It was organized by Jim Wong-Chu for the explorASIAN festival, and co-sponsored by Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop and RicePaper Magazine.
Sid Tan of Saltwater City TV, was there to film the evening, which will be broadcast next week hopefully on Shaw Cable.
It was a wonderful reading that featured the insightful writings of
young up and coming writers, and closed with the wise reflections of a
well-respected and honoured literary force. Joy Kogawa used her time to
talk about the recent protests by Chinese descendents in regards to the
selective historial perspective of the Japanese government ommiting WW2
atrocities against China.
Joy told the story of peaceful small island situated between China and
Japan where when China visited, they claimed ownership, and when Japan
visited they claimed ownership. And how the island played host to one
of WW2's bloodiest land battles where the peaceful inhabitants were
almost wiped out. It was the story of Okinawa. On the 50th anniversary
of the Battle of Okinawa, the natives named each of the citizens who
had died, and included the names of Japanese and American soldiers…
honouring every human being that died, in an act of tremendous grace
Joy revealed that her ex-husband David Kogawa came from Okinawa, and so
their children are descendents of Okinawan heritage.
Joy closed her time with a reading of a poem “Oh Canada”, from her
novel Obasan. It is a beautiful poem acknowledging the bittersweet
qualities that make up the roots of Canada – both in its physical
environment and the qualities of its people. It's context is that it is
set during the time of internment of Japanese Canadians during WW2.
After Joy's reading, I shared with the Our Town audience, my
conversation with Richard Hopkins, following Joy's reading at the
Vancouver Public Library's One Book One Vancouver
event featuring Joy on May 24th. I had told Richard that Joy inspires
us all to be better Canadians. Richard had corrected me and said that
Joy inspires us all to be better human beings.
In closing, I encouraged everybody to attend the One Book One Vancouver
readings throughout the summer that would be built around the novel
Obasan, and that would continue right to Word On The Street in
I encouraged people to support the drive to save the Kogawa homestead
in Vancouver's Marpole neighborhood, that had been taken from the
Kogawa family during WW2. I recounted that at the VPL reading, I had
asked Joy to name some of her favorite Asian Canadian writers, she had
said “We all love Wayson Choy.”
“But tonight, and for this summer,” I said, “We all love Joy Kogawa.”
pictures of this event by Jim Wong-Chu to follow…. stay tuned….