Todd visits Kogawa House – inside and out
1915 house is modest, and now seems out of place beside the new larger
homes built on either side of it. There is a tall cedar tree and
a tall pine tree, and rhododendron bushes in the front yard, shielding
the house, as if it is hiding it from the street trying not to be
noticed. It is really a wonder that such a small house has
survived until now, with all the redevelopment in the Marpole
carefully at the house that I have visited many times in the past year,
always veiwing from the outside. The front door was open.
Inside was a planning meeting organized by The Land Conservancy of BC –
the new owners of the historic house. We would be planning the
open house event on September 17th as the first public event at Kogawa
Attending the meeting were staff and board members of The Land Conservancy of BC.
Heather Skydt and Tamsin have been working with us since December 2nd
of last year when the TLC officially stepped in to lead the fundraising
to purchase Kogawa House. Ann-Marie Metten is my colleague and
friend on the Kogawa House committee. Fran is the event chair.
Janet is a member. Rich Kenney is staff.
We are planning an afternoon that will include:
– musical entertainment
– historical displays
– history of the house
– food and drinks
The house is in pretty good structural
shape. Past owners have renovated the house at different
times. An addition was created. But it looks like the
original wood floor and panels in some areas. Joy's desk from
Toronto and typewriter that she used to write Obasan is now sitting in
her former bedroom. A door from her childhood bedroom was created
into what used to be her parents bedroom, next door. Her older
brother Timothy slept downstairs.
It is a modest house, but a house that you could imagine a Canadian
family celebrating Christmas in. The father telling the children
that his sister will come look after them, while their mother has to go
to Japan to look after her mother. You can imagine the scenes
from the Naomi's Road opera happening in this house.
It is a house that a six year old would dream about in the years to
come, pining that she could return, after being shuffled from temporary
house to temporary house, in internment camps, and sugar beet farms
where they were forced to live and work because the Canadian government
had deemed this “Born in Canada” family “too dangerous” to live on the
In the past
year, I have written much about the need to save this house on this
website, and even started up a new website www.kogawahouse.com. I
wrote up 20 Reasons to Save Kogawa House from Demolition on Oct 19th.
It had been
September 22nd, 2005 when Ann-Marie Metten informed me that an
architect was inquiring about a demolition permit for 1450 West 64th
Ave. Kogawa House. Anne-Marie and I had spoken earlier in
February, 2005 when I first wrote 20 Reasons why Joy Kogawa's Obasan is the perfect nomination choice for One Book One Vancouver 2005 program at VPL.
Later that same day, on Sept. 22nd Ann-Marie and I had sent out the following press release:
Kogawa Homestead threatened by Demolition Permit Application
– same week as Joy Kogawa is celebrated throughout Vancouver
This week, notice was received that an application for
demolition was made to Vancouver City Hall by the owner of the Kogawa
homestead. It is a house celebrated by the award winning novel
“Obasan,” and the childhood home of famed writer Joy Kogawa.
Kogawa's reaction has been of shock and dispair, as
she knew that efforts were being made to save the beloved cherry tree in the
back yard which figures prominently in the novel. COPE mayoral candidate Jim
Green is a founding member of the “Save the Kogawa Homestead”
This is a weekend when Joy Kogawa is being celebrated
all across Vancouver… at the Vancouver Public Library for One Book One
Vancouver, at a Sep 24th dinnner celbebration for the Rice Paper
Anniversary Celebration, on Sunday for the Word on the Street Book
and Magazine Fair, and next week for the Vancouver Opera Premiere for “Naomi's Road.”
movement to buy the house, and to apply for heritage designation was
aborted 2 years ago because of high costs to buy the house and
resistance from the new owner to sell. The owner at the time said
that she liked the house and did not intend to demolish it.
more than ever, it is important to preserve this house for the cultural
heritage of Vancouver. There is not another house in Vancouver
that is recognized for being confiscated during a dark time in Canada's
No other house in Vancouver could be turned into a
bright spot on our cultural landscape as a writer's retreat, celebrating the
work of a writer which has been called the most influential Canadian novel of
the past 20 years. There is no other writer whose work helped fuel the
Japanese-Canadian Redress movement, and has also received the Order of Canada.
