(Contacts: Roy Miki at 604-732-7215 or Glen Lowry, Editor of West Coast Line, at 604-258-4143.
14 David Drive
A Canadian Literary Treasure - House of Obasan Up for Sale
On Saturday, September 27, 2-3 pm, author Joy Kogawa will return to her childhood house at 1450 West 64th Avenue. She will meet with friends, teachers, fellow writers, and interested readers of her work. She will share her memories and read from her award-winning novel, Obasan.
Since its publication in 1981, Obasan has become one of the most endearing novels of our time. Countless readers were first introduced to the wartime mass uprooting and internment of Japanese Canadians through the eyes of its central character, Naomi Nakane. As Naomi invokes her personal memory of this catastrophic event, she takes readers back to her childhood in the Marpole area of Vancouver - and back to 1450 West 64th Avenue in 1942. Then six years old, she recalls the moments when her tightly knit family life was violated and then torn apart by the actions of the Canadian government.
While recently visiting Vancouver, sixty-one years later, Kogawa came across the very house that she remembered in her novel - still close to its original form inside and out. The house is empty and up for sale. Kogawa was especially struck by the cherry tree in the back yard, propped up and bandaged, yet still very much alive. As she writes after being invited to return to West 64th Avenue: "I always always wanted to go back home. It was such a splendid house in my mind, a castle, compared to everything afterwards. The old old cherry tree is still there in the back yard - terribly wounded and weeping sap - but miraculously alive."
Dear Joyce Fairbairn:
Joy Kogawa has mentioned that you may be able to help us find a a means to preserve her childhood house.
I am writing with great urgency to draw your attention to what I think is an amazing piece of Canadian history. The house in the Marpole area of Vancouver where Joy lived as a child before she was swept up in the mass uprooting is now empty and for sale. It is pretty well in its original form. I may seem like a long shot, but I think we should prevent it from being demolished.
The house, of course, has become famous through Joy's acclaimed novel Obasan, a novel that I believe is the most important literary work of the past 30 years for understanding Canadian history. The house is a national treasure that should be restored and used-perhaps, for instance, as a site for featuring Japanese Canadian history, a literary and cultural centre, and so on.
Time is of the essence-mainly because the house is up for sale. Some members of Vancouver City Council have expressed support for saving it but are unable to generate the necessary funds. The more direct involvement of the federal government through the Department of Canadian Heritage, would, I'm certain, make the crucial difference at this point. Perhaps you know of some means to assist us.
Last week a few of us organized an event in which Joy returned to the house to read from her novel and to talk about her childhood memories. Even though it was organized in only a few days, over 100 people showed up. The emotional support for preserving the house was overwhelming. A petition circulated there was signed by those who attended. For your information, I am attaching the press release used to publicize the event.
Roy Miki's letter to Joyce Fairbairn
Below is a photograph of one of the notices
that ordered Joy and so many others out of
their homes, declaring them enemy aliens in
their own and only country.
Below is a photograph of Lemon Creek, one of ten internment camps to which people were sent, camps who produced such exceptional citizens as David Suzuki, Raymond Moriyama and Joy herself, people who have so richly given back to the country that demonized them in a time that remains within living memory.
More from Vancouver
Vancouver-based writer, Sook C. Kong, writes on November 11 of her memories of Joy' s reading at the old house.