Born Florence Anthony in Albany, Texas, Ai did not learn her real father's identity until she was sixteen. Then she learned she had a Japanese American father; her mother was black, Irish, and Choctaw Indian. She took the name "Ai," which means "love" in Japanese, to signal her heritage. Ai's childhood was spent in a variety of cities, including Tucson, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. She was educated at the University of Arizona and the University of California at Irvine.
Born in Fresno, California, Lawson Inada as a child spent World War II in a concentration camp with his family. In a period of racist hysteria, constitutional guarantees were set aside, and Japanese Americans were interned for the duration of the war. He would later write of the experience in Before the War: Poems as They Happened (1971). Lawson was then educated at Berkeley and Fresno State College, followed by studies in creative writing at the University of Iowa and the University of Oregon. He teaches at Southern Oregon State College.
Born in Volcano, Hawaii, of Japanese-American parents, Hongo grew up on the North Shore of Oahu and later in California. His father was an electrician and his mother a personnel analyst. He was educated at Pomona College, the University of Michigan, and the University of California at Irvine. He was the founding director of a Seattle theater group called the Asian Exclusion Act.
Carl Sadakichi Hartmann was born on an island in Nagasaki Harbor in Japan, of a Japanese mother and German father. His father sent him to the U. S. in 1882, and he was naturalized in 1894. His Conversations with Walt Whitman (1895) apparently grows out of meetings they had late in Whitman's life. Hartmann wrote a number of verse and prose plays as well as numerous poems that helped shape the imagist movement.