In May, the Vancouver Public Library selected Obasan
as the book chosen for all Vancouverites to read, as part of their award
winning “city wide book club.” Earlier this summer, during One Book
One Vancouver events Joy Kogawa held up a graft of the cherry tree that held such
a revered place in the novel Obasan – studied by so many Canadians in high
schools and universities across Canada. Both the novel and the homestead have a
proven place in Vancouver’s literary history.
By the next day we had a call from Alexandra Gill of the Globe & Mail, who put a small article in that weekend's edition.
on the Friday night, highlights from the upcoming Vancouver Opera
production of Naomi's Road were performed by at the 2nd Annual
Vancouver Arts Awards. I bumped into then city councillor Jim
Green and mayor Larry Campbell. They asked
me about the state of the house, and I informed them. Both Green
and Campbell announced to the packed audience of Vancouver's cultural
movers and shakers that they were distraught to hear that Joy Kogawa's
childhood home was threatened, especially when city council had just
passed a motion to plant a cherry tree graft from the house at city
Saturday night, Joy Kogawa was celebrated with a Community Builder's
Award by the Asian Canadian Writer's Workshop at the 10th Anniversary
Rice Paper dinner. Joy asked me to speak about the campaign to
save the house.
Sunday afternoon, Joy Kogawa read from her novel Obasan, at the closing
event for the 2005 One Book One Vancouver program for the Vancouver
Public Library, held during the Word on the Street Book and Magazine Fair.
It was a busy weekend –
but the word was out – Joy's childhood home was in danger of
demolition. Who people be willing to help save it?
It is now a year later. So much has happened.
Here are some of the highlights:
May, 2005 – Obasan named as the One Book One Vancouver 2005 selection by the Vancouver Public Library. Joy also is reunited with her brother Rev. Timothy Nakayama, whom she hasn't seen in 10 years.
Asian Canadian Writer's Workshop / Ricepaper magazine 10th Anniversary dinner honouring Joy Kogawa as a Community Builder
(left photo courtesy of Jessica Cheung – right photo courtesy of Vancouver Opera)
Naomi's Road (review) opens at Norman Rothstein Theatre. Commisioned by
Vancouver Opera for the Vancouver Opera Touring Ensemble, it will go on
to perform at schools throughout BC, plus Alberta and Washington State.
Obasan Cherry Tree Day,
declared by Vancouver City Hall. Event is presided over by then
Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell, and attended by Paul Whitney (City
Librarian), and James Wright (Vancouver Opera General Director).
Vancouver City Council votes to delay processing demolition permit for 120 day, effective November 30th.
120 days given to Kogawa House, as demolition timeline extended
Joy Kogawa featured on CBC Radio's “Sounds Like Canada”
interview by Kathryn Gretzinger
January 22, 2006
Kogawa is the featured poet/author at 2006 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year dinner. Kogawa
House is included as a recipient from annual fundraising dinner.
Joy Kogawa & Friends – Emotionally and Truthful reading at Chapters on Robson, Saturday Feb 11
Joy is joined by Daphne Marlatt, Ellen Crowe-Swords and Roy Miki.
Kogawa is keynote speaker for the Canadian Club's annual “Order of
Canada / Flag Day” luncheon – welcoming BC's newest recipients of the
Order of Canada. Joy recieved the Order of Canada in 1986.
Kato” Book launch at Vancouver Public Libary – it is a rewritten version
of Itsuka, the sequel to Obasan and focusses on the Japanese Canadian
Joy Kogawa fundraiser in Toronto, at Church of the Holy Trinity.
Thomsett Elementary School Children visit Kogawa House with Joy
These Richmond school children also went to City of Vancouver to ask Mayor Sam Sullivan to help save the house.
TLC negotiates a 30 day extension for the demolition permit with the owner of the house.
Joy of Canadian Words
– fundraiser event in Vancouver, at Christ Church Cathedral. Special
speakers include CBC Radio's Sheryl Mackay, actors Joy Coghill, Doris
Chilcott, Hiro Kanagawa, Maiko Bae Yamamoto, Chief Rhonda Larabee.
Hosted by Todd Wong (Save Kogawa House Committee) and Bill Turner (The
Joy Kogawa named to Order of BC
TLC officially purchases Kogawa House – mortgage free!
TLC becomes proud owner of historic Joy Kogawa House
Joy Kogawa goes to Victoria to recieve Order of BC
Gung Haggis Fat JOY KOGAWA HOUSE celebration dinner.
Joy returns from Victoria with Order of BC