ve been nervous to graduate college because learning is what I want to do for a living. If I could get paid to be a student forever I wouldn’t think twice about it. The beauty of journalism is that’s exactly what I get to do — except books are replaced with real people and personal stories. I feel like I have a unique opportunity to observe and communicate stories in my community. Everyone lives for something, everyone has some reason they get out of bed every day and more often than not it’s things that the average person is completely unaware of. I realized this when I retired from my Drum Corps International career and started desperately missing the activity that kept me moving. With that piece of me missing it was difficult to do anything at all and finally it’s driving me toward the depths of my community and finding those stories within it.

I went to a friend whom I thought I knew a lot about and realized I will never really know what he knows. We all have crazy unique experiences that are bigger than us. In interviews with my friend, Mitch, I discovered so many story ideas and chose to report on an experience that was dear to him. In learning that story I discovered something that affected every aspect of Mitch’s personal life. Not to mention, it was a global project that does the same for hundreds of others, the very foundation created by people who were so dedicated to pass on these experiences and memories.

I now feel responsible to communicate these reasons to live in the form of stories. News is full of infinite possibilities, and I am in a place where I can be selective of my own education and share it with others.


I was raised in Utah by a single mom, who taught me everything I know about hard work, integrity, dedication and more. I spent much of my childhood and high school days playing softball competitively. One day I had to give up that passion for another in marching band. I truly believe that the hobbies I practiced and the circumstances in which I was raised have shaped who I am today.

Coming home from softball tournaments was very nostalgic. It was normally a long drive home in a sandy uniform at some ungodly hour after the championship game. I was fortunate to be on one of the best teams on the West Coast, so I regularly came home with a trophy and some level of pride, unless it said anything about runner-up on the plaque. My grandfather used to tell me, “You only take first place. You get what’s left.” That is one thing that stuck with me to this day.

Memory is a hazy space. Much of my early years are blocked from my memory yet the idea of doing the best in anything I do was never forgotten. I remain focused and determined to perform at my greatest ability in anything I do. This has been the foundation of my work as a writer. Stories are the single greatest way to communicate memory. Without stories, those memories are lost forever. I have a mission to use these stories as evidence of real people’s real experiences.

I know everyone has something they live for, and I believe their story needs to be told. News today seems so repetitive, abundant in stories about legislative actions and auto accidents and movements, but the elements that make these stories important is missing. Someone is directly affected by these newsworthy stories, and those reasons are what people need to know about more than anything.

I studied journalism at the University of Utah so that I could bring unseen stories to the surface in order to create a more informed and community-oriented society. I saw 42 states in the U.S. during my study. My travels have confirmed the importance of storytelling, but I left my heart in Maryland. Since then, I’ve planned on making my way back to Baltimore to fulfill my need to share stories of the people around me.

Experiencing Tea’s Memory: offering boba tea and fruit smoothies to a Utah community

Story and photos by BROOKE WILLIAMS

Just a few short weeks after renewing their contract in Chinatown, South Salt Lake City, the owners of Tea’s Memory were forced to pack up and relocate their business, and fast.

 A new franchise café was put in its place. Luckily, Tea’s Memory owners Yuling He and Haiming Yu were planning on expanding their business and had already looked at locations in cities like Farmington, just north of Salt Lake City. There, Tea’s Memory re-opened in June 2021 as the only boba tea shop in the city and its surrounding community.

Yuling He is making an iced citrus tea, which she said is her favorite refreshing drink.

“Utah is a state that I think has an open mind and boba is pretty new to them, but people are loving to try new things, especially in Farmington. That’s one of the things that I’m so appreciative of,” Yuling He said.

Boba, a unique textured drink, became increasingly popular in China when she was growing up, He said. She began making boba in high school and credits her business’ success to her former boss, who taught her the basics beyond typical things like inventory management, consumer relations, budgeting, and more.

“She’s kind of like my first teacher about boba. She taught me how to cook it, she taught me what is good with green tea and what is good with black tea. There is so much knowledge in this market and I learned a lot,” Yuling He said.

A few years after she began her career in the café business, He was accepted to the University of Utah, where she would begin studying accounting six months later. She said she wanted to spend the half year exploring Utah and getting to know the area before moving on to college.

It wasn’t easy to part ways from her friends and family, He said, but a certain animated video about new beginnings brought her high hopes for moving to Salt Lake City and comforted her with the endless possibilities to come.

