2013 Recipient
JLS Recipient        Aurora Challenge Grant


JLS Recipient: Kelly Stone

Though the first year for any teacher is difficult, I feel supported by my fellow Japanese teachers of the greater Sacramento area, as well as the Japanese Language Scholarship Foundation. Both of my support groups are helping me pursue my dream of being the best teacher that I can be. I thoroughly enjoy teaching Japanese language and culture, and know that this grant will give me a chance to improve my craft in a way that would not otherwise be available to me. I plan on using this opportunity to show my students the unique Japan not accessible by the internet. They will be privy to practices and products off the beaten path, the non-touristy aspects of Japan not found in textbooks. I am so honored to receive this grant, and cannot wait to share the rewards with my students. 


I was born and raised in Santa Maria, California.  I lived on the central coast for 21 years.  After graduating high school, I worked as the librarian at a local elementary school while working towards my A.A. degree in liberal studies.  In 2007, I moved to Monterey to attend California State University Monterey Bay.  During my junior year, I was accepted into CSUMB’s study abroad program and spent a year in Japan. The year I spent overseas changed my life, and greatly improved my Japanese.  I took Japanese language and culture classes at Obirin University which also included field trips and various exposures to traditional Japanese practices.  I had the opportunity to travel to Kyoto, Osaka, Nikko, and parts of downtown Tokyo.  I then returned to the states to complete my bachelor’s degree in World Languages and Cultures with an emphasis in Japanese.  After graduation, I stayed at CSUMB to receive my teaching credential. I then had the opportunity to move to Sacramento and begin teaching at Rosemont High School. In my free time I enjoy playing the piano, crocheting, and learning as much as I can about Japanese language and culture.


Aurora Challenge Grant Recipient:Venila Huston

I am honored to be the recipient of the 2013 AURORA Challenge Grant. As a citizen of the United States and a resident of California, I have written many plays and screenplays that have U.S.-Japan themes. My interest stems from the fact that I am a transnational U.S.-Japan individual and artist with a Japanese mother from Matsuyama and an American father of African American, Native American Indian, and Cuban descent. In my life the U.S. and Japan always have been connected, motivating a desire to explore stories that were of both cultures. A great deal of this interest has as its locus World War II and the post-WWII era, especially the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and the impact that event has had on peace-building globally. The grant will allow me to realize a dream of writing a play and screenplay about the life of Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl who died of atomic-bomb-related leukemia at the age of twelve. I am indebted to the Aurora Foundation for honoring me with this grant and for its belief in my project.


Velina Hasu Houston’s literary career, which includes 17 commissions, began Off-Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Club and the Negro Ensemble Company. She is also a librettist (opera/musical theatre), poet and essayist, novelist, and screenwriter. Her plays have been produced internationally and she has been awarded numerous fellowships including from the Japan Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation. She has been honored by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Sidney Poitier, American Film Institute,Pinter Review Prize for Drama, and others. She is a Fulbright Specialist through 2015. Current projects include two Los Angeles Opera commissions, the musicals Cinnamon Girl (opening spring 2014 at Playwrights’ Arena, Los Angeles)and Brown Girl in the Ring (with Nathan Wang), her plays Provinces and Cause Célèbre, and (asWriter/Associate Producer) Tamara Ruppart’s film Path of Dreams.At the USC School of Dramatic Arts she created/directs the Master of Fine Arts in Dramatic Writing; and is Professor of Theatre and an Associate Dean. She served on the US Department of State's Japan-US Friendship Commission, US-Japan Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange, and Japan-US Bridging Foundation for seven years. Archives: Library of Congress, Washington DC; Huntington Library, San Marino, California. http://www.velinahasuhouston.com. Representatives, New York: Mary Harden, Harden-Curtis Associates (Dramatic Arts), Loretta Barrett, Loretta Barrett Books (Novels).


My grant project is to create a play and screenplay about the life of Sadako Sasaki. I plan to travel to Hiroshima and conduct interviews of bombing survivors, focusing in particular on those who were children at the time of the bombing. I also will use Hiroshima-based resources such as the Hiroshima Peace Museum and other institutional-based entities, to cultivate an understanding of the history of the bombing and its impact on the lives of citizens. I have spoken with the Hiroshima Film Commission, which will aid in identifying interview subjects. 


Aurora Challenge Grant Recipient: Lisa Levin 

It is an honor to have been selected as the recipient of the Aurora Grant this year. The Foundation’s generous support will give me the opportunity to spend five months in Tokyo to write full-time. It is my hope that the resulting work will not only be meaningful artistically but that it will contribute socially to a better understanding of queer and trans issues.

Born in Tokyo, raised in California, and educated in a French immersion school, Lisa Levin currently studies Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley. Outside of languages and literature, her interests include veganism, cooperative living, music, and photography. Her name is an anagram for “Evil Snail.”

Lisa will use the grant to produce a series of short stories inspired by Nobuko Yoshiya's Hana monogatari (“Flower Tales”). This text is the only notable work of Japanese fiction by a lesbian writer to address romance between women, while Japanese literature has varied perspectives on homosexuality in men. Lisa’s project aims to fill this gap. She will spend five months in Shinjuku District’s Ni-chome, the only queer neighborhood in Tokyo, during which time she will write fictional stories set in Japan which explore varied forms of romantic relationships between women. She will write each story in English and then translate into Japanese. This cross-cultural project aims to bring women into a conversation on homosexuality from which they tend to be excluded.