kogawa house

Al Purdy Party at Joy Kogawa House

Joy Kogawa House

2009_April_Kogawa 059 by you.

Shelagh Rogers (host of "The Next Chapter" on CBC Radio), Jean Baird (organizer of "Save Al Purdy A-Frame"), George Bowering (Jean's husband and first poet laureate of Canada), John Asfour (inaugural writer-in-residence at Kogawa House), George Stanley (BC Book Prize nominatee for poetry) + "Joy Kogawa" - photo Todd Wong

7:30 p.m., Monday, April 20Historic Joy Kogawa House, 1450 West 64th Avenue, Vancouver

John Asfour is indeed the perfect choice for our inaugural WIR.  On Monday night, I shared with the group that the connections we have between Roy and Art Miki, George Bowering, Purdy House, are amazing.  How is it that John could have been friends with Art Miki on panel forums, and that Roy was a consultant for Kogawa House... and great friends and an editor with/for George Bowering, and we bring it all together with Daphne Marlatt, who has read for Kogawa House events before, and Shelagh Rogers (2005 former co-host for Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner) for an evening of poetry and friendship, and to help save another literary landmark.

2009_April_Kogawa 055 Nilofar, Daphne, George and John - photo Todd Wong

The evening started with three BC Book Prize-nominated poets—George Stanley, Nilofar Shidmehr and Daphne Marlatt as part of BC Book and Magazine Week.  Daphne read first, then George, followed by Nilofar.

2009_April_Kogawa 048 Jean Baird talks with Shelagh Rogers. - photo Todd Wong

After a brief intermission that allowed people to purchase books and have them signed by the guest poets, the talk turned to Save the Al Purdy A-Frame.  Shelagh Rogers shared her story of doing the last public interview with Al Purdy at the Eden Mills Writers Festival.  Jean Baird is heading up the Save the Purdy A-Frame campaign, and she and her husband George Bowering shared their many stories about Al Purdy and his wife Eurithe.

Asfour, a Montreal poet, is the first writer-in-residence at Kogawa House and will present poetry readings to a variety of audiences, in collaboration with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Simon Fraser University’s Writers Studio, Christianne’s Lyceum of Literature and Art and the Vancouver Public Library.

See more pictures on Flickr:
Kogawa House Purdy Party

Kogawa House Purdy Party

Joy Kogawa attends 1st AGM for Historic Joy Kogawa House, Dec 11, 2009

Historic Joy Kogawa House welcomes Joy Kogawa to 1st Annual General Meeting

CIMG0189 April 2008 - Joy Kogawa holds the Globe & Mail Story about the revealing of the $500,000 anonymous donor who helped save her childhood home from demolition, to become a literary and historic landmark and a writers-in-residence program - photo Todd Wong

It's always a special feeling walking into the Joy Kogawa House.  This is the house that a six year old future Order of Canada recipient was forced to leave when Japanese Canadians were interned during WW2.  This is the house that was saved from demolition when a dedicated few led a rally by thousands of supporters across Canada.

The first Annual General Meeting was held for the Historic Joy Kogawa House Society on Dec 11th, 2009.  It was a special meeting because writers Hiromi Goto and Caroline Addison were there to give their insight and share their experiences as the Writers in Residence for the Vancouver Public Library for 2007 and 2009.

It was more special because author Joy Kogawa was present, having just flown in from Toronto to spend time with family.

Executive director Ann-Marie Metten had brilliantly organized the evening, and it had a strong exciting buzz as wine and gourmet snacks were served.  Books by Kogawa, Goto and Addison were for sale.  Board members and guests mingled with authors and the representatives from The Land Conservancy of BC, the owners of the house.

The evening unfolded with a good in depth descriptions of what it was like to be a writer in residence for the Vancouver Public Library.  Hiromi Goto and Caroline Addison freely shared their experiences and their expectations as the Historic Joy Kogawa House now prepares for their first writer in residence program to be created with author Madeleine Thien, author of Simple Recipes and Certainty.  It is somehow fitting that it is Madeleine who is the first WIR author, as she returns to the city where she not only lived before and wrote about, but also the city where the Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop first granted her the ACWW Emerging Writer's Award that was shopped to publishers and became the award winning "Simple Recipes" short story collection.  Currently I am president of Joy Kogawa House, and co-president of Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop.