One of the first occurrences in the United States came as a shock. He said her partner, Haiming Yu, was selected to launch a boba tea shop in Chinatown. The rent was reasonable, He said, and the location was ideal, and so came Tea’s Memory — named after the video that comforted her when moving across the globe.

“I see it kind of like my child because, me and Haiming, at the moment we decided to do it, it became a thing that we really value,” He said. “At the very beginning I didn’t want to do it actually. I’m a student, I want to focus on my study.”

In order to focus in school, she became the brains behind the café’s operation by investing and providing ideas and knowledge to Haiming Yu and their employees, He said. She appreciates the staff as they execute her ideas and run the café day-to-day to make it all possible.

The new store, located at 210 W. Promontory in Farmington, has continued with great success, manager Caralee Donaldson said. Like He, Donaldson said she had no previous interest in working in food service. But, she was inspired by watching content creators on YouTube, like Mike Chen, who create vlogs as they travel the world trying different foods including boba.

Donaldson said she is lucky to have her Filipino mother, who regularly made a dessert from the Philippines called halo halo, meaning “mix mix,” throughout her childhood. She describes the sweet treat as an iced drink with mixed flavoring ingredients comparable to boba and milk tea. Boba is nostalgic to Donaldson, she said, as it reminds her of her grandparents in Arizona.

“It’s always kind of sad because you never know when you’re going to see them again, you know, so we always make a boba shop stop afterwards to cheer ourselves up,” she said.

This sentimentality toward boba brought her to managing the café, where she makes new memories every day. Donaldson said she enjoys the diverse groups of people who come in and stay a while, charmed by the shop’s welcoming environment. She said she predicts that the K-Pop music played in the café will encourage unique crowds to return regularly.

Yuling He said she carefully crafted this cordial environment to stay more involved with her consumer community while she focuses on school. Upon entering the café, there is a vibrant wall of Post-it notes with messages from customers. Some notes feature drawings, from detailed sketches to stick figures. Other notes contain inspirational messages and quotes.

“It’s kind of hard to balance at the beginning because I’m international. I do have some limitations with working. The only thing I could do is give ideas,” He said. “Some people come in and they will read, and they will get inspired.”

Caralee Donaldson is making a drink behind the counter where customers view the menu and place orders.

The menu displays a variety of fruity flavors, floral flavors, milk alternatives, sweeteners, and add-ins like jellies and boba pearls. Customers can watch every step while the barista makes their drink. The barista pulls a cup from a tall stack, each one featuring a sticker with colorful Asian artwork made by Yuling He’s cousin. When the customer receives the visually pleasing drink, they can write a review on a Post-it note on another section of the message wall. Customers look to the colorful stickies to read other people’s experience, which can help them decide what to order.

Donaldson said reading the reviews is uplifting for her as a barista and manager, but “the most fulfilling part about it is I don’t even have to be making eye contact with the person. I can hear someone [say] ‘this is so good like I’m coming back’ and that makes me feel so good about myself.”

The drink is still very new to the United States, He said, and thus many customers don’t understand what makes the drink to be considered “tea.”

Brad Heller, owner and president of the Tea Grotto in Salt Lake City, is a tea expert who enjoys sharing his knowledge with his customers and curious tea consumers. He explains that milk tea usually has powdered Camellia Sinensis plant leaves in its mixture, making it a tea.

“I like to think of Milk Tea with boba as a Taiwan milkshake. It is sweet, creamy, caffeinated, and for most, fun to chew on,” Heller said in an email interview. “I welcome boba’s role in exposing more people to the nearly infinitely complex world of tea.”

The versatility of boba milk teas is convenient to customers who wish to adjust the nutritional values or flavors of the drink, Yuling He said. She hopes people see boba’s future, and encourages customers to customize their drinks to their satisfaction and not limit themselves to a menu.

“You can make it healthy, and I want to expand the boba market, especially in the United States,” He said. “There’s still tons of people that don’t know about boba and I want to be a person who introduces it to them.”

The Kakehashi Project gives Utah brothers an opportunity to experience Japanese culture

Mitch Imamura and others in the Kakehashi Project group. All photos courtesy of Mitch Imamura.


It was during the eleventh hour when at last they broke the language barrier for a moment. After 10 days of aiming to communicate, they finally understood what was being said. In fact, it was the only thing said during their stay in Japan that they certainly understood. It was “goodbye.”

