Joy Kogawa on CBC Radio's Sounds Like Canada – Boxing Day transcript
Here’s a transcript of CBC Radio
One’s interview with Joy Kogawa about the Kogawa House project from my
friend Ann-Marie Metten – also a coordinator for the Save Kogawa House
To her great pleasure the interview was broadcast twice on Boxing Day,
first in the morning at 10 a.m., accompanying a half-hour interview
with Leslie Uyeda – the artistic director of Vancouver Opera’s Naomi’s
Road school program and the composer of music inspired by the haiku
written as part of the Vancouver Public Library’s program to promote
Obasan as the 2005 One Book One Vancouver choice. The interview with
Joy Kogawa was also rebroadcast later in the day, on “Night Time
Review” at 8 p.m.
If you are interested in making financial donations, please check with The Land Conservancy
Save Kogawa House Committee
The Land Conservancy of B.C,
5655 Sperling Avenue
Burnaby, BC V5E 2T2
Tel. (604) 733-2313
Fax. (604) 299-5054
CBC Radio One “Sounds Like Canada,” December 26, 2005, 10 a.m., rebroadcast on “Night Time Review,” December 26, 8 p.m.
Interview with Joy Kogawa
10:28 Joy Kogawa reading from Obasan.
10:35 Guest host Kathryn Gretzinger:
That was Joy Kogawa reading from Obasan. We heard the main character
remembering the long journey she travelled as an enemy alien from her
family home in Marpole to their bitter internment working in the sugar
beet fields of Alberta. I’m in Marpole today in South Vancouver with
Joy Kogawa. Hi.
who is right here, and all of this is making this
part of the journey one of friendship and abundance and great joy.
Kathryn: What do you think of the parallels between the journey back in
your mind then and the journey back each time you come to the house
Joy: Well, today there is a lot of light surrounding everything. I
think that the gloom of yesterday and the despair and know that the
lostness has been dispelled by the amount of friendship that has sprung
up around the drive to save the house and all the love for the cherry
tree and the new cherry tree at city hall and all of these things and
Ann-Marie Metten, who is right here, and all of this is making this
part of the journey one of friendship and abundance and great joy.
Kathryn: Does it help with healing?
Joy: Yes, the healing is something that goes on invisibly, but when
there is a great bubbling up of gratitude, that’s when one knows that a
kind of health has been restored. When you wake up in the morning and
the first thought that you have is one of gratitude? That’s healing. I
have that now more than I have ever had. So I am glad beyond words.
Kathryn: Were your parents able to get to that place?
Joy: Well, as far as the house is concerned, my mother was almost 90
when she said to me–and she was quite senile then, too–but she did
want to go home to this house. She wanted that and I would have done
anything if it had been possible then. But she’s gone now and it’s sad
that she never was able to go home. But here we are and maybe other
people will be able to come and know that the house is still here and
that it’s connected to a reality that was rather than a fiction and I
think all of that is important.
Kathryn: What do you think of what’s happened here with this starting
out as a simple idea–Well, we should save Joy Kogawa’s house–to what
this has become, which is a sort of a movement in British Columbia?
Joy: How did that happen? How do any of these things magically happen?
I don’t know. Ann-Marie’s going to have to happen because I think it’s
sort of like springtime–there is something that happens when the
weather warms and all these little shoots come out of the ground and
these magic mushrooms just jump out of the earth and become a source of
amazement and awe that all this energy has been there.
Kathryn: Joy, you’ve mentioned Ann-Marie a couple of times. Would you like to introduce this woman?
Joy: Yes, she’s right here. Ann-Marie’s a neighbour and . . . Go, Ann-Marie.
Ann-Marie: Right. I live just around the corner from what we are
calling the House of Obasan or Joy Kogawa’s House and I look at it out
my dining room window.
Kathryn: You’re just over there.
Ann-Marie: I’m just over there, just over the fence, so to speak, and
this is a place that my neighbours told me about when we first moved
into the neighbourhood about 20 years ago.
Joy: I didn’t know that.
Ann-Marie: Sure, Billy Boyd, she had read the book and she said as
we’re walking past—that’s where Joy lived. That’s the house that
inspired Obasan. It’s known in the neighbourhood that this is where you
lived and where you were removed.
Joy: David Lloyd George School, that was where I went when I was in
Grade One and I knew they had a reunion some time ago and I would have
liked to have gone to that.
Ann-Marie: I invited you to that reunion . . .
Joy: That was you?