During the AGM part of the evening, Ann-Marie Metten gave an update of the grants applied for and recieved and how the WIR program will unfold with Madeleine. 

The Land Conservancy of BC was proud to report that Historic Joy Kogawa House has recieved a Heritage B category from the City of Vancouver, and we can now proceed with the next steps for re-zoning and re-conditioning the house.  We hope to restore the house to what it was like when the 6 year old Joy Kogawa, her 10 year old brother Timothy and their parents were living in the house before they were sent to the BC interior to spend the next 10 year living in delapidated buildings and beet farms.

I gave a President's report that recapped events in 2008 that involved Joy Kogawa in BC, and events at Joy Kogawa House.
Here is my report:

On Feb 3rd,
Sharon Butala attended the Vancouver opera production "Voices of the Pacific Rim" with members of the Joy Kogawa House Society, and was introduced to some of the singers who had performed  the Naomi's Road opera, based on the children's novel by Joy Kogawa

Sunday Feb 24
Author Sharon Butala mesmerized the packed audience at historic Joy Kogawa House on Friday night.  The Order of Canada author talked how she helped established a writer in residence program at Wallace Stegner's childhood home in Eastend, Saskatchewan.

March 2008 - Royal BC Museum
Joy Kogawa is guest of “THE PARTY”: 150 of BC’s most interesting people


 "The Party" exhibit with some of BC's "fascinating" citizens including: (front row) founding governor James Douglas, Betty Krawcyk, Joy Kogawa, Karen Magnusson, Herb Doman; (second row): Vikram Vij, Cindy Lee, Gordon Campbell, Gordon Shrum. - photo Todd Wong

April 10 Vancouver Kids Books reading and Naomi’s Tree book launch
It was a good event for the launch of  Naomi's Tree.  So good that all the books that had been delivered in advance to Kidsbooks sold out.  When Joy performed her reading, she told the audience of children and adults that she had fallen in love with a tree.  It was a special "Friendship Tree" - a cherry blossom tree.

April 25th Kogawa House cherry tree planting + recognition of Sen. Nancy Ruth
3pm press conference, introduction of formerly anomnynous $500,000 donor (Sen. Nancy Ruth) + baby cherry tree planting


At 3:40pm, we sat inside the living room of Historic Joy Kogawa House and listened to CBC Radio One's Arts Report by Paul Grant.  Paul had interviewed Sen. Nancy Ruth, Bill Turner and Joy Kogawa for his story on how the house was saved, and how Sen. Nancy Ruth's formerly anonymous gift of $500,000 was important.  In this picture Hon. Iona Campagnolo, Sen. Nancy Ruth and Joy Kogawa.- photo Todd Wong

8pm  Music and Poetry with Joy Kogawa and Friends,
Following the music, Joy was presented with the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award from BC Bookworld Publisher Alan Twigg, Vancouver Public Library Community Programs Director Janice Douglas, and historian Jean Barman.   

Joy Kogawa accepts the award


Alan Twigg speaks of Joy's accomplishments         Joy Kogawa accepts the George Woodcock lifetime achievement award

This morning Joy Kogawa sent this email out to our Historic Joy Kogawa House Society
Dear Friends,
For a day of unalloyed happiness --
I have had many many wonderful days in my life -- but this one!  It was the happiest. If ever I've felt at home.... Or felt the love that underlies all...

My friend Heather Pawsey, soprano wrote:
Last night was one of the most beautiful and profound evenings of my musical life.  Heartfelt thanks to everyone behind Kogawa House.  May it continue to rise and spread its wings.

Photo Library - 2900

Where is Joy Kogawa in this picture? 