They were on their way back to the airport, wrapping up a 10-day trip which they felt went by as fast as the two-month wait for the trip had felt slow. Four months earlier, brothers Mitchell and Treyton Imamura submitted applications through the Kakehashi Project. The Japanese government program partners with the Japanese American Citizens League to offer young Japanese Americans the opportunity to visit Japan in a larger effort to strengthen relations that join the United States and Japan.

“The Kakehashi Program was instituted when I was the national director of the JACL in D.C. Of course I wanted to see our local Salt Lake youth, where I’m from and I was born and raised, be part of the program,” said Floyd Mori, who served as the national executive director of the JACL.

Mori discussed in a phone interview his sense of obligation to do his part in building the bridge, or kakehashi, between his countries of origin. Having a pride in his identity is what drove him through such a successful career, so he felt it was important to share that confidence with other Japanese Americans, starting with those in his hometown.

Growing up during World War II, Mori said he experienced firsthand stereotypes and prejudices that made him ashamed of who he was. His family was always active with the JACL but one day he noticed that his interaction within his community helped to develop a better understanding of the culture. Because of that understanding, he became more appreciative of who he was.

“There is a sense of, you know, we’re real, we can do something, we can be something, and we’re as full of a human being as anybody else, regardless what their background might be,” Mori explained.

Thanks to Mori’s encouragement, the Imamura brothers said they received their acceptance letter a month after they applied. The excitement grew as they prepared for the trip, and Trey couldn’t help but remember his humanitarian trip to Brazil nearly 10 years before. He focused on keeping an open mind, free of assumptions and expectations.

Two months later, Mitch, Trey, and several other Japanese Americans from around the U.S. flew from Los Angeles to Tokyo, where they were separated into smaller groups to travel with throughout the trip. Mori was with Trey’s group as an advisor, so Mitch was on his own to make new friends during his travel.

He took photos of things he found interesting or could relate to, starting with the Japanese Overseas Migration Museum in Yokohama. Some photos included an ad for a Japanese hotel in Salt Lake City, a table crowded with international Japanese foods, a baseball glove and bat, and a basic butsudan, or Japanese Buddhist family altar.

Hot meal in a can from a vending machine.

It wasn’t long before Mitch encountered his first culture shock, he said. His first meal was a can of corn chowder from a vending machine. To his surprise, the soup was hot and meal ready. After that, Mitch said, “Whenever I saw a vending machine I just bought something, anything.”

His group’s homestay family invited them into their home in the outskirts of Semboku City. Everyone took their shoes off at the door as standard practice they were already used to. Mitch said he shivered throughout the tour of their home. It was February and central heating was uncommon in the countryside. When he came across the family’s butsudan, he was so amused by the regular upkeep with the altar that he almost forgot it was cold.

“A big part of the Japanese Buddhist ideology is that everything is impermanent, and that we can’t hold on to things. When you have food or flowers on a shrine, you are adding to the things that will go away and you have to keep replacing them with things,” Mitch said. “The religious symbolism in it is impermanence, that nothing is permanent in this world and that everything will go away.”

He continued to see things in a new light throughout the trip, he said. He felt at home. He was familiar with much of Japanese culture and was able to connect his memories with his experiences.

The group’s homestay dad took them to the grocery store. Mitch’s roommate, who spoke limited Japanese, translated for the dad. He said he was excited to introduce them to a food they might not have seen before. But Mitch said he recognized sakura mochi, a Japanese confectionery made with rice and red bean paste. He described it as a pastry almost as sweet as the nostalgia it evoked from when his mom made it for him and his brother.

“Throughout my trip was a lot of confirmation that I know Japanese culture really well. There were also things that I didn’t know, so I guess those things together affirmed to me that I am very strongly Japanese and American, and it affirmed to me that there are differences between being Japanese and Japanese American,” Mitch said, explaining how he finds balance within his cultural identity.

On their way to Akita, Mitch had a memorable conversation with a roommate about how they express their cultures back home in the U.S. His roommate said he felt more Japanese just for being there in Japan. Being from the South, there weren’t many other Asian Americans to relate with. His only connection to his Japanese culture was watching anime.

Mitch took photos through the windows of the bullet train windows as they arrived in Akita. There, he experienced something completely new to him — lantern balancing. According to legend, it was once a way for the people of Akita to represent their small towns in a competition. They would hold massive poles with more poles at the top that attached a number of artistic lanterns. While it’s not practiced as a competition today, it serves as a community gathering event.

