Category Archives: Joy Kogawa & Kogawa House

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

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.


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:

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

Ricepaper Magazine launches

Come and celebrate our new Ricepaper Magazine issue at the launch party at Historic Joy Kogawa House on April 6th… featuring Aboriginal and Asian Canadian writers….

On April 6, 2013 from 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm, the Historic Joy Kogawa House is hosting our Special Double Issue Launch Party. The event will coincide with the opening reception for the Text/Textiles exhibit, featuring collections from international textile artists. The opening reception will begin at 12:00 pm and Cherry Blossom: A Textile Translation Retrospective exhibit will be available for viewing until Sunday, April 21.

It is one of the best Ricepaper issues I have seen, as a member of the ACWW board… and so pleased to host at Historic Joy Kogawa House, where I am chair of the board. My cousin Sharel Wright is one of the authors in the magazine and will be in attendance with her mother Rhonda Larrabee, Chief of Qayqayt First Nations…

The launch party will also include the first of a three part public reading series:

Saturday, April 6 will introduce featured writers published in the new issue of Ricepaper magazine: Carrie Calvo, Michelle Sylliboy, Russell Wallace, Wanda John Kehewin, Elaine Woo and Jonina Kirton. The reading will be from 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm.

Saturday, April 13 from 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm, Joy Kogawa House will host a family reading with Jacqueline Pearce. The author of The Reunion will enthrall the audience with her story of a friendship between a Sikh girl and a Japanese Canadian during World War II.

Saturday, April 20 will showcase a group of poets from The Planet Earth Anthology, published by Leaf Press. The reading will be from 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm.

The Silk Purse Gallery in West Vancouver is also exhibiting new artwork in Cherry Blossom: A Textile Translation. As an expression of the changing season from winter to spring, artists from Canada, USA and Japan come together to display the range of inspiring art on silks, sculptures, books and clothing. Opening reception is on Tuesday, April 2 from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm, and the exhibit is open until April 21.


125 Places That Matter in Vancouver, includes Hastings Park Livestock building that housed detained Japanese-Canadians during WW2

Vancouver Heritage Foundation had a ceremony on Dec 1 to recognize the Livestock Building at Hastings Park, an important part of Japanese Canadian Internment History, as one of Vancouver’s Places that Matter.
At 1pm, everybody met in the Hastings Room, and MC Lorene Oikawa, told people the order of events.  We would do a walk to the Livestock Building for an unveiling, followed by a walk to Momoji Gardens for a Parks Canada unveiling.  Finally we would return to the Hastings Room for formal speeches, personal stories, and presentations in appreciation.
Marta Farevaag, Chair of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation, watches as Mary Kitagawa steps back from unveiling the plaque for the Livestock Building at Hastings Park.
Mary had recently pushed for the University of British Columbia to recognize the Japanese Canadian students that were not allowed to finish their degrees at UBC because they were interned during WW2.  It was an emotional ceremony when 76 students were honoured with degrees at a special tribute 70 years later.
Watch this video of Mary Kitagawa speaking about the detainment and internment of Japanese Canadians during WW2.  Roy Miki, Japanese-Canadian Redress co-leader and author stands at the top of the stairs in long dark coat and white hair.  Chinese-Canadian historian/author Larry Wong stands on the stairs in rust coloured jacket.  Lorene Oikawa, union leader and human rights activist stands on the right in red coat.
The Parks Canada plaque at Momoji Gardens was re-located for better public viewing, and unveiled.

One of the event attendees shares a personal moment, as she stands beside the plaque with photos of family members.

Naomi Yamamoto MLA, is the first Japanese-Canadian to be elected to the BC Legislature.  She shared a story how her father had spent 5 months living as a detainee at the Livestock Building.  Naomi explained that because her father was an older teen-aged boy, he was separated from his mother.  His father had already been separated from their family and sent to a labour work camp.  Unfortunately, her father could not attend the ceremonies on Saturday, due to not feeling up to it.
My friend Ann-Marie Metten was deeply touched by some of the personal stories.  She wrote:
“Mary Ohara’s story resounded. She told of her incarceration in March 1942 in the livestock barns at Hastings Park, still reeking with manure and infested with bugs. Birds flew overhead and fouled their blankets. Bedbugs bit at night, and the administrators brought in DDT and sprayed the bedding, including the blankets under which the children would sleep at night.

