Joy Kogawa House committee to receive Vancouver Heritage Award of Honour

Joy Kogawa House committee to receive Vancouver Heritage Award of Honour

A young Joy Kogawa with brother Tim standing beside their childhood home in Marpole prior to 1942 – photo courtesy of Joy Kogawa

On February 19th, at Coastal Church, the City of Vancouver Heritage Awards will give the Heritage Award of Honour jointly to Joy Kogawa House Committee and The Land Conservancy of BC.

Joy Kogawa House was the childhood home of award winning author Joy Kogawa,
which she was forced to leave in 1942, at age six, when
Japanese-Canadians were “evacuated” from the BC Coast and sent to
internment camps during World War 2.  The Canadian government
subsequently confiscated all their remaining property and auctioned it
off, supposedly to help pay for the cost of internment.

She and her mother always dreamed of returning to the house, but their
family was sent to live in Alberta as part of the Japanese Canadian
dispersal program, in an effort to keep Japanese Canadians from
returning to the Coast, and trying to reclaim their confiscated

Obasan (1981), is the award
winning book that is a fictional memoir about the internment of the
Japanese-Canadians.  It is considered one of Canada's most
important 100 books ever written according to the  Literary Review
of Canada.  It is the second most studied book in Canadian schools
and universities.

I am one of the committee members for the Joy Kogawa House committee
along with Ann-Marie Metten, David Kogawa, Anton Wagner, Ellen
Crowe-Swords, Richard Hopkins, Jen Kato, Joan Young and Sabina
Harpe.  We have all put in incredible hours of volunteer work to
help realize this project.

It was only 17 short months ago, when Ann-Marie Metten contacted me for
help when she learned that a demolition inquiry for 1450 West 64th Ave.
was being made.  In the months to come, we would be asked why it
was important to save the childhood home of author Joy Kogawa.  We
would also be told that there was little chance to save it.

The 3rd week of September 2005, was a roller coaster for Joy
Kogawa.  She learned of the demolition plans in the same week that
saw: 1) excerpts from the Naomi's Road opera performed at Vancouver
Arts Awards; 2) she received the Community Builder's Award from Asian
Canadian Writer's Workshop; and 3) the final event of One Book One
Vancouver “Obasan” program where she gave a reading at Word On The
Street book and magazine festival.

In December 2005, The Land Conservancy of BC stepped in to become a
joint partner in our project to save the house.  They became the
chief fundraiser and eventually purchased the house in full in May 2006.

Joy with Richmond elementary students who wanted to save Kogawa House – photo Joan Young

We are ecstatic and honoured to receive the Award of Honour, for projects demonstrating an outstanding contribution to
heritage conservation.

Nominations were accepted for:

  • Restoration, rehabilitation, adaptive re-use or continued
    maintenance of a heritage building, a significant interior of a heritage
    building, or characteristic features of a heritage building;
  • Use of innovative engineering techniques or restoration/conservation
    methods in upgrading a heritage building which may include seismic upgrading;
  • Preservation of a heritage landscape;
  • Heritage advocacy of a group or individual in the preservation
    of a heritage site or increasing public awareness of heritage issues;
  • Publication, education or exhibit that promotes heritage
  • Efforts in community or neighbourhood revitalization.

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