As he watched the lantern balancing, Mitch said it reminded him of the lanterns that decorate the Obon Festival in Salt Lake City, which for him is an emotional celebration of ancestry. When his turn to balance the lanterns came, he felt almost nostalgic of his own connection to the lanterns, but it was different because he didn’t have a great understanding of lantern balancing.

Mitch Imamura can be seen dancing in this video (at 48:35) on the left side of the frame.

Discovery was a repeating theme, Mitch said. The group went to a snow festival in Akita, where he enjoyed new foods like kiritanpo, an Akita Prefecture original rice dish, and saw intricately detailed snow sculptures. With the language barrier, he said he would remind himself not to let his American tendencies exoticize everything he saw because he was there to experience, not interpret.

Dragon sculpture made of snow at the festival Mitch Imamura attended.

“I don’t know if the festival actually had any religious meaning behind It, or cultural meaning, or if it was just a fun thing to do in the community, but it was a way for them to do something together,” Mitch observed.

Meanwhile, Trey was also making discoveries and connections through experiences with his group. In the town of Minakami located in the Gunma Prefecture, Trey’s homestay family began each day with breakfast before they embarked on whatever adventures the day had in store. Trey said their host expected nothing in return. At one point, Trey recalled, he said a familiar word, kimochi. Without hesitation, Trey thought of his mom.

“She’d always say this word kimochi, kimochi, and I never really fully understood what it meant,” Trey remembered. “She always said it was ‘from the heart, from the heart.’”

He said he came to the realization that his homestay family did generous acts for the group simply because they wanted their guests to have a nice breakfast, they cared. Despite not speaking Japanese, there was a mutual understanding of kimochi as the action not the word.

“The connection that I felt there was beyond words, because I always heard that with my own family and Japanese community. I could never establish an understanding, but after going to Japan and seeing that culture it reaffirmed that we are still Japanese,” Trey said. “It’s who we are and what we do in a lot of our cultural practices.”

Having experienced trains in Hong Kong and New York City, Trey said the systems in Japan were culturally shocking because of the overall cleanliness, to which he credits Japanese culture and respect for others. He said this distinguished his Japanese culture from his American culture and from Asian cultures in general. He spoke about how his ancestors’ struggles with their identity shapes who he is today.

“I’m not going to say that I carry trauma from my grandparents being put into internment camps,” Trey said, “but it’s a sad time in our history where my family was … seen as aliens.”

The Kakehashi Project held a sayōnara luncheon in Tokyo. Trey reflected on his favorite experiences, and said the public bathing house was particularly memorable.

“We were out in this natural hot spring and it starts to snow in Japan. And in the wind — it’s cold, and you’re in the hot water and just looking up at the moon, and I was like, life doesn’t get any better than this,” he said.

Then, a familiar song played during the luncheon. He said he once heard it in a documentary and loved its expression of homesickness and the constant desire to return home.

Mitch Imamuras’s travel group on the bus ride back to the airport.

“It was just really interesting to have this song where they’re talking about that. It’s a very common concept in Japanese culture to go home … and that’s where you know you came from,” Trey said.

On the bus ride to the airport, Mitch’s tour guide sang a melody he recognized. He said he sang along and described a connection he felt with his tour guide, which brought a realization of “we’re not that different.” The song was “Sugiyaki,” a popular worldwide hit some 40 years ago.

 “Now when I hear that song, I think of her singing it a cappella to us on a bus,” Mitch said. “It’s a very nice upbeat song, but it’s about people leaving you forever and not being able to see people again.”

Carlene Coombs



Coming into this beat, I was very unsure of what to expect. Admittedly, I knew very little about “the” Asian American community and I was initially apprehensive about my ability to cover the beat accurately. Gradually though researching the Asian American community in Utah, putting together my pitches, and interviewing for my stories, I gained confidence in my reporting ability. This semester has shown me the importance of covering diverse stories. Journalists must strive to tell all stories, especially those from marginalized communities. As a journalist myself, I have the platform to tell diverse stories and I hope to continue to do so in my future endeavors. 

For my reporting this semester, I focused on the Japanese American community and the internment of people of Japanese descent during World War II, which has historical significance in Utah. As I continued my work, I quickly realized how little I knew about the civil rights violations experienced by Japanese Americans during that time. This topic was so quickly brushed over during my high school education that I never fully understood the Japanese American experience during World War II. Learning the story of Chiura Obata and how he used art to cope and help others cope with their tragic circumstances truly opened my eyes. It showed me the importance of telling history from all historical perspectives, even if it challenges your current worldview. 

