Foreword author(s)

Orion Book Award winner

NCPH Book Award winner

Even though race influenced how Americans envisioned, represented, and shaped the American West, discussions of its history devalue the experiences of racial and ethnic minorities. In this lyrical history of marginalized peoples in Idaho, Robert T. Hayashi views the West from a different perspective by detailing the ways in which they shaped the western landscape and its meaning.

As an easterner, researcher, angler, and third-generation Japanese American traveling across the contemporary Idaho landscape—where his grandfather died during internment during World War II—Hayashi reconstructs a landscape that lured emigrants of all races at the same time its ruling forces were developing cultured processes that excluded nonwhites. Throughout each convincing and compelling chapter, he searches for the stories of dispossessed minorities as patiently as he searches for trout.

Using a wide range of materials that include memoirs, oral interviews, poetry, legal cases, letters, government documents, and even road signs, Hayashi illustrates how Thomas Jefferson’s vision of an agrarian, all-white, and democratic West affected the Gem State’s Nez Perce, Chinese, Shoshone, Mormon, and particularly Japanese residents. Starting at the site of the Corps of Discovery’s journey into Idaho, he details the ideological, aesthetic, and material manifestations of these intertwined notions of race and place. As he fly-fishes Idaho’s fabled rivers and visits its historical sites and museums, Hayashi reads the contemporary landscape in light of this evolution.

Haunted by Waters is essential truth but also fine prose. . . . Borrowing a title from so perfect a book as Maclean’s takes courage; it also requires the ability to deliver on the underlying presumption, and that ability Robert Hayashi indisputably has. Despite—and because of—its vital concern with race and place in the American West, this is a delicious, satisfying, haunting book.”— Wayne Franklin, from the foreword
“‘It is not fly-fishing if you are not seeking answers to questions,’ says Norman Maclean’s father in A River Runs through It, and as a scholar and fly-fisherman Robert Hayashi shows us how researching and writing about his Japanese American ancestry in the American West are intimately connected to his love of fly-fishing western waters. The way the book culminates with the touching revelation of the author’s being ‘haunted by waters’ beautifully complicates that famous conclusion to A River Runs through It and makes us aware of how each of us sees the landscape through a unique personal, cultural, and historical lens and acts accordingly.”—Don Scheese, author, Mountains of Memory: A Fire Lookout’s Life in the River of No Return Wilderness
“Luminous as Idaho’s fabled trout streams, Haunted by Waters recounts how racialized minorities, including native peoples, Hawaiians, Chinese, and Japanese, transformed spaces into places in the physical and social landscape of the American West. And in the course of this journey, we come to discover a river to ourselves.”—Gary Y. Okihiro,  Columbia University


1. The Innocence of Our Intentions: Thomas Jefferson, the Corps of Discovery, and the Natural Progression of Idaho

2. Matching the Match: Nikkei, the Environment, and Idaho Statehood

3. O Pioneers: The Democratic Spackes of Minidoka

4. Haunted by Waters: Shoshone, Mormon, and Japanese American Relations to Place


Winner of 2007 National Council on Public History book award

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Publication Details

Publication Date
Pages, art, trim size
214 pages, 12 photos, 1 map, 6 x 9 inches