Tea with Joy Kogawa who will speak on CBC Radio Friday, about redress, Kogawa House and maybe… Gung Haggis Fat Choy!
– a friendship develops
Joy Kogawa called me up late Thursday afternoon to tell me she was
going to be on CBC Radio's “On the Coast” program, January 6th – 3pm
onwards… and asked what she should say about Chinese Canadian head
I went over to her West End appartment after I finished work and we had
tea and cookies, and chatted about almost everything except head tax
Joy is an amazing person, she tells me she is exploring the nature of
frienships now in her life and her writing. She is amazed at how
new frienships have popped out of the ground “like mushrooms” to help
propel the preservation of her childhood home. She is amazingly
humble, and makes a frowning face when I say that.
I tell her about the full page of related storis in that day's Sing Tao
newspaper. She saddens with the knowledge that my name is not
mentioned in the article, partially because I was unable to provide the
reporter with a picture of both me and Joy together.
– the photo that never made it to Sing Tao news.
She listens intently when I recount Sook-Yin Lee's Dec 31st broadcast interview of Margaret Atwood on CBC Radio's Definitely Not the Opera
Sook-Yin asked bizarre but interesting questions such as What would you
prefer: To be dumb and live a long life, or incredibly smart and live a
short life? Or “Would you choose a life of lots of great sex, or a
great love life with no sex?
“What was her answer?” eagerly asked Joy.
But our conversation is mostly about me, as she asks me questions about
my survival from a near fatal cancer tumor in 1989.
“Where was it?” she asks.
“Near my heart, behind my breastbone… restricting the flow of blood
back to my heart,” I say. She is curious about how my mother came
to the hospital every night and performed Reiki engergy healing and
Therapeutic Touch healing on me. She is curious how I studied
health psychology, visualizations and emotional healing in my quest to
regain my health.
We talk about how both our lives have been more than just hills and
valleys – in fact, deep canyons and high mountain peaks. About
how we could never have imagined the things we have come to be involved
in, or the people that have surrounded around us and become our friends
She tells me I am an unusual person (in a good way) and points to the
posters I have brought her for Gung Haggis Fat Choy, the Robbie Burns
Chinese New Year dinner event. Joy will be our featured poet for
the evening, and we talk about Fred Wah's performance at the dinner
last year. Joy is curious and asks about the dinner event's
origins. She thinks it will be great if her two grandchildren can attend because they are both Eurasian.
We talk about how much we love the multicultural acceptance in
Hawaii. It just “is,” we agree. Everybody's family has
married inter-racially. It is no longer an issue. We decide
that we both feel very “at home”, and “accepeted” in Hawaii, unlike our
Canadian childhoods and family histories which were marked by racism
We finally get around to talking about redress issues, and how the
government policies for Chinese Head Tax parallel the policies for
Japanese Canadian Internment issues. And again the talk turns to
me and my family. To demonstrate the hardship faced by head tax
descendants, I share with Joy the situation that my grandmother grew up
in. Born in Canada in 1910 to a head tax paying father, and a
mother and grandfather, then later married to a head tax payer – life
was very tough during and after the depression.
Joys says she couldn't imagine growing up during those circumstances –
but then I couldn't imagine growing up under circumstances of
internment camps, evacuation, beet farms, and constant negative
self-identity as a community.
We finish up by summarizing that a true apology needs to happen from
the Liberal government. It is important that healing takes place
for the Community pioneers and their many generations of
“How do you place a dollar figure on healing?” Joy asks.
Joy accepts her Community Pioneer
Award from Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop at the Ricepaper 10th
Anniversary dinner on Sept 24th, 2005. Joy had asked me to say
some words about the Save Kogawa House, while ACWW vie-president Don
Montgomery MC's the event – photo Deb Martin.