This beat has helped me embrace being an “outsider” and use that as an opportunity to listen, learn, and be open-minded. Being an outsider to this community forced me to do more research and be a better listener, which will improve my reporting in the future. 


Carlene Coombs is a senior at the University of Utah and anticipates graduating Spring 2023. 

She began studying at the University of Utah in 2021 after transferring from Brigham Young University–Hawaii. While at BYU–Hawaii, she spent over a year contributing to and editing The Ke Alaka’i, a student-produced feature magazine at BYU–Hawaii. Shortly after coming to the U, she joined the staff of The Daily Utah Chronicle as a news writer and will be the news editor for The Chronicle for the 2022-2023 academic year. 

To her, journalism is about telling the stories of everyday people. As she’s continued her education, she’s become passionate about using journalism to tell stories that otherwise might go unheard. 

In her free time, Coombs enjoys traveling, hiking, thrift shopping, and making Spotify playlists.

UMFA acquires artwork from Chiura Obata, bringing the story of his artistic journey to Utah


​​Topaz Relocation Center, Utah, “Very Warm Noon Without Any Wind. Dead Heat Covered All Camp Ground,” watercolor, 1943. Gift of the Estate of Chiura Obata, from the Permanent Collection of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.

The Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA) has acquired 35 pieces of artwork from the Japanese American artist Chiura Obata. 

Obata’s artwork will join UMFA’s permanent collection starting fall 2022, according to Luke Kelly, associate curator of collections at UMFA. 

“We want to tell the complete art history narrative,” Kelly said in a Zoom interview. “Obata is part of the U.S. art history narrative, but for a long time, that story has not really been told. And we felt that this was a great opportunity … to tell the more complete story of American art history.” 

Obata was a prominent Japanese American immigrant artist during the 20th century who was incarcerated in the Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah during World War II.

Before being placed there, Obata lived in California and taught at University of California, Berkeley, for 10 years, according to his granddaughter, Kimi Hill. He joined the faculty at UC Berkeley in 1932 and taught art courses such as Japanese art history and brush techniques. He was also well known for his artwork of Yosemite National Park

Portrait of Obata taken in 1939 during his time at UC Berkeley. Photo courtesy of the Estate of Chiura Obata.

Obata’s pieces will be rotated through the American gallery in the museum, Kelly said. The collection will include drawings and watercolors of depictions of his incarceration at Topaz and artwork of flowers, animals, and California landscapes, according to the UMFA press release.  

Scotti Hill, an art historian, critic and curator, said she was excited to hear UMFA had acquired Obata’s art. 

“I hope its arrival in Utah can be a catalyst for a larger conversation here in the state about racial injustice and bias,” Hill said, who is not related to Kimi Hill.

“He’s an incredible figure,” she said in a phone interview. 

Healing through art

Scotti Hill said Obata’s work “tells the story of painting as a meditative practice, as a sort of escape from the horrors of the war.”

According to, about 120,000 people of Japanese descent were incarcerated during World War II.

While teaching at UC Berkeley, Kimi Hill said that Obata developed his philosophy of how to react to world events. That philosophy was to always start with your relationship to nature. 

Obata believed “that nature is the greatest teacher no matter what the situation,” she said. “That is where you can ground yourself and you know, learn and move forward and find hope.”

This philosophy is what he taught his students in California and what Obata turned to when he saw and experienced the injustice faced by Japanese Americans during the war. 

“He firmly believed in the power of nature, to help and to comfort people and also the power of art and creativity,” Hill said. 

During his time in Topaz, he painted and sketched the surrounding desert landscape. In other pieces, he included imagery of the barracks and barbed wire fence surrounding the camp, Hill said. Some of his art from this time will be included in the UMFA collection. 

“Some of them were just pure landscapes because again, that was the nurturing, embracing quality of nature that he said himself, he never felt abandoned,” she said. 

This philosophy led Obata to create an art school at the Tanforan Assembly Center in California, where he was incarcerated before being moved to Topaz in Utah. Almost immediately, Obata started talking to his friends and other students about starting an art school there, Hill said.  

Chiura Obata teaching a children’s art class in the Tanforan Assembly Center. While incarcerated, Obata taught art classes to help him and others cope with their circumstances. Photo courtesy of the Estate of Chiura Obata.

He believed art education was as important as food, especially while undergoing a traumatic experience, she said.

Scotti Hill said Obata oversaw dozens of students in the Topaz art school. 

