Ruth Ozeki and Shaena Lambert read at historic Joy Kogawa House – Wonderful community chemistry for Vancouver's new literary landmark

Ruth Ozeki and Shaena Lambert read at historic Joy Kogawa House
Wonderful community chemistry for Vancouver's new literary landmark


Writers Shaena Lambert, Joy Kogawa and Ruth Ozeki were featured at the November 10th “War and Remembrance” event at historic Joy Kogawa House.- photo Deb Martin

Magic happens sometimes in unexpected places, and with unexpected people.  Joy Kogawa, author of Obasan and Naomi's Road, shared with the audience that she has been continually amazed at the way the universe has unfolded to not only save her childhood home from demolition last year – but also to continue build a foundation for the planned literary landmark and writers-in-residence program for historic Joy Kogawa House.

Tonight's
event was perfect with both authors Shaena Lambert and Ruth Ozeki
reading their most recent works that deal with the consequences of the
WW2 Hiroshima bombing.  How fitting that the stars aligned to have Ruth
come to Vancouver from between her busy commutes between Cortes Island
and New York City to settle in Kogawa House on the day before
Remembrance Day. 

The reading event went well tonight. 
80 people.  30 over the earlier cap of 50 people.  We had standing room
only upstairs, rather than turn people away.  Guess we will have to knock out the walls into the
former music room and take out bathroom – both added in 2004 by the
last owner… as we start our restoration early.

The audience was divided into two groups; Upstairs with Ruth Ozeki; and downstairs with Shaena Lambert.  Tamsin Baker of TLC (The Land Conservancy of BC) welcomed the upstairs audience and gave a brief history of the saving of Joy Kogawa House by the TLC and the Save Kogawa House Committee.  I added to that history, as a member of the now renamed History Joy Kogawa House Society, then introduced author Ruth Ozeki. 

Ruth is the descendant of Japanese-Americans who were interned during WW2.  Her grandfather was one of the few Japanese-Americans interned in Hawaii, while her mother was put under house arrest while attending university in Wisconsin.  Her book “My Year of Meats” was the 2007 choice for the One Book One Vancouver program at the Vancouver Public Library. 

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Ruth read from “Click”, a special collaborative book for Amnesty International.  The first chapter was written by Linda Sue Park, and Ruth wrote the fourth chapter.

After a 40 minute session and an intermission, the authors switched locations with Ruth moving downstairs, and Shaena moving upstairs. 

Shaena read from her new novel Radiance, set in 1952 and based on true events in which Keiko Kitagawa arrives in New York City from Japan, as the “Hiroshima Maiden” who undergoes plastic surgery to remove a scar caused by the Hiroshima bomb.

After the readings, each author took questions.  Books were available for sale, including Click, Radiance and titles by Joy Kogawa.

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Following the close of the event, members of Joy Kogawa House Society hosted a dinner for authors Joy Kogawa, Ruth Ozeki and Shaena Lambert at the Red Star Seafood Chinese restaurant.  It was wonderful to see and talk with everybody in such good spirits after the successful event.  Everybody on this committee is dedicated to the cause of seeing Joy Kogawa House become a literary landmark for Vancouver and to develop a writers-in-residence program.  And they are all good-hearted people that trust and like each other.  What a joy it is to be on this committee.  It was particularly amazing to see the wonderful chemistry between Ruth and Shaena who had only met once before.

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Another unexpected twist of events happened when Todd Wong started telling Ruth about the Pacific Origami conference being held in Vancouver.  Ruth asked Todd to fold something, then suddenly Joy and Ruth were also very involved in folding, as a traditional crane base became an 8-point star, then finally a pegasus winged horse.  Simply magic.

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