“At age twelve, Mary developed mumps and had to be isolated from others so as not to sprea the highly communicable disease. She and other children were moved to the coal-storage area under the livestock barns, where only a small hole high in one of the walls let in daylight. In the darkness, other young children cried for their families. She was held there for ten days.”
My friends: Ellen Crowe-Swords, Ann-Marie Metten (executive director of Historic Joy Kogawa House), and Joy Kogawa – author of Obasan, the first novel to address the issues of the internment of Japanese Canadians.  Roy Miki, Simon Fraser University Professor Emeritus and 2003 Governor General’s Award Winner for Poetry, had called Obasan, “A novel that I believe is the most important literary work of the past 30 years for understanding Canadian history.”
My friend Inger Iwaasa and my accordion.  Inger married a Japanese Canadian, and her daughter is pianist Rachel Iwaasa, who performed at Kogawa House for the presentation when Joy Kogawa was named recipient of the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award.  Inger said she recognized each of the songs that I performed: Sakura, Mo Li Hua (Jasmine Flower), O Solo Mio, Neil Gow’s Lament, Hungarian Dance No.5, Dark Eyes.  I wanted to perform a mixed repertoire that would represent many of the ethnic groups that had come to settle in Vancouver: Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Irish, Hungarian and Russian.
Todd Wong, Judy Hanazawa, Jessica Quan – special projects coordinator VHF, Mary Kitagawa, Lorene Oikawa, Tosh Kitagawa.

Historic Joy Kogawa House… named one of 125 Places that Matter… by Vancouver Heritage Foundation

We had a ceremony with Vancouver Heritage Foundation to unveil the plaque that included Historic Joy Kogawa House as 125 Places that Matter in Vancouver!
Our lovely plaque!
Jessica Quan – Vancouvfer Heritage Foundation, Barbara Vanderburgh – Board Member of VHF, Michael Kluckner – artist, Todd Wong – president of Historic Joy Kogawa House/ Board member of The Land Conservancy of BC, Tamsin Baker – Vancouver Area Manager TLC, Ann-Marie Metten – Executive Director Historic Joy Kogawa House.

Kogawa House farewell event to Deborah Willis, our 4th writer-in-residence

Deborah Willis hosted her final reading at Historic Joy Kogawa House where she has been writer-in-residence since January.  John Asfour, our first writer-in-residence, was a surprise guest, as he is in town from Montreal for book launches of his new work Blindfold.
Deborah now goes on to her next writer in residence in Spain, and at University of Calgary,
Deborah Willis read a new short story that she had written while at Kogawa House.  The final event at the house was attended by friends, students and members of Kogawa House Society.
Prior to the reading, we had a dinner with members of the Historic Joy Kogawa House Society Board.  We were joined by Tamsin Baker, Vancouver area manager for The Land Conservancy of BC – owners of Kogawa House.  Author John Asfour was a surprise guest.  left to right in the photo is Tamsin, Deborah, Christine, Ann-Marie Metten and John Asfour.

Shirley Bear is coming to Kogawa House

Shirley Bear is coming to Kogawa House

Sunday December 4th 2pm
Historic Joy Kogawa House
1450 West 64th Ave.

Bear (L) shakes hands with Governor General David Johnston after being
awarded the rank of Member in the Order of Canada at Rideau Hall in
Ottawa November 4, 2011. Photo credit: REUTERS/Chris Wattie

writer-in-residence Susan Crean for her conversation with Shirley Bear,
activist, visual artist, and elder of the Maliseet First Nation.
Shirley Bear’s writing includes an essay in the third volume of the
anthology of writing from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission edited
by Ashok Mathur. Two additional pieces are considered essential
statements on her art and spiritual philosophy. The first is the opening
piece in her book Virgin Bones (2006). The second is her curatorial
statement accompanying the exhibition Changers: A Spiritual Renaissance
(1989). In November 2011, Shirley Bear was inducted as a Member of the
Order of Canada. She lives on the Tobique Reserve (Negootkook) in New

“Artists are the movers and changers of the world.
They have always been revolutionaries, creating change in thought and style
within their societies.”
—Shirley Bear, Changers: A Spiritual
Renaissance, Curatorial Statement

Historic Joy Kogawa House,
1450 West 64th Avenue, Vancouver

Sunday, December 4, 2 to 4pm

Admission by donation, with all proceeds to our
writer-in-residence program.

Please join us!See

Playwright Tara Beagan comes to Kogawa House

Playwright Tara Beagan comes to Kogawa House
Sunday, October 30, 2 to 4pm
1450 West 64th Avenue, Vancouver

Tara is a Toronto playwright of Thompson River Salish heritage. She won
the Dora Mavor Moore Award for her first play, Thy Neighbour’s Wife.
She is currently artistic director of Native Earth Theatre, Canada’s
oldest professional Aboriginal performing arts company, and we've
brought her to
Vancouver for a conversation with our writer-in-residence, Susan Crean, about writing as a means of social change.

