This site explores the work of poet and novelist, Joy Kogawa. Its mission is to make as much material available as possible to facilitate the study of her writing at all levels--from elementary school on.
Originally started as a site to publicize and avert the
demolition of Joy Kogawa's childhood home in Vancouver, this end has now been accomplished through the generousity of many donors and the strong advocacy of The Land Conservancy of British Columbia. The status of the house and upcoming events can be monitored on the following sites:
Although the campaign to save the house is now thankfully over, some of the historical content from that campaign will remain on the site as it is helpful in terms of understanding the social impact of Kogawa's work.
Although the site is maintained with the generous permission of Joy Kogawa, she is not responsible for its content. If you spot errors or wish to make suggestions as to content, please let us know.
And finally, the site will be slowly reorganized as time permits over the coming months. For now, the old index below should serve as an adequate guide until a spiffier navigation device appears in its place.
When Joy Kogawa wrote Obasan, she wrote not only for Japanese Canadians but for all of us. Named the eleventh most influential novel of the twentieth century by "Quill and Quire," Obasan tells the story of the Japanese Canadian internment through the eyes of a child.
This is the family home, confiscated by the government, where Joy Kogawa lived until she was six. The Vancouver Heritage Commission will now be working with the new owner to try to preserve its distinctive features and demolition, for now, seems unlikely. We now need your donations to the Vancouver Heritage Foundation (Kogawa Homestead Committee) to safeguard and eventually purchase the home for future generations.
And this is the "home" to which Joy and her family, all Canadian citizens, were deported, Slocan City, an abandoned ghost town in Slocan Valley, deep in the interior of British Columbia. Little remains of Slocan today: after the war, it literally disintegrated.
Joy writes to Anton Wagner on 4//11/03 after Anton asked for her memories of the house.
Off the top of my head:
From Obasan, page 54
"The house then -- the house, if I must remember it today, was large and beautiful."
The house is not large. But I'd thought it was. As a child I remembered it as huge. It certainly was larger, more beautiful than anything we lived in afterwards. It's still basically the same -- the lovely bright sunroom with its bank of windows as we enter the front door. We turn left through one of two doorways into the living room with its high windows that my brother remembers my mother blocking with blankets during the black-outs. The walls originally were dark. They're now painted white. The room is so much smaller than I remember, though I can see clearly where the gramaphone cabinet was with its bank of tall records in wine coloured binders, the plush couch, the blue Indian rug. The rug is in the Galt Museum and could be returned if the house survives. I also have a woodblock painting, a Ninomiya Kinjiro figure, two dolls I was given in Slocan, and other artefacts from the past that could be in the house.
Past the living room is the dining room -- a small addition was made to enlarge the dining room by someone. The kitchen is to the left with the high back porch that I remember, although it's now somewhat bigger than it was. The bathroom is between the kitchen and my tiny bedroom that looks into the backyard and the cherry tree. The large bedroom is to the right. The peach tree was outside this room. Downstairs is now a large area -- not a full size ceiling. My father had his study here and the playroom with the door to the backyard was here.
The applewood table and chairs came with us, Mother's sewing machine, the Japanese 'kori', the trunk, their wedding gifts of dishes, the gramophone as described in Obasan, the Yellow Peril game, the little blue wool dress with flowers stitched along the bottom as described in both Obasan and Naomi's Road, the books we took to Slocan, The Book of Knowledge encyclopedia set that I've never parted with -- the stories in there gave me my moral training. There are items at the Galt Museum we might be permitted to return to the house. And there are other things I've kept with me.
Will any of these things go back to the house?
Well -- the first question would be -- can the house survive?