Kokomo Joe: The Story of the First Japanese American Jockey in the United States

Kokomo Joe: The Story of the First Japanese American Jockey in the United States

by John Christgau


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The first Japanese American jockey, Kokomo Joe burst like a comet on the American horse-racing scene in the summer of 1941. As war with Japan loomed, Yoshio “Kokomo Joe” Kobuki won race after race, stirring passions far beyond merely the envy and antagonism of other jockeys. His is a story of the American dream catapulting headlong into the nightmare of a nation gripped by wartime hysteria and xenophobia. The story that unfolds in Kokomo Joe is at once inspiring, deeply sad, and richly ironic—and remarkably relevant in our own climate of nationalist fervor and racial profiling.
Sent to Japan from Washington State after his mother and three siblings died of the Spanish flu, Kobuki continued to nurse his dream of the American good life. Because of his small stature, his ambition steered him to a future as a star jockey. John Christgau narrates Kobuki’s rise from lowly stable boy to reigning star at California fairs and in the bush leagues. He describes how, at the height of the jockey’s fame, even his flight into the Sonora Desert could not protect him from the government’s espionage and sabotage dragnet. And finally he recounts how, after three years of internment, Kokomo Joe tried to reclaim his racing success, only to fall victim to still-rampant racism, a career-ending injury, and cancer.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780803218970
Publisher: UNP - Bison Books
Publication date: 04/15/2009
Series: Bison Original
Pages: 216
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

John Christgau (1934–2018), was an English instructor and lecturer, and is the author of many books, including The Gambler and the Bug Boy: 1939 Los Angeles and the Untold Story of a Horse Racing Fix (Nebraska 2007) and Tricksters in the Madhouse: Lakers vs. Globetrotters, 1948, available in a Bison Books edition.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


1. The Pocket Baby

2. Kokomo Joe

3. Mister Charley

4. Brilliant Queen

5. The Yankee Doodle Boys

6. Joltin' Joe

7. The Railbird Witch

8. The Oriental Invaders

9. Lumberjacks and Truckers

10. Joe Btfsplk

11. Miserable Saboteurs

12. Nipponese Dynamite

13. Hoover's Lists

14. Fibber McGee

15. The Whiz Kid with the Jive Drive

16. The Canadian Mounties

17. Chester from Gunsmoke

18. Stargazers


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