Fundraising Drive Launched for Joy Kogawa House

Fundraising Drive Launched for Joy Kogawa House

Organizers of the drive to preserve the childhood home of novelist and poet Joy Kogawa
were jubilant after Vancouver City Council voted unanimously on
November 3 to grant a 120-day demolition delay order to preserve the
home and to recognize its historical and cultural heritage. The four
month period will allow the Save Kogawa House
Committee to raise funds to purchase the property and convert it into a
major centre for Canadian and international writers.  

For Kogawa, the West 64th Avenue property became a symbol of lost hope
and happiness after Joy, then six years old, and her family were
removed from their home and interned in the Slocan Valley in 1942 as
part of the forced evacuations and internment of 21,000
Japanese-Canadians during World War II. Joy's family was never
compensated for the confiscation of their property. Their house and
personal belongings, like those of other internees, were auctioned off
at rock bottom prices by the government's “Custodian of Enemy Alien
Property” and the proceeds used to pay for the government's expenses in
running the internment camps.

The loss of the house and the dispersal of the Japanese Canadian
community until their civil rights were restored in 1949 inspired
Kogawa’s best-known novel, Obasan, winner of the Canadian Authors’
Association Book of the Year Award in 1981. Its adaptation for
children, Naomi’s Road, premiered as a Vancouver Opera
production on September 30th and visits more than 140 schools and
community centres from Vancouver Island to the Kootenays until May
2006. Roy Miki, 2003 Governor General's Award Winner for Poetry, has
called Obasan the most important literary work of the past 30 years for
understanding Canadian history.  In 2005 Obasan was selected by
the Vancouver Public Library for its One Book One Vancouver program, encouraging all Vancouverites to read this single book.

In her letter on behalf of the League of Canadian Poets, Mary Ellen
Csamer wrote Mayor Larry Campbell and the Vancouver City Councillors
that “The League of Canadian Poets, representing over 730 professional
poets across Canada, supports the effort to save Joy Kogawa's childhood
home on 1450 West 64th  Avenue in Vancouver from demolition, and
would like to encourage its conversion into a major writers centre for
Canadian and international writers. Just as Emily Carr’s home in
Victoria and Pierre Berton’s in the Yukon provide a unique sense of the
physical space that helped to define those artists, so this building
forms an important part of our collective cultural imagination. To
create a writers’ centre would be an appropriate and timely action,
which would draw national and international writers to the West Coast
for cultural stimulation and peaceful retreat.”

In addition to the League, the other writers’ organizations supporting
converting Kogawa House into a writers-in-residence centre include the
Writers Union of Canada, the Federation of BC Writers, the Playwrights
Guild of Canada, the Canadian Authors Association, the Periodical
Writers Association of Canada, PEN Canada, the Vancouver International
Writers and Readers Festival, the Canadian Society of Children’s
Authors, and the Asian Canadian Writers Workshop. The project has also
been endorsed by the Vancouver Public Library Board, Vancouver Opera,
the Alliance for Arts and Culture, Heritage Vancouver, the Land
Conservancy, the National Nikkei Museum and Heritage Centre, and the
National Association of Japanese Canadians.

The Save Kogawa House Committee is looking for one thousand individuals
to donate $100 each for the Joy Kogawa Writers-in Residence Centre but
would of course greatly welcome donations of all sizes. The Committee
is also targeting corporations, foundations and the federal government
for support.

Donations can be made through the Vancouver Heritage Foundation which
has established a Kogawa house rescue fund and will issue charitable
receipts. All donations to the rescue fund receive a tax receipt for
the full amount of the donation. Cheques should be made out to
“Vancouver Heritage Foundation” and mailed to the Vancouver Heritage
Foundation, 844 West Hastings St., Vancouver, B.C. V6C 1C8. Donors are
asked to indicate on the cheque memo line: “Save Kogawa House.” Donations can also be made on-line on the Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s website

Speaking at the Vancouver International Writers Festival on October 13,
Margaret Atwood declared, “The destruction of the Kogawa home would be
a great loss of cultural heritage for Vancouver, for British Columbia,
and for Canada. Although Canada scored high on the recent all-nations
report card, it scored low on culture, history and heritage. Why
destroy more of this precious asset?”

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