This is the interactive photo display in front of the Royal BC Museum, in Victoria BC,  for the "Free Spirit" exhibition celebrating the 150th Anniversary of British Columbia. 

Sep 22
Kogawa House cherry tree at Vancouver city hall is given a plaque on the 20th anniversary of the Japanese-Canadian redress.
"Friendship Tree" plaque at Vancouver City Hall for the "Kogawa House cherry tree" graft - photo
Ann-Marie Metten.

Georgia Straight: Joy Kogawa House is "BEST NEW PLACE TO GET WRITING DONE "

Joy Kogawa House is:



Pictures: Joy and brother Tim and Kogawa House circa 1944, chery tree and house 2007, Joy Kogawa and children from Thomsett Elementary School, Joy Kogawa and house photo by Dan Toulget/Vancouver Courier, Joy & brother Tim with school friends circa 1944

When I joined the "Save Kogawa House" campaign in September 2005, I just knew it was something that had to be done. Three years later we now have our first writer-in-residence program with the arrival of Madeleine Thien and a grant from the Canada Council. 

The House was purchased by The Land Conservancy of BC in May 2006, and we have since had readings by Ruth Ozeki, Shaena Lambert, Sharon Butala, Heidi Greco, Marion Quednau, and Vancouver’s poet laureate George McWhirter, as well as Joy Kogawa herself.  We have also had musical performances by opera soprano Heather Pawsey, flautist Kathryn Cernauskas and pianist Rachel Iwaasa. 

It's an amazing story that this house has survived not only the WW2 Internment of its previous owners, but also rising real estate prices and the threat of demolition.  It was a vision that we had to create a home for writers, to both recognize the accomplishments and life of Joy Kogawa, as well as to provide a place for them to hone their craft, and hopefully inspire them to their own greatness.

Check out page 77 of the Sept 18-25 / 2008 issue of the Georgia Straight.  Kevin Chong writes that "Madeleine Thine will take up residence at a retreat dedicated to Joy Kogawa"

Historic Joy Kogawa House

1450 West 64th Avenue

Now that Joy Kogawa’s childhood home has been purchased and saved from the wrecking ball after years of struggle, it’s set to become a writer’s retreat for visiting authors, starting in 2009. (The first author to arrive in the house, located in leafy, sleepy Marpole, will be Madeleine Thien.) Hopefully, the house, which celebrates the contributions of one of B.C.’s best-known authors while reminding us of a regrettable episode in our nation’s history—the internment of Japanese Canadians during World War II—will inspire new books in the years to come. More info is available at www.kogawahouse.com/ .

Page 77

Cherry Tree planted, Sen. Ruth acknowledged as $ 1/2 Million donor, Joy given Georrge Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award

It was a wonderful busy

busy day of celebration

at Joy Kogawa House

on April 25th.



3pm press conference, introduction of formerly anomnynous $500,000 donor (Sen. Nancy Ruth) + baby cherry tree planting


At 3:40pm, we sat inside the living room of Historic Joy Kogawa House and listened to CBC Radio One's Arts Report by Paul Grant.  Paul had interviewed Sen. Nancy Ruth, Bill Turner and Joy Kogawa for his story on how the house was saved, and how Sen. Nancy Ruth's formerly anonymous gift of $500,000 was important.  In this picture Hon. Iona Campagnolo, Sen. Nancy Ruth and Joy Kogawa.- photo Todd Wong

Hon. Iona Campagnolo (former BC Lt. Gov. speaks about importance of preserving culture and heritage represented through Historica Joy Kogawa house.  She stands next to Joy Kogawa, Bill Turner (TLC executive director), Senator Nancy Ruth, Ujal Dosanjh MP for Vancouver South, Ellen Woodsworth (former Vancouver City councilor) - photo Todd Wong

4pm VIP reception - where we sold 6 baby cherry trees that will be planted at designated public sites (I want to plant one at Government House in Victoria)


Joy Kogawa signs books for MP Ujal Dosanjh and Vancouver councilor Heather Deal - two of the politicians we first contacted in 2005 to find ways to save the house and ensure its heritage designations. - photo Todd Wong

8pm  Music and Poetry with Joy Kogawa and Friends, featuring poets George McWhirter, Heidi Greco, Marion Quednau, soprano Heather Pawsey, flautist Kathryn Cernauskas, pianist Rachel Kiyo Iwassa, and composer Leslie Uyeda.

