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