Monthly Archives: April 2013

Historic Joy Kogawa House welcomes new writer-in-exile Ava Homa

When we started the Historic Joy Kogawa House Society, we asked author Joy Kogawa, what kinds of writers she would like to see at the house.  She answered “Writers of Conscience.”

On May 1st, we will welcome our 5th writer-in-residence, since helping to save Joy Kogawa’s childhood home from impending demolition – A house that was “confiscated” from her family and sold, while her family was locked away in an internment camp for “Enemy Aliens” during WW2.  Joy was six years old at the time, and had been born in Canada. No Japanese-Canadians were ever charged with a crime.

I think that our four writers previously: John Asfour (Montreal), Nancy Lee (Richmond), Susan Crean (Toronto), Deborah Willis (Victoria), have all brought social issues to the forefront.  They have shared their stories, the work of other writers, and have also assisted writers.

Here is the release from PEN Canada:

Historic Joy Kogawa House residency awarded to PEN Writer-in-Exile Ava Homa

TORONTO, April 30, 2013 /CNW/ – Kurdish Iranian author  Ava Homa , a PEN Canada Writer-in-Exile, has been chosen as the next writer-in-residence at Vancouver’s Historic Joy Kogawa House. Homa’s three-month residency, funded by the Canada Council Residency Program and the British Columbia Arts Council, will begin on May 1, 2013, and focus on writing, research and community programs.

The Historic Joy Kogawa House Society is a community-based arts group that supports a writer-in-residence on a volunteer basis. Set in the former home of the author Joy Kogawa , the program seeks to foster a wider appreciation of Canadian literature within the communities of Metropolitan Vancouver. Homa will supervise creative writing workshops, consult with emerging writers and use the time to complete a novel about immigration, displacement and culture shock – themes germane to the fiction of Joy Kogawa and to the mandate of the Historic Joy Kogawa House Society.

Born and educated in Iran, Ava Homa holds an MA in English Language and Literature from the University of Tehran and an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Windsor. In 2010 TSAR Publications published her debut collection of short stories, Echoes from the Other Land, which was subsequently chosen as one of ten People’s Choice finalists in the 2011 Canada Reads competition.

Homa’s short fiction and translations have appeared in several English and Farsi journals and newspapers, including The Windsor Review and The Toronto Star. Homa has been a member of PEN Canada’s Writers in Exile network since 2011 and was the 2012 PEN Lecturer-in-Residence at  George Brown  College

Background
PEN Canada is a nonpartisan organization of writers that works with others to defend freedom of expression as a basic human right, at home and abroad. PEN Canada promotes literature, fights censorship, helps free persecuted writers from prison, and assists writers living in exile in Canada. PEN Canada’s Writers in Exile program helps authors and journalists who have been silenced in their country of origin to establish themselves in Canada.

Historic Joy Kogawa House is situated in the former home of the Canadian author Joy Kogawa (born 1935), where she lived until age six. It stands as a cultural and historical reminder of the expropriation of property that all Canadians of Japanese descent experienced after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. Between 2003 and 2006, a grassroots committee fundraised in a well-publicized national campaign and, with the help of The Land Conservancy of BC, a non-profit land trust, managed to purchase the house in 2006.

SOURCE PEN Canada

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases-test/historic-joy-kogawa-house-residency-awarded-to-pen-writer-in-exile-ava-homa-205403181.html

Naomi’s Road at West Vancouver Library is great… looking forward to April 23 at Italian Cultural Centre

Erica Iris and Hiather Darnela-Kadanoga play Obasan and Naomi, in a scene when the family leaves Vancouver on a train.

I saw the production at West Vancouver Library on Friday April 19th, and we both really enjoyed it.  Sam Chung returns as Stephen. The new singers are all good. Hiather Darnel-Kadonaga plays Naomi, Erica Iris plays the 3 roles Mother, Obasan and Mitzie. Henry Chen plays Daddy, Bully, Rough Lock Bill, Trainmaster.

I saw the original production in 2005/06 five times and enjoyed it immensely.  West Vancouver Library isn’t the best place to the performance because lighting was not the best, and the performer’s faces were often in shadows.  Close to 50 people came to the library for the free performance.

The performances by all singers are strong, and the storyline is strong.  Watching the perfomers, we were amazed at both the choreography of the movement on stage, as well as how the small versatile set is used and moved to simulate so many scenes: Powell Street, Living Room, Train, Internment Camp.   There were tears in my eyes as I watched the pinnacle scene of the opera.  It makes a powerful statement against racism and bullying.

