Pamela Rotner Sakamoto
Place of Birth:
Chapel Hill, NC
Swampscott (MA) High School, Amherst College (BA), The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University (M.A.L.D. and Ph.D.)
Why did you choose to come to Amherst?
My father, Howard Rotner, is a graduate of the Class of 1957. Amherst played an enormous role in his life, and I grew up conscious of its importance. He is the finest person I know, with unerring values, some of which were instilled at Amherst. In addition, I have had Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis since age three, and Amherst struck me as a campus that I could physically navigate.
Most memorable or most influential class at Amherst:
I soaked up every class. Very few were not memorable.
Most memorable or most influential professor:
One of my advisors was Ray Moore, now a professor emeritus in History and Asian Studies. Ray and I have stayed in frequent touch through the decades. I have seen him in Tokyo, Honolulu, and Amherst. We never run out of topics of conversation.
True stories that are stranger than fiction; tales of individuals who rise above unimaginable circumstances; historical, multicultural narratives.
Awards and Prizes:
At Amherst: Phi Beta Kappa, XXIV Amherst-Doshisha Fellow, Pedro Grases Award for Excellence in Spanish, and the Robert L. Leeds Jr. Honor Award for Dedication to Social Programs
For Fletcher: The Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation
For Midnight in Broad Daylight: Kirkus starred review, Library Journal starred review, Amazon Editors’ Best of the Month Picks for January 2016 in both History and Nonfiction.
I am still entranced by Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See.
Tips for aspiring writers?
Write daily, act as your own harshest critic, but also be forgiving. Cultivate patience. Rejoice in your quiet moments of growth. Brace for rejection. And persist regardless! The rewards are magical.
Tell us a bit about your path to becoming an author:
I had always loved to write and honed my skills at Amherst. But after I published my dissertation as Japanese Diplomats and Jewish Refugees: A World War II Dilemma, I realized that I was moving away from academic writing. It was learned, precise, and comprehensive but did not always capture the beating heart of a story. I was drawn to narrative nonfiction and wanted desperately to tell true stories based on rigorous research in a gripping manner. Midnight in Broad Daylight is the result of that compulsion. I met Harry Fukuhara, the protagonist, by chance in Tokyo in 1994, we agreed that I would write a book in 1998, and it was published at long last in 2016. Writing this book has been among my greatest life challenges. For this reason, perhaps, seeing the reader response and sensing that the book is part of a larger conversation about contemporary issues have brought me great satisfaction. Thank you.
For more on Pamela Rotner Sakamoto '84, visit her website at www.pamelarotnersakamoto.com.