“What I think is really remarkable about Obata is not only his extraordinary career but his commitment to educating others,” she said. 

A powerful American story

Obata’s experience as an immigrant also greatly impacted his art and artistic style, Kimi Hill said. Unlike other Asian immigrants who came for economic reasons, Obata came as an artist, she said.  

“As an immigrant, he took his experience of culture and art history from Japan and brought it to America,” she said. 

Obata was born in Okayama, Japan, and immigrated to San Francisco as a teenager in 1903.

He used traditional Japanese art materials to interpret American scenery through a cultural lens that “was new to Americans,” Hill said. 

Scotti Hill said she believes his upbringing in Japan shaped his artistic identity and he was influenced by the artistic traditions of Japan, such as the Sumi ink art style. 

Kelly, who curates for UMFA, said Obata’s art style blended Western and Japanese techniques providing a “unique American vision.” 

“Chiura Obata’s art style is Chiura Obata,” he said. 

Scotti Hill said Obata had a tremendous impact on 20th-century art.

Chiura Obata, “Topaz War Relocation Center by Moonlight,” 1943, watercolor, gift of the Estate of Chiura Obata, from the Permanent Collection of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.

“He’s not only one of the most significant Japanese American artists of the 20th century,” she said, “but I would argue, without the qualifier of Japanese American, he is one of the most significant American artists of the 20th century.”

She said much of his impact comes from not just his time in Topaz but from his work building up to that event in his lifetime. 

“Just talking about Topaz, in some ways, limits the discussion of all of the incredible things he had done prior to that point — among them, working as an illustrator for some really prominent Japanese American publications in California [and] doing this incredible series of paintings and works of national parks in California,” Hill said. 

“His life experience and his commitment to art,” she said, “even in the most tragic and unjustified circumstances is a powerful American story.” 

New ‘Day of Remembrance’ for Japanese American internment addresses importance of remembering history

Story and photos by CARLENE COOMBS

In Utah, Feb. 19 will now be recognized as an annual “Day of Remembrance Observing the Incarceration of Japanese Americans During World War II.” 

During the 2022 state legislative session, Utah State Sen. Jani Iwamoto sponsored the bill, S.B. 58, to designate the annual day of remembrance.

Iwamoto said during a Zoom interview that the bill is “very important and should be to all Americans,” especially with the rise in Asian hate and focus on civil rights over the last two years.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed the bill on Feb. 17 making the day of remembrance official.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order requiring the imprisonment of those of Japanese descent who were living on the West Coast. This order was signed on Feb. 19, 1942. 

In the ensuing six months, more than 100,000 men, women and children of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast were placed in internment camps. A majority of the people imprisoned were American citizens. 

“This is really an example of a law [that] took away people’s rights,” Iwamoto said, and is a reminder that our liberties can be taken away at any moment. 

Diane Fukami is a third-generation Japanese American whose father’s family was imprisoned in the Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah. More than 11,000 people were detained there between 1942 and 1945. A majority of those imprisoned at Topaz, which is about 15 miles from Delta, came from the San Francisco Bay area. At one point during its operation, the prison was the fifth largest population center in Utah.  

The Topaz War Relocation Center was located 16 miles northwest of Delta in central Utah and was surrounded by desert landscape. The camp was in operation until Oct. 31, 1945.

During a phone interview, Fukami said she was “really gratified” when she heard about the bill passing.

“I was … very appreciative of both the governor of Utah for doing this and also the people who supported that,” she said.

She said it is important for Americans to know about Japanese American internment camps because they show how fragile civil rights and liberties are. 

“If people understood that their rights, their liberties can be taken away because of wartime hysteria, hopefully they can prevent that from happening again to anybody else,” Fukami said.

Paul Reeve, a history professor at the University of Utah, said remembering this history can hopefully help us in the present when engaging in civil rights and injustice. 

“When we see people engaging in discriminatory rhetoric, harmful actions, racism, we can look at the experiences of the past and recognize what injustice looks like and be willing to stand in places of empathy, and stand up against racial injustice in the present,” Reeve said. 

At the time, Japanese Americans didn’t fit the definition of what it means to be American, Reeve said, so they were seen as more foreign and less loyal to the United States. 

“I think Japanese internment is another tragic example of how we Americans sometimes can look in on minority groups and make them suspects. Create an identity for them, which suggests they don’t fit the majority identity and therefore, we are justified in passing discriminatory policies against them,” Reeve said. 

In 1943, Topaz was the fifth largest population center in Utah with 8,316 internees.

