Monthly Archives: September 2005

Joy Kogawa story in Vancouver Sun's “Raise a Reader” supplement

Joy Kogawa story in Vancouver Sun's “Raise a Reader” supplement

Rebecca Wigod wrote a short story about Joy Kogawa in Thursday's
Septemeber 29th, Vancouve Sun, page A23c.  with a small picture.

On the road of learning with Joy Kogawa
by Rebecca Wigod

Joy Kogawa, the 70-year-old author of Obasan, is a
venerable Canadian writer – so venerable that in Vancouver, Nov. 6 is
Joy Kogawa Day.

She's a Member of the Order of Canad, but she's not
able helping children in southeast Vancouver with their reading.

In fact, she's only too happy to help.

On a sunny summer afternnon, Kogawa went to the
Fraserview branch of the Vancouver public library and shared her
children's book Naomi's Road, with the young folk in its Readalong

Many of them had South or East Asian backgrounds.

A diminuitive gifure in a long blue denim jumper,
she gathered the kids around her and asked: “Sixty years ago in August,
a terrible , terrible thing happend.  I was 10 years old. 
Does anybody know what happened?”

“A war?” asked one of the children.

Happy to recieve such an answer from children too
young to know anything of the Secod World War, she nodded
vigorously.  Then she told them something of her own history.

At one point, she produced a figurine and showed it
to the Readalong group.  It depicted Ninomiya Kinjiro, a great
19th-century Japanese landowner who began life in a poor peasant family.

He is seen as a symbol of hard work, and perseverence.

“His special road was the road of learning.  He
taught himself to read because he was too poor to go to school and he
beacme the greatest teacher in all of Japan.  When I was young, my
parents said, 'Be like Ninomiya Kinjiro.'”

Children in the Readalong program visit the library
twice a week during the summer for stories and help with their
reading.  Kogawa made the task palatable by handing out origami
paper and teaching them songs.

Her classic novel, Obasan, is the centrepiece of the library's One Book One Vancouver program this year.

Please sign the petition to preserve the Kogawa Homestead. Click on the white banner – this will forward you to an on-line petition.

Donations can be made in care of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation

Naomi's Road: Vancouver Opera premiere of Joy Kogawa's children's book based on novel Obasan

Naomi's Road: Vancouver Opera premiere of Joy Kogawa's children's book based on nove Obasan

Click here for the Review of the Oct 1, Saturday Matinee performance.

Vancouver Opera
30, October 1 & 2 , 2005

Evening performance 7:30 pm, Matinees 3:00

Norman Rothstein Theatre

Naomi's Road
is a
new opera for young audiences. It is composed by Ramona Luengen, with libretto by Ann Hodges. It is based on Joy
novel Naomi's Road
which tells the story of a young girl named Naomi and her brother
Stephen as they meet the challenges created by the internment of
Japanese-Canadians during World War 2.

Check out the Vancouver Opera Naomi's Road press release

I have seen performances of highlights from the Opera both at the Chan
Centre for Roy Miki's June 27th lecture for the Laurier Institution titled, Redress: Dealing with Past Injustices, and also at the Vancouver Arts Awards
last week.  Both times, the performances were captivating and
featured singer Jessica Cheung in the role of Naomi.

This is a milestone for Asian Canadian art and literature for a
successful children's story to be turned into an opera, that will be
touring schools throughout BC, as part of the Vancouver Opera in the Schools program
It is important to share the story about an ugly chapter in Canada's
history – yet teaching children how to move beyond racism and hatred.

Kogawa Homestead Committee meeting: Friday Sept 29th 4pm

The “Save the Kogawa Homestead” Committee is meeting:

Friday, September 30th, 4pm
Sylvia Hotel
1154 Gilford @ Beach Avenue
Vancouver, BC

This will be the first meeting in person of the reconstituted
committee.  It is important for us to meet in person and
strategize how to best save the house where author Joy Kogawa had so
many happy childhood memories and was raised until the internment of
Japanese-Canadians forced the Kogawa family to Slocan BC.

For the history of the committee: see

Several strategies will be discussed, and we will also discuss key
meetings with movers and shakers in our literary community + political

Worst case scenario:  Kogawa House is demolished.
Best case scenario:  Kogawa House is saved and preserved on original site.
Alternative scenario: Kogawa House is saved but moved to another
site.  But this could be similar to the displacement faced by the
Japanese Canadians who were interned!

Good people are needed for this committee!
Please step forward and make yourself known.