Ann-Marie: I invited you to that reunion in 1996 and wrote to your publisher . . .
Joy: For heaven’s sakes . . .
Ann-Marie: . . . I asked Would you come? But the publisher didn’t pass
that information on. Instead we had a wonderful display from the
Japanese Canadian National Museum. I thought it was very important to
tell the story that many houses in this neighbourhood were owned by
Canadians of Japanese descent, many businesses were expropriated, and
that there is a presence in Marpole of people who are very close to my
heart because of my childhood experience living in southern Alberta.
When I was five, about the same age Joy was when she was removed from
her house, our family moved from a farm in British Columbia to the
small town of Vauxhall in southern Alberta.
Kathryn: What do you remember?
Ann-Marie: Well, it’s was my first school experience and I was new in
town. My father was a lay minister in the United Church and there were
ways into the community but most of my friends were, as it turned out,
were those who were a little but peripheral to the Vauxhall community.
They were people like Brenda Chaba and Brenda Yamamoto and children of
Kathryn: Did you make the connection back then that something was different?
Ann-Marie: There was an import in my parents’ talking about this and
these children were not allowed in my home. My mother had lost a
brother in Japan and there was an undercurrent that I could visit there
but it was only on my eighth birthday that they were allowed to come
over. So I knew that there was something going on here, something not
talked about. My father being a little more liberal and open minded and
responsible for the pastoral care of the Japanese Canadian community .
Joy: I didn’t know that either . . .
Ann-Marie: Yes, these are my reasons, my motivations . . .
Joy: These were the kids that had grown up probably around here in BC
and had been interned and then sent to the sugar beet fields.
Ann-Marie: Well, this would have been 1963 . . .
Joy: These would have been the children of . . .
Ann-Marie: . . . children of those interned and my father would take
our family to visit on Sunday afternoons on his pastoral visits. I have
had some wonderful soy crackers in a house I remember with a tar paper
exterior and very cold, very cold in the winter and conditions that
were hardly liveable.
Kathryn: So is this your way of trying to make things right?
Ann-Marie: This is my way, as a Canadian citizen, seeing something that
needs doing and really saying: I can have a part in this, I can make a
difference, and I’m so pleased that we have been able to get a momentum
going around Joy’s writing and around this project to preserve one
remembrance of this historic moment. There are many houses that were
lost and this is the only one we really know about because Joy wrote
about it in Obasan and so it’s the one that we’re working to preserve
as a place of healing and as a writing centre. The Land Conservancy has
heard our call . . .
Kathryn: This is the big news this month . . .
Ann-Marie: It’s the best thing that could happen that a community
group: the Land Conservancy, which has amazing credibility and a track
record in rescuing heritage houses has joined our project and just
last Monday, earlier in December, committed to our fundraising
Kathryn: What does the Land Conservancy have to do with a writers’ retreat?
Ann-Marie: Ah, the Land Conservancy has rescued a number of cultural
properties. These include Azkhabi Gardens in Victoria and Baldwin House
in Burnaby, which was an Arthur Erickson designed property and they are
preserving land but they’re also preserving places of cultural
Kathryn: So what you need to do is raise the money to buy the house to save it.
Ann-Marie: Yes, and the Land Conservancy has set a goal of $1.25 million to be raised before March 30, 2006.
Joy: Yes, I know, it’s unbelievable to me and I just . . .
Ann-Marie: We’re going to do it!
Joy: Well, Ann-Marie, if you say so . . .
Kathryn: How much have you got?
Ann-Marie: We’re probably one percent along the way but with the
machine of the Land Conservancy I have amazing confidence and Joy knows
that this is going to happen.
Joy: I do?
Kathryn: And if it doesn’t, you have the cherry tree?
Joy: If it doesn’t happen we have love and what’s greater than love?
Kathryn: Did you see the look she just shot me?
Joy: What’s she saying with her look? Well, Ann-Marie is confident and somebody has to have this confidence.
Kathryn: You’re not so confident?
Joy: I’m not allowing it to . . . Well, what am I doing? What I’m
trying to focus on is the primacy of healing and I’m saying that that
is what has to happen the most. And I don’t understand money anyway.
So, I don’t know how to think about that. I can let Ann-Marie think
about it and the Land Conservancy can think about it. And I’ll do
whatever they ask me to do and my heart is really there but I don’t
have any comprehension of that. It just seems like a huge vast sum of
money and there are so many causes. There is so much need in the world
and there are children in Africa who are dying and orphans and so on
and when I think about that then I think is what we need is more love
in the world but love is the magic penny, isn’t it? The more you give
the more it grows. It’s not like the other kind of money, which is so
scarce. So, I don’t understand the scarcity thing. I’ve been trying to
understand it and I don’t. But what I do understand is that abundance
and friendship go together and that’s where my heart is.
Kathryn: There’s been a lot of talk about the importance of the Anne
Frank house and its preservation and I wonder whether you look to that
as a symbol of hope for this house.
Joy: I’ve heard some people say that. In a way one cannot compare what
happened to Japanese Canadians to the Holocaust in Europe. It was so
different in degree that it does not bear mentioning in the same breath
but the racism is a constant in all countries and this is Canada’s
version of its racist actions. But as we say those who imagine it to be
a house where certain dreams were and where those certain dreams died,
yes, that’s what it is. It is that.
Ann-Marie: Anne Frank House is a place where people go to learn and
remember about the Holocaust and Kogawa House I would love to see as a
place where people could come and learn about the internment and the
potential within our society to turn against and so prevent the same
thing happening. More than a museum, though, I would really love to see
writers working here, creating new energy and new work.
Kathryn: You’re listening to Sounds Like Canada on CBC Radio One. I’m
Kathryn Gretzinger, sitting in for Shelagh Rogers, and I’m here in
Marpole with Joy Kogawa and her lovely neighbour Ann-Marie. We’re
standing beneath the cherry tree. I’m just looking up at a branch that
has been cut.
Joy: I know. You know, in my mind when I first came upon this tree in
2003, that was me because I thought: I was wounded, I was deeply
wounded. Somebody cared enough to put that bandage, which is still
there, on the tree. But the part of it which was flourishing and
flowering and beautiful and healthy—I said that’s me and it was held up
by a trestle–that was me. But it’s all gone. It’s been cut. It’s been
cut away and so has this other branch, which was so healthy and strong.
Now, I don’t understand why those parts of the tree were cut away and I
kind of felt depressed about it and I thought, oh, maybe that’s the end
of it all. Who knows?
I don’t understand a lot of things that happen in the world and I don’t
know what is to happen but what has happened, which is also miraculous,
is that Ann-Marie’s friend Derry Walsh, took some cuttings from this
tree and one of them, one of the cuttings has been planted at Vancouver
City Hall. That’s a miracle so that the tree lives on. So children will
be able to see the child of the cherry tree and this tree I know is
dying and dying faster than it needed to have died and we will all die,
that is true. But if it remains here, it will stand as a symbol of what
was. The fact that it is has been damaged is also part of the story.
That is a part of the human condition. We do things and we don’t know
what we do a lot of the time when we do them.
I think the realities of healing are very complex and part of the
healing means opening old wounds and cleansing and going through pain
and going to the places where the fire has been but I think that being
able to face the many complex truths of being the despised and then
coming to the recognition that we are all one in some very profound and
deep way and feeling that and knowing that is very healing.
Kathryn: Was it like coming back to the fire when you first came back here after all those years?
Joy: Well, in a way it was like coming back to the light. It was coming
back to happy memories. I did come with a great deal of joy, actually.
When we had a reading in the house, I remember weeping all the way
through it because it was such a wonderful feeling to be there and with
friends and in a new day. I mean, remembering a day when we had been
the most despised in the country and coming to a new day when one was
with support, friends, and with a new feeling of equality and all of
that and knowing that the task is not over and that even though we have
won equality for oneself and one’s community there are many, many
others who need the support that we received and are receiving.
Kathryn: Good luck.
Joy: Thank you so much.
Ann-Marie: Thank you, Kathryn.
Kathryn: I know it’s a cold day but it’s been great to be able to come here with the two of you.
Joy: Yes, thank you.
Ann-Marie: It’s wonderful to talk to you, Kathryn.
Kathryn: Ann-Marie Metten of the Save Kogawa House Committee and Joy
Kogawa in south Marpole at the place they’re calling Kogawa House.
You’re listening to Sounds Like Canada this Boxing Day. I’m Kathryn
Gretzinger. Shelagh Rogers is off on a holiday. She’s going to back
with you on Wednesday. Here now, Uzume Taiko with “Love Song.”
Uzume Taiko “Love Song”
Kathryn: That was Uzume Taiko with “Love Song.” I’m Kathryn Gretzinger
and you’re listening to Sounds Like Canada. Here’s Corb Lund and “The
Truth Comes Out.”