Friends and Allies of the Historic Joy Kogawa House

Back in November of 2005, when the Save Kogawa House Committee was fighting to preserve the house and convert it into a writers-in-residence centre, ten writers associations representing several thousand writers have endorsed this proposal with their vision of the house. Our supporters also include Vancouver Opera, Vancouver Public Library, The Land Conservancy of British Coulmbia, National Association of Japanese Canadians, National Nikkei Museum and Heritage Centre, and Learn Writing Essentials creative writer’s studio.

Writers Union of Canada

Brian Brett, Chair of the Writers Union of Canada:

“The Writers’ Union of Canada, representing over 1,500 professional writers, supports the effort to save Joy Kogawa’s childhood home on 1450 West 64th Avenue in Vancouver from demolition, and would like to encourage its conversion into a major writers centre for Canadian and international writers.

Vancouver would greatly benefit by designating the Joy Kogawa House as a literary landmark and establishing it as a writers-in-residence centre in which Canadian writers and writers from abroad could write first hand about our complex and evolving multi- and inter-cultural society and how different values and traditions can peacefully interact.”

Federation of BC Writers

Brian Busby, President of the Federation of BC Writers:

“The house at 1450 West 64th Avenue which Joy Kogawa and her family were forced to leave during the relocation of Japanese Canadians is the central image of her famous novel Obasan, one of Canada’s best-loved works of fiction. The many groups now coming together to save it (whether at its present address or at another location) is one of the strongest yet most diverse such alliances we have ever seen rally round a cause. The emerging consensus favours employing the house as a new cultural centre that would highlight the contributions of Vancouver artists from all backgrounds—not as a shrine but rather as a working place and as a place for work to be seen. This vision includes having the facility in operation well before the 2010 Olympic Games.”

Periodical Writers Association of Canada

Gordon Graham, President of the Periodical Writers Association of Canada, now known as Professional Writers Association of Canada:

“The Periodical Writers Association of Canada was founded in 1976 and currently represents more than 550 freelance writers across Canada. (PWAC) would like to offer its support to the proposal to develop Joy Kogawa’s home into a writers’ centre. Writers’ centres and retreats, such as the Pierre Burton House in the Yukon, have proved to be extremely valuable to writers, which directly contributes to the further development of Canadian writing. This in turn reinforces our national cultural resources and hence our ability to promote ourselves internationally at events such as the Olympics.”

Playwrights Guild of Canada

Amela Simic, Executive Director of the Playwrights Guild of Canada, representing over 500 members:

“Playwrights Guild of Canada members add their support to the Kogawa Homestead Committee in their struggle to preserve the house and turn it into a writers’ centre. We think that it would be a grave mistake to allow the demolition of Joy Kogawa’s home, which is an important landmark for Canadian culture and Canadian history in general. A vibrant writers’ centre would put Vancouver on the map along with other cultural centres, like Mexico City with its beautiful Casa del Escritor or Dublin with its Irish Writers’ Centre.”

PEN Canada

Constance Rooke, President of PEN Canada:

“PEN Canada supports with immense enthusiasm the idea of turning Kogawa House into a writers’ centre, and of making this venture a central piece of legacy of the [Olympic] games. Certainly, we would make extensive use of this resource. We would use it, for PEN Canada’s allotted time, to house writers-in-exile, brave men and women who have fled oppression in their own countries and sought refuge in Canada. We work very hard to find short-term positions for these writers in universities and libraries and so on, all across Canada, in order to help them find their feet in a new country, and accommodation is always a big part of the challenge we face. You have an opportunity here to do something of historical importance: a chance to turn threatened destruction into a very public gesture of preservation, reparation, and new life.”

Canadian Authors Association

Rosemary Patterson, President of the Vancouver Branch of the Canadian Authors Association:

“The members of the Canadian Authors Association, Vancouver Branch, would like to add their support to the Joy Kogawa House Committee in their efforts to prevent the demolition of Joy Kogawa’s former family home and save it for a writers’ centre as a permanent Olympics benefit for Vancouver and all of Canada.”

League of Canadian Poets

Mary Ellen Csamer, President of the League of Canadian Poets:

“The League of Canadian Poets, representing over 730 professional poets across Canada, supports the effort to save Joy Kogawa’s childhood home on 1450 West 64th Avenue in Vancouver from demolition, and would like to encourage its conversion into a major writers centre for Canadian and international writers.

Just as Emily Carr’s home in Victoria and Pierre Berton’s in the Yukon provide a unique sense of the physical space that helped to define those artists, so this building forms an important part of our collective cultural imagination. To create a writers’ centre would be an appropriate and timely action, which would draw national and international writers to the West Coast for cultural stimulation and peaceful retreat.”

Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers

Sylvia McNicoll, President of the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers:

On behalf of the members of CANSCAIP I would like to offer our recommendation and support that Joy Kogawa’s house be saved from demolition and be converted to a writer’s retreat.”

Asian Canadian Writers Workshop

Jim Wong-Chu, Executive Director of the Asian Canadian Writers Workshop:

“Joy Kogawa is a pioneer for Asian Canadian literature, and we recognized her with the 2005 ACWW Community Builders Award. Joy’s works and legacy brings us closer together as Canadians, learning to overcome our challenges and diversity. It is important to save Kogawa House as both a literary and historical landmark. Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop supports the preservation of Kogawa House, and the creation of a writing centre.”

Vancouver International Writers and Readers Festival

Alma Lee, Founding Artistic Director, and Hal Wake, Incoming Artistic Director, of the Vancouver International Writers and Readers Festival, now known as Vancouver Writers Festival:

“We understand the historical and cultural significance of this house as part of Vancouver’s literary heritage and believe that all efforts should be made to save it from the wrecker’s ball.”

Joy Kogawa

Joy Kogawa, poet, novelist, activist:

“This is a story that needs living symbols so people remember [the internment of Japanese Canadians] happened in Canada. We need to show the world that we are not afraid to hide from our history, and we can work towards reconciliation among our own citizens.”

Vancouver Public Library

Joan Andersen, Chair of the Vancouver Public Library Board:

VPL was honoured to declare Obasan as this year’s One Book One Vancouver. The community’s positive response to both the book and Joy has been most gratifying. Joy has spoken of the importance for her of her first Vancouver home in public meetings and in the media throughout the summer. The VPL Board understands the symbolic importance of this modest house in the history of Vancouver, British Columbia and Canada as well as its significance in Canada’s literary heritage. The Vancouver Public Library Board supports in principle the campaign to delay the demolition of the house with the hope of saving it and converting it to a public use.”

Vancouver Opera

James Wright, General Director, Vancouver Opera:

“Please accept this letter as support in principle from Vancouver Opera to help exercise a ‘stay of demolition’ of Joy Kogawa’s childhood home in Vancouver. We were honoured and delighted to receive Joy’s permission to adapt Naomi’s Road into an opera for young people, which is currently touring in schools across the province. In its premiere four-performance run at the Norman Rothstein Theatre, before audiences composed mostly of adults, it was a huge hit. We at Vancouver Opera appreciate the historical and cultural significance of this house and believe that all efforts should be made to save it from the wrecker’s ball.”

The Land Conservancy

Tamsin Baker, Lower Mainland Regional Manager of The Land Conservancy:

“TLC would like to express our support towards the efforts to secure the site and building in perpetuity. TLC is a provincial land trust working to protect BC’s places of natural and cultural heritage. There are many benefits for the community that come from the conservation and long-term management of important heritage places. TLC would be willing to possibly provide support to the community in securing the Kogawa home if the extension to delay the demolition of the house is granted.”

National Association of Japanese Canadians

Henry Kojima, President of the National Association of Japanese Canadians:

“The National Association of Japanese Canadians strongly supports the retention of the Kogawa House. The proposed international writer-in-residence centre in Kogawa House would, indeed, be an appropriate acknowledgement of our nation’s past, as well as be a fitting tribute to the importance of Canada’s multi-cultural society today. We respectfully urge Council to order a temporary protection of the property for 120 days in order that sources of funding can be pursued to purchase the home.”

National Nikkei Museum and Heritage Centre

Fred Yada, President of the National Nikkei Museum and Heritage Centre:

“To the Japanese Canadian community and to Canada, Joy’s stories have captured an important aspect of Canadian history, her contribution has enriched Canadian literature, and she has told a story of many of our people with dignity and grace. Most importantly, through her, Canadians have gained awareness and
appreciation for harmony, acceptance, understanding and cultural exchange. We believe that her work, and that a centre dedicated for writing, will be a legacy for all Canadians, today and for the future.”

Learn Writing Essentials

“Learn Writing Essentials is an online creative writer’s studio that helps writers tell their stories authentically via private coaching, memberships, workshops, and self-paced courses. The Learn Writing Essentials team is a group of creatives who believe strongly in the power of words as well as the importance of community rooted in inclusivity, care, and creativity. Our team supports the Joy Kogawa House as a literary and historical landmark, and a space where writers and the local community can explore writing-focussed activities.”