Joy Kogawa story in Lethbridge Herald as Naomi's Road opera premieres in Alberta
Joy Kogawa is in Lethbridge Alberta, for the opening of Naomi's Road
opera. She attended a reception afterwards, and also spoke to the
The following is a story published in the Lethbridge Herald
Dark days of internment come to life
By Al Beeber
Mar 28, 2006, 22:45
In Naomi’s Road, resilience offers hope for a better future in the
lives of two young children displaced to internment camps during the
Second World War.
That spirit, so vividly detailed in that work and the award-winning
Obasan by novelist and poet Joy Kogawa, survived and thrived despite
the efforts of Canada’s wartime government to disperse
Japanese-Canadian citizens, considered a threat to security after Japan
entered the war.
“The government policy was designed to make sure Japanese-Canadians
never amalgamated and made a community again,” said Kogawa, in the city
Monday to watch the Vancouver Opera presentation of Naomi’s Road at the
University of Lethbridge.
The opera is based on the 1986 children’s book by Kogawa, a
second-generation Japanese-Canadian who was evacuated to Slocan, B.C.
and Coaldale from Vancouver with the rest of her family during the war.
Born Joy Nozomi Nakayama, the author, poet and member of the Order of
Canada attended school in Coaldale from grade 5 to high school and
later taught elementary school there for a year.
The divorced mother of two was actively involved in the efforts to seek
redress from the Canadian government in the 1980s. The internment of
her people is one of the darkest stories in Canadian history and the
production of Naomi’s Road, which has been been staged numerous times
in B.C. schools, is one way to educate Canadians about the injustice,
including younger generations of Japanese Canadians whose family may
not have talked about the internments.
“There was an intense need on the part of parents to protect their
children. It’s a very Buddhist way of thinking, to move forward. The
morality was to endure suffering in silence.”
“Naomi’s Road is a fantastic tool, not just for education but for
healing people,” says the soft-spoken Kogawa who donated much of her
family’s possessions from their Vancouver home to the Galt Museum. Many
of those household items have been mentioned in Kogawa’s works.
“It’s a story that just won’t help Japanese Canadians but people in general. It teaches people about the follies of racism.”
“One can use art to bring about healing,” says Kogawa whose family home
is the centre of an effort by various groups to be converted into a
writer’s residence. It is currently slated for demolition.
The loss of the family home and their internship inspired her novel
Obasan which was named Canadian authors book of the year in 1981.
Canada’s efforts to compensate Japanese Canadians for the internship
were satisfactory to Kogawa who felt the process and dialogue between
Japanese Canadians and government was an act of healing.
“As far as I’m concerned, the appropriate process had been followed,” said Kogawa.
For healing to happen, the voice of the interned people needed to be heard and some of those voices were angry.
“When the kids were told, some got angry,” recalled Kogawa. The issei —
or first generation Canadian immigrants — chose often not to talk about
the internment while the nissei — the second generation — were caught
up in the dispersal and didn’t know what it was all about.
“The burden needs to be lifted by all of society. It’s not an easy process,” said Kogawa.
Anne-Marie Metten of the Vancouver committee of Save Kogawa House is
with the author in Lethbridge. She was planning to meet officials of
the Galt Museum Monday to look at the Kogawa collection so house
restorers can authentically reproduce the family’s furnishings if
efforts to save the house from the wrecking ball are successful.
“We want to create a sense of the house as it was in 1942.”
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