Reeve also said it’s human nature to dehumanize the “enemy” during wartime, something Japanese Americans fell victim to. 

“It’s a manifestation of our desire for national security but a willingness to sacrifice personal liberty, the personal liberty of people of Japanese descent as a result,” Reeve said. 

Fukami, whose grandfather was incarcerated, said she believes American schools don’t do enough to teach about the Japanese American World War II experience.

She said because students have to study George Washington, the Constitution and the Civil War, they should also learn about other groups and what happened to them.  

“Every school kid has to learn about American history,” Fukami said. “And I think that a small component of it should include what happened with Japanese Americans.” 

Reeve said he believes there is a “concerted effort” among Utah history teachers to teach Japanese American internment in the curriculum so students grow up learning and understanding this part of Utah history. 

“It fits the narrative of Utah history. It’s not an outlier experience,” Reeve said. Similarly, he cited the experience of early members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “Latter-day Saints arrived in northern Mexico in 1847, because they were fleeing the United States and then branded as un-American for the rest of the 19th century.”

Fukami said as a Japanese American and an independent producer who has done a lot of work on Japanese American internment, she feels a responsibility to educate others on this part of history.

“We think it’s our responsibility to educate people about what happened during World War II so that it doesn’t happen again to any other group of people in this country,” Fukami said. “And for us, that is one of the biggest challenges is to make sure that people know about the Japanese American concentration camps.”

Alexis Perno



This beat was entirely new to me. Asian American communities have not been reflected in my writing, and I am so happy to have been able to cover the diverse stories within this class. The stories I found under this beat have pushed me outside my comfort zone in ways that have been useful for both my personal and professional growth. 

Covering Mushin Self Defense was especially cathartic given the reason I connected with school in the first place — at the beginning of this semester, I was assaulted during a robbery. Learning more about the school’s evolving history brought me closer to the founders themselves, and I’ve felt more and more at home as I continue to attend my self-defense class. The school’s present-day culture is so different from the history it has left behind, and experiencing the culture firsthand helps me appreciate how far Mushin has come. Journalistically, the piece is easily one of my favorites I’ve written. I don’t get the opportunity to write extended pieces very often, so this deep dive was a wonderful writing exercise. 

I love feature writing. It’s the perfect intersection where creative and journalistic knowledge come together to allow true excellence. Every time I sit down to write a feature, I feel challenged, and this time was no different. Voices of Utah really pushed me to explore the boundaries of what my writing can look like, and I’m very proud of the product. 

As for the future, I’ve always assumed I would end up on a news desk. Now, I’m eager to stay involved with features, especially investigative news features. The stories that combine various genres of journalism and pull from techniques of creative writing are the ones that hook me the most, and I want to keep writing them. 

Both of my stories presented extreme challenges — namely, the timing and sourcing. Coincidentally, I had to completely pivot from both of my original ideas to the existing ones the week of the deadline. Sourcing remained an issue throughout. My video game industry story tested my source-sleuthing abilities in particular. However, Voices helped me think outside of the sourcing box. Instead of being disheartened by a lack of contact information readily available, Voices has helped me shift my mindset to find the lead within the roadblock. From there, I’ve been able to find contact information, even if it wasn’t for the original source I intended. Voices helped me find ways to make things work, no matter what I’m working with.

I’m very grateful to have taken this class, and especially so under Professor Mangun. She’s been an enormous help, and without her constant encouragement, guidance and support, my stories would not have come to fruition.


Alexis Perno is a Communication student, freelance journalist and professional poet. They are the community events assistant at arts nonprofit Craft Lake City and are a current contributor to SLUG Magazine. With aspirations in both the journalism and screenwriting industries, Alexis aims to maintain writing as a core part of their life. Supporting local businesses, music, food and art is a priority for them, and they hope to engage the community both professionally and personally. Alexis encourages you to read the music reviews and community features they love to write at SLUG and learn more about Craft Lake City’s mission to uplift the creative culture of Utah.

Press start: how one industry member encourages aspiring Asian game developers


It’s no secret that people often skip past video game credits. But for Karan Ganesh, within those names lie important reminders about representation in the world of game development.

“If you see some Indian name out there, I’m like, ‘Yeah, wow, that’s so cool that that person got to work on that, I wish I got to be there,” Ganesh said in a Zoom interview. “Just seeing a name on the credit is something really huge.”

And in an industry where nearly half of surveyed Asian-American gamers feel as if characters aren’t equally represented when it comes to race, those reminders can be critical — especially for Asians breaking into American gaming. 