Tickets are still on sale for Tuesday’s April 23 performance.

buy tickets on-line here:

http://italianculturalcentre.ca/highlights/naomis-road/

There will be a limited number of tickets available at the door.

Hiather Darnel-Kadonaga (soprano) plays Naomi


Erica Iris (mezzo-soprano) performs as Mother, Mitzi, Obasan

Sam Chung (tenor) plays Stephen
Photographs courtesy of Vancouver Opera, and available from the Naomi’s Road press kit http://www.vancouveropera.ca/2012-13-naomisroad-presskit.html

Head Tax Families Society of Canada has a successful AGM

More than 50 seniors attended the AGM of the Head Tax Families Society of Canada, held Saturday April 20 at the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Vancouver. Many spoke in Cantonese, as they are the surviving sons and daughters of the original head tax payers who came to Canada before the Chinese Exclusion Act banned immigration.  Some were born in Canada, but many had been born in China, and were separated by the Exclusion Act until after 1947, when the Act was repealed, and families could be reunited.  Several of the seniors came up to me to say hello, commenting they hadn’t seen me for awhile.

 

Photo

Standing with my friends for a just and honourable redress. I am a descendant of 3 generations of head tax payers: My maternal great grandfather Ernest Lee, my grandfather Sunny Mar, and my paternal grandmother Wong Sze.

Naomi’s Road returns… Come see April 23 at Italian Cultural Centre

Come see “Naomi’s Road” opera – based on Joy Kogawa’s famous award winning book “Obasan” and it’s children’s novel counterpart.
Only 45 minutes + short talk & Q&A with survivors of Japanese & Italian Canadian internment camps, Mr. Akira Horii and Mr. Ray Culos.
An important part of Canadian history – if you have read Obasan, and watched “Bomb Girls” on tv.
Coffee & desserts served following.
Deb and I saw the production at West Vancouver Library on Friday April 19th, and we both really enjoyed it.  Sam Chung returns as Stephen. The new singers are all good. Hiather Darnel-Kadonaga plays Naomi, Erica Iris plays the 3 roles Mother, Obasan and Mitzie. Henry Chen plays Daddy, Bully, Rough Lock Bill, Trainmaster
Proceeds to Historic Joy Kogawa House, if we meet our audience numbers…
I loved the Naomi’s Road opera when I first saw it in October 2005, and the following four times I saw it again at West Vancouver Library, Vancouver Public Library, Japanese Language School, and Nikkei Centre.
Here is my review from it’s Premiere weekend in October 2005

Naomi’s Road cast + Vancouver Opera staff come for a visit to Historic Joy Kogawa House

Naomi’s Road cast came for a visit to Historic Joy Kogawa House on Thursday.

They were delighted to see the home and cherry tree where the characters of Naomi and Stephen grew up.

Photo: Naomi's Road cast came for a visit to Historic Joy Kogawa House on Thursday, They were delighted to see the home and cherry tree where the characters of Naomi and Stephen grew up. Myself, and fellow Kogawa House board members Deb and Joan, join the cast + pianist + stage manager.  Really looking forward to their Vancouver performance on Tuesday April 23 at Italian Cultural Centre. Tix are going quickly.  www.italianculturalcentre.ca/highlights/Naomi's-road/

Myself, and fellow Kogawa House board members Deb and Joan, join the cast + pianist + stage manager. L-R, Todd, Deb, Baritone Henry Chen, Soprano Hiather Darnel-Kadonaga, “Joy”, Mezzo-Soprano Erica Iris, pianist Candy Siu, stage manager Melania Radelicki, Joan, and tenor Sam Chung.

Really looking forward to their Vancouver performance on Tuesday April 23 at Italian Cultural Centre. Tix are going quickly. www.italianculturalcentre.ca/highlights/Naomi’s-road/

35 people from Vancouver Opera came to Kogawa House including graphic designers, set builders, publicist, finance officer, and representatives from the volunteer Opera Guild.

General Manager James Wright, who had originally came up with the idea of turning the children’s novel Naomi’s Road into an opera.  He shared the story about reading Great Canadian Books of the Century by Vancouver Public Library, and being inspired by the synopsis/review about Joy Kogawa’s novel Obasan.