Author Joy Kogawa reads to a packed house in her childhood home. Composer Leslie Uyeda stands 2nd from left.  Vancouver Public Library Community Programming director Janice Douglas sits in the front row, 3rd from left. - photo Todd Wong

Following the music, Joy was presented with the George Woodcock Literary Achievement Award from BC Bookworld Publisher Alan Twigg, Vancouver Public Library Community Programs Director Janice Douglas, and historian Jean Barman.

Alan Twigg speaks of Joy's acomplishments

Joy Kogawa accepts the award

Alan Twigg speaks of Joy's accomplishments                        Joy Kogawa accepts the award

This morning Joy Kogawa sent this email out to our Historic Joy Kogawa House Society

Dear Friends,
For a day of unalloyed happiness --
I have had many many wonderful days in my life -- but this one!  It was the happiest. If ever I've felt at home.... Or felt the love that underlies all...
My friend Heather Pawsey, soprano wrote:

Last night was one of the most beautiful and profound evenings of my musical life.  Heartfelt thanks to everyone behind Kogawa House.  May it continue to rise and spread its wings.

Pictures and more details to follow.

Kogawa House April 25 2008

Kogawa House April 25 2008

Joy Kogawa House, April 25th 2008

Joy Kogawa House, April 25th 2008

Globe & Mail: 'Instead of dying, it's been given a second chance' - story about Joy Kogawa's childhood home and beloved cherry t

Globe & Mail: 'Instead of dying, it's been given a second chance' - story about Joy Kogawa's childhood home and beloved cherry tree

1) Joy and Timothy @ Kogawa House circa 1939 2) Joy and Timothy with friends circ 1939 3) Rev. Tim Nakayama, Roy Miki, Joy Kogawa and Todd Wong May 2005, at the Obasan Launch for One Book One Vancouver, Vancouver Public Library.

This is truly a miracle story.  I remember in the early 1980's shelving "Obasan" on book shelves while I worked at the Vancouver Public Library.  Just the existence of the book spoke to me about Asian-Canadian history and identity.  I was inspired to learn more about Japanese-Canadian history as part of my own Asian-Canadian history, as part of my own identity as a Canadian. 

The very first time I met Joy Kogawa was at Expo 86.  She gave a reading, and read a poem titled "Oh Canada," about the sorry and loss of the internment.  I introduced myself to her friend Roy Miki and he gave me Joy'
s copy of the poem.

Many years later, I am honoured to call these great Canadians as friends.  It is a pleasure to be president of the Historic Joy Kogawa House Society, with so many good-hearted people on our board.

As I told CBC arts reporter Paul Grant, back in 2005 when we had just re-started the Save Kogawa House campaign, "Saving the house is a calling.  It's something that has to be done.

Today, we have a literary and historic landmark for not only the City of Vancouver, but for all Canadians.  And we still have work to do.  We must restore the house to its 1942 qualities when Joy and her brother Tim lived in the house, before they were sent away to the internment camps and beet farms.  We must build a writer's-in-residence program for this house.

'Instead of dying, it's been given a second chance'

Celebrated author Joy Kogawa returns to the house her family lost during their wartime internment and revels in its future

From Friday's Globe and Mail

<!-- dateline -->VANCOUVER<!-- /dateline --> — As a girl, Joy Nakayama would write from her family's miserable shack in the Alberta sugar beet fields to the new occupants of the comfortable Vancouver home seized from her family during the wartime internment of Japanese Canadians.

She begged the owners for a chance to get the house back. They never replied.

More than 60 years later, in a charming circle of history, Ms. Nakayama, better known as the celebrated writer Joy Kogawa, stood once more in her childhood home this week, eager to guide a visitor through its emotional past.