Admission by donation – Space is limited
To reserve a seat, please RSVP to

Evelyn Lau is officially named as Vancouver's Third Poet Laureate

Poster for the event announcing appointment of newest poet laureate

Evelyn Lau became the third Poet Laureate for the City of Vancouver on Saturday October 22nd at Simon Fraser University Woodwards Centre, as part of the Vancouver 125 Poetry Conference organized by then current and outgoing Poet Laureate Brad Cran.  Lau's first book of poetry Oedipal Dreams was nominated for the Governor General's Poetry Award, making her the youngest ever poet to be nominated.

MC Sandra Singh – Chief Library of VPL, Mayor Gregor Robertson, Brad Cran, Evelyn Lau, First Nations singers and dancers.


Laureate Brad Cran reads a poem and speaks of his time as the 2nd Poet Laureate.


Evelyn Lau speaks of what she sees for her time as Poet Laureate

During the reception we posed for a photo, Susan Crean (writer-in-residence at Historic Joy Kogawa House), Vancouver councilor Ellen Woodsworth, Evelyn Lau, Todd Wong.  3 weeks prior, Evelyn had give a reading and discussion at Kogawa House, hosted by Susan Crean.  Wong is president of Historic Joy Kogawa House Society.  Councillor Woodsworth has been a big supporter of Kogawa House, and helped guide us in our 2005 presentation to City of Vancouver, asking for assistance to halt the proposed demolition permit for Kogawa House.

upcoming events for Historic Joy Kogawa House



Writer-in-Residence Susan Crean with Evelyn Lau + life size photo of author Joy Kogawa – photo Todd Wong

so far you have missed newly appointed Poet Laureate of City of Vancouver Evelyn Lau Oct 2nd, and incredible adventure writer Eric Enno Tam Oct 16th.


Kogawa House

1450 W. 64th Ave @ Granville

To reserve a seat email 

Blogging at


Don't miss the following writers!


Tara Beagan  — Writing for Social Change

Tara is a multi-talented and prolific young theatre
artist, best known for her plays which have won numerous awards and
nominations. A “proud halfbreed of Ntlakapamux (Thompson River Salish) and
Irish Canadian heritage”, she is part of the new generation of Native artists
creating ambitious work that is edgy, funny and very smart. Tara is currently
artistic director of Native Earth Performing Arts, the oldest professional
Aboriginal performing arts company in Canada.  

This Sunday,
October 30th


Betsy Warland    Writing for Social Change

Poet, author and editor, Betsy Warland has been
writing on the cutting edge of feminist literature for thirty years. She has
been active in the feminist literary community, a mentor to many, and is currently
the director of the Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University. Her poetry, and
latterly her non-fiction, has pushed the boundaries of genre, even while she
engages in 

Sunday, November


Fauzia Rafiq     Writing for Social Change

Fuazia Rafi’s long-awaited novel, Skeena, was published in Punjabi in Pakistan in 2007, and in Canada
last Spring. It is the story of a Muslim Canadian woman, written in Skeena’s
own voice, which follows her journey from village, to Lahore, to Toronto and,
finally, Surrey.  Novelist Tariq Malik, a
member of the Kogawa House Board , will host the event with me.

Sunday, November


Joy Kogawa –
Book Luanch

Sheena Wilson launches her collection of essays on the
life and work of Joy Kogawa, Joy Kogawa,
Essays on Her Works
(Guernica). Wilson has contributed three articles and
an extensive Kogawa bibliography to the book. Several of the writers will be
present, as will Joy Kogawa.

Sunday, November


Wade Compton  — Writing for Social Change

Wade Compton is a well-known writer and activist who
is currently the writer-in-residence at the Vancouver Public Library. He is an
experimental poet (49th
Parallel Psalm, Performance Bond
), a DJ, who branched into non-fiction in
his most recent book After Canaan: Essays
on Race, Writing and Region.
His work is deeply imbued with history and

Sunday, November


Shirley Bear — Writing
for Social Change

Maliseet visual artist and writer Shirley Bear is from
the Tobique reserve in New Brunswick. Her work is in many collections and in
2009 the Beaverbrook Art Gallery mounted a retrospective of her work. She is who
also a writer who blurs the genres, and her book Virgin Bones  – Belayak Kcikug’nas’ikn’ug,
combines story, poetry, and prose. Shirley lived in Vancouver through the
1990s and was the Aboriginal Advisor at Emily Carr College.

Sunday, December