Carter Y. ’21

“Try to find out as much as you can about college by talking to current students, and by reaching out to your teachers.”


Carter Y. ’21, from Lexington, Massachusetts. He's majoring in English and East Asian Studies, and minoring in Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies.

What He's Passionate About

Making the writings in Tessaku, a literary journal created by Japanese-Americans during their internment at the Tule Lake concentration camp during World War II, available to a new audience through translation.

"Japanese American identity is one of the central themes in the publication, and that's something I am passionate about educating myself more on. I didn't learn much about Asian Americans in general when I was growing up. What is most interesting to me is translating the magazine and putting it into its proper historical context."

What He's Discovered

"A best friend sent me a poem from Tessaku and that inspired me to take on the project as my senior thesis. Providing a fuller picture of what life was like in the camps is fascinating work. I am particularly careful to focus on what they accomplished in the camps, rather than on narratives of victimhood. I'm interested in understanding how they practiced resistance."

Where He Discovered This

While studying abroad in Japan his junior year, Carter found a reprint of Tessaku magazine archived in a Kyoto university, and returned home with a photocopy. Last summer, with funding from the Undergraduate Research and Creative Collaborations office, he visited five wartime concentration camps in California, including Tule Lake.

"Visiting the camps and taking photos really helped me gain an understanding of how desolate these places were. I was inspired to give voice back to the Japanese Americans who grew up partially in the camp."

Who's On His Team

Mentor and adviser Matthew Fraleigh, associate professor of East Asian Literature and Culture; and Yuri Doolan, chair of Asian American and Pacific Islander studies.

Carter learned the intricacies of classical Japanese with Fraleigh, who helped him track down a poet from Tule Lake who is now 95 — a bit of sleuthing that took months — and with the help of multiple scholars of Japanese American history. Now, in addition to translating her poetry, Carter is working on an oral history of her life. "Both professors are really encouraging and supportive."

Next Chapter Of His Story

"I want to go to grad school to become a professor of Asian American studies focusing on literature. But I'm going to take a year off to pursue work in another field before doing so."

Actionable Advice

"Try to find out as much as you can about college by talking to current students, and by reaching out to your teachers."