About the house
Located in the Marpole neighbourhood of Vancouver, Historic Joy Kogawa House was once the childhood home of acclaimed author Joy Kogawa and her family. Today, the property is a unique live/work space for writers, a space for public events, and an ongoing symbol of the racial discrimination experienced by Japanese Canadians as a consequence of the Second World War.
The history of a home
The house was built between 1912 and 1913 for original owner Robert Mackie, a foreman in the public works department of the City of Vancouver. Mackie lived in the house from 1913 to 1937.
In 1937, the Nakayama family – consisting of Gordon and Lois, and their two children, five-year-old Timothy and two-year-old Joy – moved into the house. In the 1930s, Marpole, along with the Powell Street area of downtown Vancouver and the Fairview neighbourhood, was known as an area with a burgeoning Japanese population.
The Nakayama family lived in the house from 1937 until mid-1942 when the Government of Canada, under the War Measures Act, forced nearly 22,000 Canadians of Japanese descent out of their homes. The Canadian Government authorized the confiscation of the evacuees’ property. All of this property – including furniture, clothing, cars, and houses – was auctioned off at a fraction of its value and without the consent of the original owners. The proceeds of the sale were used to pay for the cost of their own internment.
The Nakayama family’s home was sold on September 22, 1944. The family was never able to return to their house in Marpole.
The longing for that house was forever. I always, always wanted to come home. My mother … also wanted to come home. But it was impossible.
The story of this house has come to a wonderful place, like a new beginning. 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 literary landmark today
In 2005–2006, Joy lent her support to a community campaign that saved the house from demolition. This campaign was led by fellow authors and friends, the Save Kogawa House Committee, and the Land Conservancy of BC. Donations were received from the public, including a sizeable donation from Ontario senator Nancy Ruth.
The house is now managed by not-for-profit organization Historic Joy Kogawa House Society. Among its purposes, the Society aims to operate and preserve the home as a heritage and cultural centre and as a site of healing and reconciliation. To this end, the house serves as a site for author residencies, public events, and tours for school groups and the general public. Plans are also underway to restore the house to its 1930s appearance.