“There were not many people who I could look up to and say, ‘Hey, I would like to become like this person someday,’” Ganesh said. “There was no person from my background I’d say who I could relate to.” 

Despite the global market of video games, there’s little discussion of Asian representation, and even less research to be found on Asian and Asian American game developers. In India, Ganesh wasn’t aware of the people and processes that went into creating video games. But he did know he enjoyed playing them. 

At UC Davis, Ganesh continued to explore the game development world. When he finally reached the University of Utah’s Entertainment Arts and Engineering (EAE) program, everything “took off.” 

“The people [in Salt Lake City] were so great,” Ganesh said. “I got to learn a lot from there.” 

Utah’s EAE program came to life in 2007. Since then, both the undergraduate and graduate programs have risen to be ranked second in the world for public universities

Before earning a master’s degree at the U, Ganesh focused mainly on the building aspects of game development, such as computer science. He was encouraged during the EAE program to step into a management role as a producer — a role he hadn’t known existed, but one Ganesh says he’s glad he found. 

Game producers are tasked with overseeing various development teams, making sure that deadlines are met and roadblocks are thwarted. 

“I behave as a glue to the team,” Ganesh said. “As a person who really likes to talk and engage a lot with other people in communication, I find this to be a great role.”

Ganesh credits his diverse education — which includes studying in Chennai, India; England; California and Utah — with his success in production.

“It was one that helped me communicate better with diverse people and also understand the different cultural backgrounds,” he said.

The pandemic put those communication skills to the test during Ganesh’s final year within the EAE program. His cohort had to create a game without meeting in person. 

“It was a really difficult time,” Ganesh said. “The first time we actually got to meet everybody was after we published and launched the game, during our celebration party.” 

Ganesh worked as the producer for Abyss of Neptune, the team’s first-person underwater survival horror game. The hard work didn’t go unrewarded, though, as the project won the Utah Game Developer Choice Award for Artistic Achievement. 

“Today I can finally say, ‘Worked on an award winning title,’” Ganesh said in a tweet

Now, as an associate producer for 2K Games and a former member of Big Fish Games, Ganesh can also finally say it’s his name serving as a reminder to other Asians looking to join the industry.

“That is where I feel that representation really matters,” he said. “It’s a great thing that they feel they can pursue as well. But also it’s an encouragement for you to make sure that you can help them and support them in any way possible.”

In the case of 2K Games, employee resource groups were created to uphold the company’s “come as you are” values regarding diversity. According to Benji Han, director of global marketing strategy for NBA 2K, the Asian American group was born out of the rise of anti-Asian sentiment. Now, the group has transformed into what Han describes as a celebratory and empowering community. 

“We wanted to also elevate the conversation about unconscious biases that Asian Americans face in the workforce that lead directly and indirectly to glass ceilings — ‘bamboo ceilings,’ in the case of Asian Americans,” Han said in a statement published on 2K’s website

Alongside Akshay Bharadhwaj, Karan Ganesh hosts the Humans of gamedev podcast. The podcast was created in January 2022 and is still in production, with no episodes released yet. Photo from @humansofgamedev on Twitter.

Personally, Ganesh’s support of aspiring developers takes the form of the Humans of gamedev podcast, which he co-hosts and creates content for on LinkedIn. While still in production, the podcast and LinkedIn posts spread the origin stories of game developers to encourage others to explore. 

“People say it’s a closely knit industry, but if you’re able to connect with the right people, you could really get an opportunity that knocks the door for you,” Ganesh said. 

Ganesh advises aspiring developers not to be afraid to experiment and reach out to professionals, but make sure they understand the commitment video games require. 

“I think the first and foremost thing is having the mindset that you really want to build something,” he said. “It’s something that people find cool, but once you get into it, it’s a lot harder than people expect it to be.”

And for some in India, entering the vast world of video game development is even harder.

“There are still some traditional families who see it as not a career that you can pursue, and so I want to be able to break that barrier for them,” he said.

Ganesh says he was lucky to have his parent’s support when exploring game development, but his work isn’t done. 

“If you’re passionate about something, you should really be able to pursue it,” he said. “That’s something that I really want to try and help people out with.”

A love for video games has grown beyond what he expected. Ganesh’s name now has the chance to inspire others. 

Karan Ganesh worked both as a producer and PR and community manager for Abyss of Neptune, a free, first-person underwater horror survival game.
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