From her former bedroom window, she gazed again at the famous backyard cherry tree that forms the heart of her memories and so much of her writing.

"It's the tree, more than anything else, that grips me," Ms. Kogawa said. "It's as if it has a message written upon it, that everything we've gone through in life is known. ... When it dies, I feel I will die."

Split in the middle, oozing sap, with many of its limbs missing, the gnarled, ailing tree is nonetheless draped in a glorious display of springtime blossoms, as much a miracle of survival as the house itself.

The modest bungalow in the city's now fashionable Marpole district was just days from destruction when a last-minute, anonymous donation of $500,000 allowed The Land Conservancy to buy it, with hopes of establishing a writers' residence and a tribute to Ms. Kogawa and her award-winning novel Obasan, about the tragedy of internment.

The donor's identity is to be disclosed at a ceremony this afternoon. But The Globe and Mail has learned that the improbably large sum came from Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth, sister of former Ontario lieutenant-governor Henry Jackman.

"Why? Because I have a tremendous fondness for Joy Kogawa," Ms. Ruth explained, adding with a modest chuckle: "And also because of the tax incentives of the Harper government. No capital gains on stock earnings given to charity."

Internment was a shameful act, she said. "I can remember reading Obasan and weeping at the pain."

Yet, Ms. Ruth said, Ms. Kogawa retains a deep sense of faith in humanity, that reconciliation and hope are still possible, even in the face of things that are terrible.

Writers residing in the house in the future will have to deal with that, Ms. Ruth said. "How can you sit at a desk and look out at that cherry tree and not think from whence all that came?"

As for Ms. Kogawa, the six-year-old who once dangled upside down from the tree's low branches is now grey-haired and 72, albeit with undiminished energy and flashing eyes.

She can scarcely comprehend the astounding chain of events that has brought her childhood refuge back after so many years, particularly on a street where many residences were torn down long ago in favour of larger, more expensive dwellings.

"I had given up. I'd gone to the realtors. I pleaded and begged not to let it go. I offered to write books for them, to name characters after their children. It all fell on deaf ears."

Now, she marvelled, "such a strange thing has happened here. It's all a bit surreal, dream-like. I don't know even how to describe it. It's like some movie script, this sense of wonder and delight."

During her tour of the house, Ms. Kogawa indicated how much has changed over the years. New walls, doors and windows replaced, closets ripped out.

"My mother's piano was right there," she said, gesturing toward an empty corner of the living room. "The gramophone was over there, and that's where the goldfish

bowl stood."

She headed into the basement. Suddenly, there were gasps of surprise.

"There they are! The windows and the doors!" She pointed to a pair of fine French doors and old window frames, carefully stacked along a wall. "And there's some of the cedar planks that my father put in. Wouldn't it be great if things could be brought back to the way they were?"

Ms. Kogawa brought back a few family possessions that survived internment. Her brother's toy cars, her mother's Japanese tea set, tattered picture books. "These are the pictures I grew up with." And an old apple crate. "That was saved, because it was useful when we had to move," she said, without bitterness.

It was a good day.

"The story of this house has come to a wonderful place, like a new beginning," she said, groping to find just the right words.

"It had one birth. It lived its life, and then, instead of dying, it's been given a second chance. That's a wonderful, wonderful thing to have.

"It's going to live again. It will breathe. It will bring life to people. It will bring reconciliation. Those are the things this house has been called to do."

A Place of Compassion: Joy Kogawa's Dream Vancouver statement

A Place of Compassion:
Joy Kogawa's Dream Vancouver statement

Joy Kogawa holds up her arms to embrace and support everything she loves in the world
- photo Todd Wong

Joy Kogawa, author of Obasan, has written A Place of Compassion for her submission  to the Dream Vancouver conference and website, organized by Think City. While Joy will not be attending the conference, I will be as one of the directors of the Joy Kogawa House Society

Dream Vancouver is an all-day conference which will take participants from their dreams about Vancouver to a possible agenda for change. The conference will be facilitated by Bliss Browne, internationally-renowned speaker and president of Imagine Chicago.  Former City of Vancouver Co-Director of Current Planning Larry Beasley is key note speaker.  Ms. Browne will then facilitate a discussion-based session which will take participants through a series of questions designed to bring them to a collective vision of what the city could be. 

To attend you must register, click here.

Registration: 9:30 am - 10:00 am
Conference: 10:00 am - 3:30 pm
Reception: 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm

Location: Jewish Community Centre, 950 W. 41st Avenue, Vancouver (at Oak Street).

- photo courtesy Joy Kogawa

Is Joy a Vancouver dreamer?  She was born in Vancouver in 1935.  During WW2 in 1942, when she was 6 years old, her family was removed from Vancouver and sent to internment camps for Japanese-Canadians.  She forever dreamed about returning to the the house in Vancouver's Marpole neighborhood, even after the Canadian government confiscated the property of the Japanese-Canadian internment victims, and resettled them to work as labourers on Alberta beet farms.  She lives mostly in Toronto but returns to Vancouver often, and has great hopes for Vancouver as a city, and as a cultural entity.

Joy Kogawa and her brother Rev. Timothy Nakayama, at the opening event for Obasan, the 2005 choice for One Book One Vancouver at the Vancouver Public Library - photo Todd Wong

Joy is acknowledged as one of Canada's most important writers in the 20th Century for her ground breaking novel Obasan - a story about the impact of the internment on the Japanese Canadian community.  Since May 2005, when I met Joy, at the first Obasan event for One Book, One Vancouver event at the Vancouver Public Library, our developing friendship was been a wild ride as I became a key player on the Save Kogawa House committee (See my articles on Joy Kogawa & Kogawa House).

I have witnessed Joy speak in numerous circumstances and she always seems to have an unwavering position that calls for peace and compassion in so many circumstances.  It embraces her anti-war stance, the Japanese-Canadian redress, South African apartheid, the Chinese-Canadian head tax issue, Japanese atrocities against China in WW2, the history of her ancestor's home of Okinawa, the naming of the 401 Burrard building after Howard Green.  Joy doesn't look to find blame for right or wrong, she looks to find resolution.

Joy Kogawa and Todd Wong at the 2006 Canadian Club Vancouver's annual Order of Canada / Flag Day luncheon.  Joy was key note speaker, and Todd was one of the event organizers - photo Deb Martin

Vancouver has long had a reputation for a history with peace activism.  This is part of our social-cultural make up, and can be embodied through social policy initiatives.  Perhaps it has become such because so many people have come to Vancouver after leaving war, destruction, starvation, revolution, upheaval in their home lands.

Joy has given Dream Vancouver a very apt and fitting dream statement to find reconciliation and understanding "within and between the faiths, between rich and poor, among immigrant groups, in established neighbourhoods, in the Downtown Eastside, among those who are still suffering from unresolved injustices of the near and distant past can come to healing and hope and inner freedom."

Joy Kogawa and children from Tomsett Elementary School in Richmond.  After seeing the Vancouver Opera Touring Ensembles production of "Naomi's Road", the children were inspired to helps save Kogawa House from demolition.  Joy and the children stand in front of the house for their own private tour and reading event. - photo Joan Young

On November 10th, come to the 2nd open house event at Kogawa House.
Sunday, 3-5pm.  1450 West 64th Ave. (just East of Granville St.)
Admission is by donation.  Proceeds go to restoring historic Joy Kogawa House, now owned by The Land Conservancy of BC.

A Place of Compassion


Joy Kogawa, poet and novelist: The dream I have for this west-coast city on the edge of the peaceable ocean is the dream I have for the world - a dream of peace. What better time than this to abolish war as we face our common planetary fate?

We have choices - to continue blithely on our way, fighting and devouring one another for the rest of our dwindling days, or we can individually and collectively lay down our weapons and practice the ways of truth and reconciliation, cooperation and peace.