Please sign the petition to preserve the Kogawa Homestead. Click on the white banner – this will forward you to an on-line petition.

Donations can be made in care of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation

Vancouver Courier story on Joy Kogawa: Literary icons home faces wrecker's ball

Vancouver Courier story on Joy Kogawa:

Literary icon's home faces wrecker's ball
By Sandra Thomas-Staff writer

November city council passed a motion to plant a cherry tree propagated
from one growing in the backyard of the former home of author Joy

But if a demolition application recently filed at the
city by the owner is approved, that tree could soon be one of the last
remaining tangible symbols of the home on West 64th Avenue.

lived there until she was six years old, when her Japanese-Canadian
family was interned in the Slocan Valley during the Second World War.
The Marpole house was then auctioned off at a bargain price by the
government's “Custodian of Enemy Alien Property” program. Her 1983
autobiographical work Obasan, named one of the most influential novels
of the 20th century by Quill and Quire, a monthly magazine of the
Canadian book trade, tells the story of the internment camp through the
eyes of a child.

Kogawa, who keeps small apartments in both
Vancouver and Toronto, noted the irony of receiving the bad news while
being honoured at several events across the city.

“It is how life operates,” said Kogawa from her children's home in Surrey. “It is the yin and yang of the world.”

was honoured last weekend at a One Book, One Vancouver event for her
novel Naomi's Road, the children's version of Obasan, at Vancouver
Public Library, and at a dinner for Ricepaper Magazine, during the Word
on the Street Book and Magazine Fair, and at the premiere of Naomi's
Road performed by Vancouver Opera.

Kogawa, who was named to
the Order of Canada for her writing and work with the Japanese-Canadian
redress movement, said she was “dumbfounded” by the news the home is in
danger. Two years ago Kogawa discovered the property was for sale and a
committee was formed in an attempt to purchase it. The home was
eventually bought by private owners. In December 2004 when the owners
started renovations without a permit, the Joy Kogawa Homestead
Foundation contacted both the city and the media to increase pressure
on the federal and provincial governments to save the home as a
historical and cultural icon.

The city issued a stop-work
order which the new owners followed. They also donated the three doors
and 12 windows they had removed to the city for safe keeping. The
owners, who have no messaging service, did not answer several phone
calls from the Courier.

“I don't want to be aggressive, I don't want to fight,” Kogawa said. “We'll see what friendship can do.”

Green, a city councillor and mayoral candidate for Vision Vancouver,
said he was at the house with Kogawa recently to look at the cherry

“This is too sad,” he said. “This is a historical place in Canada and it should be preserved.”

Green sits on the city's heritage committee but admits the city can do little to save the home.

is very little we can do with the powers we have,” he said. “It will be
up to the will of council because I expect it to come before the
development permit board because it would have a significant impact
historically on Vancouver.”

Green said he and Kogawa expect to plant the cherry tree on the grounds of city hall within the next couple of weeks.

For more updates on the Kogawa Homestead status, please see:
For more updates, articles on Kogawa Homestead and Joy Kogawa on this web site, please see:
Joy Kogawa's Obasan and Homestead

Media stories about Kogawa Homestead: 2004 to Sept 2005

Here's a 2004 story about the Kogawa Homestead from the Vancouver Sun by Kim Pemberton.

Historical home is Joy's dream
Novelist envisions writers' retreat in childhood home seized during Second World War

Since 2004, the house has again risen in value.  But today there
are the tell tale signs that something is happening.  Paing
markings on the sidewalk mark city services to the house, and
surveyor's tape criss-cross the yard.  Earlier this week an
inquiry was made by an architect to apply for demolition.

Saturday's Globe and Mail featured a “This Just In” by Alexanda Gill
(September 24, p. R6)national Globe edition:

 “Vancouver: The wrecker's ball could wipe out a Canadian literary
landmark. The owner of Joy Kogawa's childhood home, a house that
figured prominently in her award winning novel Obasan, applied to the
city of Vancouver for a demolition permit this week, just as the author
is about to be celebrated. In 1942, under the War Measures Act, Kogawa,
her parents and brother, were removed from the bungalow. Obasan,
published in 1981, recalls this episode in Canadian history. This
weekend, the author is scheduled to read a passage from Obasan at
Vancouver's Word on the Street festival.”

Please sign the petition to preserve the Kogawa Homestead. 
Click on the white banner - this will forward you to an
on-line petition.
Donations can be made in care of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation