Sixty-six years ago, in 1942, Japanese-Canadians were “evacuated” from Canada’s Pacific coast and sent to internment camps for the duration of WW2.
in 1981, Joy Kogawa wrote her first novel Obasan, the first novel to address the issue of the Japanese-Canadian internment. Joy Kogawa would receive the Order of Canada in 1986 for her literary achievement, what Roy Miki called “a novel that I believe is the most important literary work of the past 30 years for understanding Canadian history.”
20 years ago, the Japanese Canadian Redress settlement was signed in Ottawa with Joy present. She stood in the House of Commons gallery when NDP leader Ed Broadbent read a passage from “Obasan”.
2005 was a busy year for Joy Kogawa. Obasan was the “One Book One Vancouver” selection for the Vancouver Public Library. “Naomi’s Road”, a mini-opera based on her children’s novel debuted by the Vancouver Opera Touring Ensemble. And the childhood home of Joy Kogawa, which she had always hoped her family could return to after the war, was threatened with demolition. And on November 1st, at Vancouver City Hall, there was the “Joy Kogawa Cherry Tree Planting”.
On November 3rd, a presentation was made to Vancouver City Council to do whatever they could to stop or delay the proposed demolition of Joy Kogawa’s childhood home. An unprecedented motion was passed to delay the processing of the demolition permit by 3 months.
In May of 2006, The Land Conservancy of BC purchased the house at 1450 West 64th Ave, to help preserve the childhood home of author Joy Kogawa.
In April 2008, Joy released a children’s picture book titled Naomi’s Tree. It encompasses the stories of the WW2 internment, and also the saving of her childhood home while reflecting on the friendship of a young child and cherry try as they both age and meet again. This book tells the story of the “Friendship Tree.” For more information, see the post Joy Kogawa reads “Naomi’s Tree” at Vancouver Kidsbooks for the Vancouver book launch.