In a city where east-west faces and races meet and mix, where cultures both clash and blend, the ways of peace can be cultivated, watered, nurtured and the seeds of that action can fly to the farthest corners of our hearts and the world.

As a Japanese Canadian, I have welcomed conversations with two granddaughters of Howard Green, the politician whose public words against us during the Second World War were dreaded in our community. If they can seek to make peace with us on behalf of the grandfather they loved, ought we not to walk with them? What an opportunity for peace making and for walking on.

And ought we not, as Canadian descendants from Japan, to stand with those Canadian descendants of China, who seek a fulsome parliamentary acknowledgment from the country of our ancestors for the horrors their ancestors faced in the Rape of Nanking? Or is it our choice to turn aside and say, "These are no concerns of ours." I believe that the morally appropriate action is to respond to those who suffer and who call our names.

But it is not for me to say what is right for anyone else. We are each required to struggle with our own conscience and to respond to the many voices that call us.

read here:  for the rest of Joy's statement

Joy Kogawa House Society is now a legal entity


The Historic Joy Kogawa House Society is now incorporated with the BC Registry of Societies, which means we’re now a legal entity that can carry forward the purposes of the society:



            The purposes of the Society shall be:


1.                  To operate and preserve the former Joy Kogawa family home at 1450 West 64th Avenue in Vancouver as a heritage and cultural centre and as a site of healing and reconciliation.

2.                  To establish in the former Joy Kogawa family home a centre for writers in which they can reflect on issues of conscience and reconciliation and write about their own personal experiences or the experiences of others, past or present.

3.                  To promote and negotiate the raising of funds for the pursuit of the Society’s purposes.

4.                  To encourage in the former Joy Kogawa family home educational programming along themes of social justice and social history, and to provide docent services for such programming.

5.                  To advocate on behalf of the continuing operation of the house in the public interest consistent with the above purposes.

Cherry tree blossoms at Kogawa House

Cherry Blossoms at Kogawa House

The cherry blossoms have been out everywhere in Vancouver since late March.   In mid-April I was driving through Vancouver's Marpole neighborhood, when I thought I should go visit Joy Kogawa's childhood home at 1450 West 64th Ave.

It had been back the summer of 2005, when I had received an e-mail from Ann-Marie Metten that Joy Kogawa's beloved cherry tree was diseased and dying.  She and a group that included then Vancouver city councillor Jim Green, gathered grafts from the cherry tree to try to preserve it for future incarnations - because it was feared that the owner would not give up the house.

This was the house that the Save Kogawa House Committee, which I was part of, had worked so hard to save from demolition, when the owner decided to draw up plans to demolish the house and build a new one.  It was an intensive awareness campaign from September to December when The Land Conservancy of BC decided to step in and take on this project, deeming it a worthy Vancouver landmark of cultural and historical importance.  Then it was from December until May, as we tried to raise funds to save the house... almost taking a mortgage out before an anomynous donor stepped in with almost $300,000 to allow TLC to purchase the house. 

But now the task is to continue raising funds and awareness to both renovate the home and restore it to the qualities it had before Joy and her family were forced to leave their house due to enforced internment of Japanese Canadians during WW2 - even though they were born in Canada!  We also want to build an endowment and create a writers-in-residence program as well as community programming.

Last spring, Joy was living in Vancouver, and she went to visit the cherry tree to find a few spare blossoms.  The tree was sickly.  At the open house in September - Joy placed manure around the tree's base, spoke kind words and blessings for the tree.  Joy soon returned to Toronto, but has returned to Vancouver briefly for Christmas with her daughter and grandchildren and recently at the end of March to see relatives and to give a reading for the Alcuin Society at Kogawa House on March 30th.

I drove past the front of the house... everything looks nice, except the white picket fence has fallen down. 

I drove around the back of the house... and saw a most beautiful sight.  The cherry tree was in full bloom.

It is like the tree (and the house) knows it has a new life.  It is an old tree but heavy and full with blossoms.
Beautiful... I know if Joy saw the tree with its blossoms, there would be tears of happiness in her eyes.




