CBC Arts: $1 million needed to save Kogawa House

$1 million needed to save Kogawa House

Last Updated Wed, 08 Feb 2006 14:42:52 EST
CBC Arts

The campaign to save the childhood home of novelist and poet Joy Kogawa is entering its final few weeks.



Joy Kogawa outside her childhood home in Vancouver.

Last November, Vancouver City Council gave a
120-day reprieve on the demolition of the house that featured in
Kogawa's 1981 classic novel Obasan.

Arts groups and the author
herself had asked for time to raise money to buy the house, so it could
be turned into a writers' retreat. A developer wants to take it down to
make way for condominiums.

But the modest house on West 64th
St. will cost about $1 million to buy and repair, money that has to be
raised from book lovers and supporters.

The Land Conservancy
of British Columbia is spearheading a fundraising effort with the
support of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation, Vancouver arts groups and
writers groups such as PEN Canada and the Writers' Union of Canada.

Kogawa's Obasan
tells the story of a Japanese Canadian family interned during the
Second World War. Kogawa and her family were removed from their
Vancouver home in 1942 and interned in the B.C. interior.

Obasan won a Governor General's award and the novel has been studied by a generation of Canadian school children.

“The
dream for it, is that these things [the internment] will not happen
again and that there are wonderful countries like Canada where
reconciliation is possible and where these things are not allowed to be
forgotten,” said Kogawa, who will speak at Vancouver's Robson Street
Chapters on Saturday.

Cultural and arts groups want the house to be spared to remind Canadians of the injustice done to Japanese Canadians.

The
proposal is to create a home for writers who have fled oppression in
their own countries and sought refuge in Canada. “And where people care
enough and writers can come and remember what has happened in their
countries as well, I mean, where writers in exile can come, and writers
of conscience can tell about what's happened in their lives. So, then
the dream would be for it [the house] to be something for everybody,
for all Canadians, for all people,” Kogawa told CBC Radio.

In
Obasan, Kogawa writes eloquently of the family life she lived in the
house. It is also featured in a children's version of the tale, Naomi's Road.

“All
the writing that I have ever done about my childhood or
Japanese-Canadians is rooted in that loss of a home and community and
life,” Kogawa said.

The city has planted a cherry tree grafted
from a tree on the Kogawa house property to commemorate the experience
of Japanese Canadians.

The stay of execution on the house runs
out at the end of March and the issue will be back before Vancouver
City Council unless money can be raised in time.

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