I shared how in September 2005, that Ann-Marie Metten had called me with the information that a demolition permit had been applied for for 1450 West 64th Ave, the address of Kogawa House.  At the time, Naomi’s Road opera was just about to launch, and the Vancouver Public Library was just wrapping up its One Book One Vancouver program that featured the novel Obasan, and Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop was awarding its Community Builder Award to Joy.  It was an amazing intersection of celebrations of Joy Kogawa’s works, and it all helped to draw attention to saving Historic Joy Kogawa House from possible demolition.

It is indeed amazing how things come full circle.

My corneal ulcer is healing

I have now met 6 doctors in 7 days regarding the ulcer on my right cornea + talked to another on the phone on Sunday. Today I met Dr. Joe and he is a former competitive dragon boater!  And I also met Dr. Anderson, whom I think is the senior ophthamologist.  And… Dr. Silver checked me out again too!

Good news is the ulcer is healing, and only 1/2 a millimeter in size now – so I can stop the drops that dialate my pupil. Ended the day playing music and drinking scotch with my friends – The Black Bear Rebels Ceilidh Ensemble. We dedicated “Farewell to Nova Scotia” to Rita McNeil, and toasted to her 🙂

Dragon boats and Harbour Seals

Today, we saw a big harbour seal lazily swimming on the water in front of our dragon boat in False Creek, just off David Lam Park. I called “let it ride” and the paddlers stopped paddling, and I softly said “Quiet” to the team… as the boat glided quietly… right past the seal… until it was 5 feet away from the boat… When our mid boat reached it, it slowly swam away on the surface… to about 20 feet distance… then dived. It must have been sleeping on the surface… The closest and longest look, I have seen a habour seal from a dragon boat in 20 years of paddling.

Too bad we didn’t have a camera handy… but in June 10, last year, a seal was following our boat, and nipping at the steering oar… These pictures are from our June 2012 photo set

 

I have an ulcer on my cornea

Ugh… I have an ulcer on my cornea.  It is kind of crazy that I saw 3 different doctors today.  I spent much of the afternoon and evenings visiting my GP office at 2pm, LGH Emergency at 4:30pm, then at the VGH Eyecare Clinic at 8pm.  The above picture is from August 2009 when I had a corneal abrasion –  thought possibly due to sand/grit from hanging out at Kalmalka Beach in Vernon, during a wind storm.

 My regular doctor was all booked up so I saw her office partner Dr. Yam.  After putting some dye on my eye, she thought I might have a “tear” on my cornea, so she sent me to emergency.  At Lion’s Gate Hospital, I saw Dr. Andolfatto, who confirmed there was something wrong on my eye, and made an 8pm appointment for me to go to the Eye Clinic at VGH, where I saw Dr. Silver who made the final diagnosis.  Nice to know we have a great healthcare system that can set me up with an ophthalmologist at 8pm on a Friday night.

Well.. if it was a stomach ulcer… I wouldn’t be able to drink any alcohol. But since I have an eye patch, and the ulcer is on my eye… I can have a shot of Captain Morgan for every drop of anti-biotics that I put in my eye… which is each hour.

LESSON LEARNED: update contact lens solutions, don’t leave lens in eyes for too long… otherwise corneal abrasion or ulcer will develop. “Deep ulcers extend into or through the stroma and can result in severe scarring and corneal perforation… This type of ulcer is especially dangerous and can rapidly result in corneal perforation, if not treated in time.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corneal_ulcer

More glorious accordion music…

Photo: getting in touch with "my inner opera orchestra"... great to have new-to-me accordion sheet music... trying out overtures to William Tell and Barber of Seville - by Rossini.

I have just become the “Guardian” of four boxes of accordion sheet music that belonged to my former accordion teacher… what a treasure trove of sheet music! lots of Accordion band arrangements… such as Bach’s Fugue in Dm.

I love getting in touch with “my inner opera orchestra”… great to have new-to-me accordion sheet music… trying out overtures to William Tell and Barber of Seville – by Rossini, and Italian in Algiers reminds me of when our friend Randal Jakobsh played Mustafah in the Vancouver Opera’s version of “Italian Girl in Algiers” – I will have to learn to play it for him.

Aboriginal & Asian-Canadian issue of Ricepaper Magazine successfully launched at Historic Joy Kogawa House

Ricepaper Magazine launch: Aboriginal + Asian Canadian issue

Six writers read at our issue launch for Ricepaper Magazine at Historic Joy Kogawa House. I am pleased to be chair of Historic Joy Kogawa House Society, and on the board of Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop – publisher of Ricepaper Magazine… This is one of the best issues of Ricepaper that I have seen over the 16 year history of the magazine. http://ricepapermagazine.ca/