Joy Kogawa gives March 30th reading for Alcuin Society at Kogawa House

Joy Kogawa gives March 30th reading for Alcuin Society at Kogawa House


Seventeen Alcuin Society members and their guests participated in the first of  a new series of members-only meetings on March 30th at the historic Joy Kogawa heritage house in Marpole.  

Kogawa House Committee member Ann-Marie Metten started the evening by explaining the series of successful steps that were taken to save the historic house from demolition.  Future plans are to return the house to its original condition and then to offer the house as a place of retreat for writers of conscience from around the world.

Richard Hopkins then spoke of Joy Kogawa’s considerable literary achievements in the areas of fiction, poetry and children’s literature.  Joy’s books were available for members to examine after the presentations.

The definite highlight of the evening, however, was a reading by Joy herself from her award winning novel Obasan.  The reading had particular resonance for the audience since Joy continuously referred to places mentioned in the novel that were right before the audience’s  eyes. 

After the reading she  spoke with incredible energy and passion about the Japanese internment during the Second World War and all of the hardship and suffering that that injustice caused so many Japanese families and the Japanese community in Canada as a whole. 

Fortunately some reparation for these wrongs have occurred in the form of  Federal Government redress and in the saving of the Kogawa house itself.  All of the audience members felt at the end of the evening that they had received a rare privilege in being able to hear  Joy read and speak  her own moving personal experience.


NEWS RELEASE             


VANCOUVER, BC – TLC The Land Conservancy and Kogawa House Committee has received a 2007 City of Vancouver Heritage Award for their work in protecting the childhood home of Canadian author, Joy Kogawa.

The 28th annual City of Vancouver Heritage Awards were presented on February 19, the first day of Heritage Week, to tribute the extraordinary efforts of architects, community organization, developers, writers, artists and ordinary citizen who work to preserve Vancouver’s heritage.

Mayor Sam Sullivan conferred an award of honour to TLC and the Kogawa House Committee, for its outstanding advocacy efforts in saving the Historic Joy Kogawa House, bringing municipal, provincial, national and international attention to the effort with its theme of “Hope, Healing and Reconciliation”, thus preserving an important part of Vancouver’s cultural heritage.

Historic Joy Kogawa House is the childhood home of author Joy Kogawa, from which she and her family were removed from the home in 1942 as part of the Government’s policy of internment of Canadians of Japanese ancestry during World War II.  Located in the Marpole neighbourhood of Vancouver, Kogawa House is a symbol of the wrongs that were committed in the past.  It is this house that is featured prominently in her award winning novel Obasan, a powerful story of that internment and features the house prominently as part of her childhood recollections.  

“It is an honour to be recognized among the heritage community and I’d like to thank everyone that worked on this fundraising campaign as well as our 550 donors,” says Bill Turner, TLC’s Executive Director.  “I’m pleased to say this accomplishment is a testament of what a community of concerned individuals can to do to make a change in the world.  It is important for us to ensure our stories as a national do not disappear over time.  The story of the Historic Joy Kogawa House will live on with everyone it touched.”

“This house was saved by the poets, writers, film makers, literary and heritage lovers, and the activists and visionaries of our community, “ says Todd Wong of the Kogawa House Committee. “It is a powerful gift to Vancouver, BC, Canada and the world for the voices of conscience.  That the house has survived this long is a miracle, and it took a miracle to save it.  This house was destined to become both a historical and literary landmark.  The Kogawa House committee is honoured to receive this award, and we are in debt to all the believers.”

In light of the fact TLC purchased the Historic Joy Kogawa House in early June 2006, donations are still required for restoration and an endowment to allow the house to be used both as an educational site addressing the issue of the internment of Canadians of Japanese heritage during the World War II and as a site for a ‘Writers-in-Residence’ program.  Donations can be made by calling: (604) 733-2313.


For further information:
TLC:  Bill Turner (250) 213-1090; bturner@conservancy.bc.ca
Save Kogawa House Committee:  Todd Wong (604) 240-7090; gunghaggis@yahoo.ca

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