Joy Kogawa: “EMILY KATO” book launch at Vancouver Public Library
February 27th, 2006
Vancouver Public Library
Here's my summary of the Emily Kato book launch… rather longish description…
am still just winding down from a wonderful book launch for Emily
Kato. Joy said at the launch, that she had never before had a book
Due to the library regulations… I could not
arrange to have wine served – but Ellen Crowe-Swords set up tea with
7:00pm – people started wandering in… we
left the doors open. Artist Raymond Chow was playing piano and setting
up paintings for display. Katzumi was setting up the paintings and
drawings for the silent auction. VPL director of programming Janice
Douglas and I look around for urns and try to find hot water for Ellen.
pm – I do a preliminary welcome for aproximately 40 people, and direct
their attention to the paintings and drawings for silent auction.
pm – Janice Douglas welcomes people to the library, invites them to
pick up the library events brochures, and especially invites people to
return for Tuesday night (Feb 28) as Max Wyman will be addressing that
as we move from the Information Age to the Imagination Age, the role of
creative activity is fundamental to the healthy and peaceful
development of human society.
introduces the program by stating that Obasan was the 2005 choice for
One Book One Vancouver, and how pleased the Vancouver Public Library is
to have Joy Kogawa back at the library for Emily Kato book Launch.
of Joy Kogawa with Programs Director Janice Douglas and Chief Librarian
Paul Whitney – at the One Book One Vancouver launch back in May 2005.
Todd Wong introduces Joy Kogawa, by talking about what a pleasure it is
getting to know Joy through the Save Kogawa House campaign. Todd
explains that tonight will be celebratory and that Joy had wanted to
ask author Roy Miki and musician Harry Aoki to participate. There will
also be a dvd animated feature by animator Jeff Chiba Stearns, to help
make Emily Kato come alive by the participation of the guests, to help
address the themes of internment, redress and identity in the book.
pm – Gail Sparrow, former chief of the Musqueam First Nations is
invited to the stage to give a prayer and blessing for the evening.
pm – Musicians Harry Aoki and Alison Nishimara take the stage.
Actually Alison performs two pieces on the grand piano beside the
stage. They invoke strong emotions that speak to tragedy and panic of
the evacuation and internment. After Alisons performance, she
identifies the pieces as a Prelude by Stravinsky and a Tocatta by
Roy Miki (centre) with Rev. Nakayama and Joy Kogawa at the One Book One Vancouver launch in May, 2005.
8:00 pm – Roy Miki is introduced as having been
almost born on an Alberta beet farm after the internment of his family,
from Vancouver. He is a leader of the JC redress committee of the
1980's, and Todd praises his book “Redress: The inside story of the
Japanese Canadian redress movement,” citing its relevance and parallels
to the current Chinese Canadian movement for head tax/exclusion act
redress. Roy is also an english professor at SFU, specializing in
American and Canadian literature and a Governor General's Award winner
for poetry for his collection “Surrender.”
– Roy Miki says he was actually born on a beet farm in Alberta, and
talks about the redress movement and reads from his book Redress. He
starts with a passage where people quote passages from Joy Kogawa's
then new novel – Obasan. He tells tales of government misconceptions
and how language is used to euphemize the tragedy and actions to intern
and destroy the Japanese Canadian community.
8:15 – Todd
welcomes Harry and Alison back to the stage. Todd explains that both
Harry Aoki and Roy Miki had served as inspirations for some of Joy's
characters in her books.
8:20 – Harry and Alison play a duet on
piano and double bass that Harry wrote in 1943. He explains what it
was like to have to leave Vancouver during the “evacuation”, as he had
to leave behind his beloved violin, and could only take his harmonica.
Todd introduces the next segment by discussing the names of the Issei,
Nissei and Sensei – first, second and third generations of Japanese
Canadians. The newest generations had to grow up with a sense of
negative identity, not really knowing the extent of the internment as
many Issei and Nissei refused to talk about it. Todd tells a story
about how Joy introduced her half-Japanese grand-daughter at the
Canadian Club luncheon, as being the “future of Canada.”
Drawings from “What Are You Anyways?” by Jeff Chiba Stearns
“What Are You Anyways?” an animated short film by Jeff Chiba Stearns is
presented Todd pushes play on the dvd player to present the chapters:
“Cauc-Asian” introduces the main character as growing up half-Japanese and half-Euro-Mutt in Kelowna BC.
“Ethnic Roulette” explains how challenging it is to be asked “What are you?” all the time.
“Meeting Jenni” explains how the character comes to terms with his half-Japanese
ancestry by meeting another half-Japanese “girl of his dreams”
– Joy Kogawa takes the stage, and explains how when Obasan was first
released, there was never a bad review but lots of praise. When Itsuka
was released, it was the reverse, like an ugly sibling. She explains
the challenge of the Emily Kato release – a book that nobody can find
in book stores. She talks about why she wanted to re-work Itsuka, when
Penguin had announced plans to re-release it as a companion with
Joy reads several passages from Emily Kato including
sections on living in Granton Alberta, the redress movement, and the
older Issei growing old living in small rooms scattered across the
country. She uses these examples to demonstrate how the Government of
Canada purposely broke up the Japanese Canadian community, and how the
community is still divided and unsupportive of its own culture and
members. All the while, Joy emphasizes what it means to be Canadian
and the importance to be respectful of different cultures and human
rights issues. She is an impassioned speaker, and her words walk the
fine balance of moral sermon, a punishing critique, and an
inspirational talk – all in one. Amazing.
Harry Aoki returns to the stage to comment about the future of the
Japanese Canadian community, how it is disappearing, due to the
negative identity, inter-racial marriage, and being scattered across
the country. He plays one more song on double bass, with Alison
Nishihara on piano.
9:10 – Conclusion… explanations of Silent
Auctions, Thank yous… Acknowledgements of artist Raymond Chow and
his painting of Joy Kogawa as a young child, the role of The Land
Conservancy in stepping in to lead fundraising for Save Kogawa House
Joy signs books, and takes people's questions.
is an immediate long line-up to buy books and have them signed by Joy.
I am asked where Harry Aoki is by Dal Richards, band leader and
musician, who is interviewing Harry for his radio show. It is a good
audience of about 90 people. I meet First Nations people from New
Brunswick, I meet poet Sita Caboni of the Pandora poetry collective.
People sign up on the silent auction items.
I sign up on a collection of Roy Miki books, but I am outbid.
Kato, signs up for the Linda Ohama print, donated by Roy Miki. It is a
good night. I recieve lots of compliments for my MC work. Joy signs
lots of copies of her books. People are happy, and we feel a good
sense of community.
9:35 – Katzumi announces the last call of the Silent Auction
9:40 – we wrap up and start putting things away.
10:00 – we shut the doors and go home.