From right to left, Gary Chaney, Karleen Grummett, Marjorie Alstead Shakelford, Mary Tanaka Abo and Marie Darlin discuss the “Empty Chair” exhibit at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum on Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014. (Stephanie Shor | Juneau Empire)

From right to left, Gary Chaney, Karleen Grummett, Marjorie Alstead Shakelford, Mary Tanaka Abo and Marie Darlin discuss the “Empty Chair” exhibit at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum on Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014. (Stephanie Shor | Juneau Empire)

Juneau author nominated for Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame

She wrote a book highlighting WWII American internment camps

Twelve women from across Alaska — including an author from Juneau — were chosen to become part of the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame for the 2020 awards.

Karleen Grummett, author of several books, including “Quiet Defiance: Alaska’s Empty Chair Story,” was nominated last week, the hall said in a release.

“Karleen Grummett’s book, “Quiet Defiance: Alaska’s Empty Chair Story,” filled a large hole in this state’s history during that dark period,” Mary Abo wrote in Grummett’s nomination. “She wrote with a keen focus on family values, pride in ancestry, and social justice.”

The Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame highlights remarkable Alaskan women, and 200 women have been inducted since it opened in 2008. The ceremony for the newest group of nominees will be on April 28 in Anchorage.

Grummett’s Empty Chair book is about a Juneau high school student sent to internment camps for his Japanese heritage at the beginning of WWII. Following deep strikes against Pearl Harbor, signaling America’s full entry into the war in the Pacific, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, enabling the secretary of war to incarcerate Japanese-Americans in concentration camps for the duration of the war.

The Empty Chair comes from the chair left out for high school senior John Tanaka, one of the 200 Japanese-Americans taken from Juneau. Nearly 120,000 Japanese-Americans were taken from their homes across the country and placed in camps in Idaho and New Mexico, families separated and freedoms taken from them.

The Empty Chair memorial, adorned with paper cranes during the dedication ceremony, sits at Capital Park on July 12, 2014. The memorial was constructed to remember those interned during World War II because of their Japanese descent. At Juneau High School’s 1942 graduation an empty chair sat where class Valedictorian John Tanaka would have sat. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

The Empty Chair memorial, adorned with paper cranes during the dedication ceremony, sits at Capital Park on July 12, 2014. The memorial was constructed to remember those interned during World War II because of their Japanese descent. At Juneau High School’s 1942 graduation an empty chair sat where class Valedictorian John Tanaka would have sat. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

The book, composed of historical records and interviews of survivors, was part of the Grummett’s efforts to bring awareness to the ugly episode in Alaskan history, according the nomination.

Now, largely through her efforts to organize fundraisers and raise awareness of the detention and incarceration of innocent Japanese-Americans under the pretense of aiding the war effort, a memorial in the Capitol School Park has been raised of Tanaka’s empty chair, and thousands of copies of the book have been printed and donated to schools and organizations across Alaska and across the country.

Other nominees this year include Monica Anderson, Reyne Athanas, Sarah Eliassen, April Ferguson, Peggy Mullen, Sandy Poulson, Fran Rose, Judith Slajer, Norma Goodman, Nancy Gross and Jane Mears. Nominees come from all walks of life, and were chosen for their work in giving back to the community.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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