Category Archives: Joy Kogawa & Kogawa House

ACWW and Ricepaper had a good presence at Word On The Street

Asian Canadian Writer's Workshop had some of their best contributions at Word On The Street Festival


Here I am at the Ricepaper Magazine booth, organized by our managing editor Patricia Lim (right) and assisted by volunteer Jerry Tang (left).  Ricepaper is published by Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop for which I have been a director since 2000-2005 + 2008-2011.

Kudos to director Anna Ling Kaye for moderating on Saturday at Carnegie Centre,
and for managing editor Patricia Lim for organizing and staffing the Ricepaper booth on

  • 12:00 :: Ricepaper Magazine with
    Anna Ling Kaye

    recent Green Issue (16.2) features creative writing and non-fiction
    that revolves around nature, the environment, and landscape. Ricepaper
    magazine is a national quarterly magazine devoted to showcasing Asian
    Canadian artists, writers, performers, and innovators, and is published
    by The Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop. Writers and poets from Ricepaper will read and share their creative writing.

Usually I will spend some time behind the Ricepaper booth as an ACWW director, but I also helped to staff the booth for Historic Joy Kogawa House where I am president. 


Joy Kogawa is
currently in town, and made a late surprise appearance at the end of the
day to attend a talk by Susan Crean – the new
writer-in-residence at

Tetsuro attended JJ Lee's reading and gave BIG RAVES!…. I attended
readings by Jen Sookfong Lee, Wayde Compton, and Susan Crean. 


Kevin Chong signed a copy of his
new book “Beauty and Pity” for me, and I chatted with Evelyn Lau
afterwards (we are having dinner next week, following her reading at
Kogawa House on Sunday).


Bob Sung and Hayne Wai – are both are included in the book
“Chinese Canadian and Aboriginal Pot Luck” (along with ACWW co-president Allan Cho and
myself). Also – I saw local Chinatown historian
Larry Wong, with his new book @ the booth for Chinese Canadian
Historical Society – which I bought from Larry last week.  Larry's book features praise on the back cover, from his childhood and lifetime friend, Wayson Choy.


Myung Lee, publisher of Diverse Magazine, holds up an article about Gung Haggis Fat Choy that I co-wrote with my friend Allan Cho.  Allan also recently submitted
an article about Hapa Palooza, with some quotes from my blog.


When I saw Anna Ling Kaye, I called her over to introduce Marisa Alps,
an editor at Harbour Publishing.  Marisa is a former long time ACWW
director, and formerly shepherded the ACWW Emerging Writer Award.  She
is also a poet, and contributed to “Swallowing Clouds” the first
Chinese-Canadian poetry anthology, edited by Jim Wong-Chu, that sees its
12th anniversary this year.

Then I introduced Anna to Tradewinds publisher  Michael Katz… Michael
was a driving force behind the young adult anthology “Henry Lee and
Other Stories”.  Michael was immediately taken by Anna's young daughter
Pacific, and he pulled the Paul Yee book “Bamboo” out of my hands to
give to Pacific (saying to me “I'll give you another book”).

My friend Tetsuro Shigematsu (and ACWW board director) was especially affected by JJ Lee's reading today.  Tetsuro wrote on this FB that :

Today at Word on the Street, JJ Lee along with Sheryl MacKay
took a reading and raised it to a new level. The shivering audience
laughed and cried, as JJ spoke entertainingly and insightfully about his
new book, The Measure of a Man, a memoir about his stormy relationship
with his father reconstructed around the rebuilding of his father's
suit. Buy this book. You will love it. I guarantee it. And by
guarantee, I mean I will personally buy the book from you if you don't
love it. (JJ ran out of books to sign afterwards, so I couldn't buy one)
But I know because I read an advance copy!

Joy Kogawa is giving a reading on Saltspring Island May 14


Canadian poet and novelist, Joy Kogawa, CM, OBC, will read from her
lifetime of award-winning creative work. Born in Vancouver, her
best-known book is Obasan, a semi-autobiographical novel featuring her
family’s experience of being taken from their normal lives to an
internment camp during WW 2. Joy Kogawa’s first literary reading on Salt
Spring is presented by the Land Conservancy of B.C. to support the
preservation of  Ms. Kogawa’s childhood home
as a heritage site that is also functioning as a writers’ retreat.
Refreshments will be served. Saturday, May 14 at 7pm

Marty Chan is coming to Kogawa House Wednesday – special price tickets for The Forbidden Phoenix

Special Marty Chan Reception at Historic Joy Kogawa House
on Wednesday March 30th

The Forbidden Phoenix

Playwright Marty Chan (Mom, Dad, I'm Living With A White Girl) is coming to Historic Joy Kogawa House.

This is a special reception, hosted by Kogawa House Society.  Marty is coming, and so is the costume designer.  They will talk about this new exciting play about the Chinese immigration to Canada, and how Monkey King is involved.

The evening is moderated by Todd Wong, creator of Gung Haggis Fat Choy, and who is active on the executive boards of Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop, Historic Joy Kogawa House Society and The Land Conservancy of BC.  Todd loves is a 5th generation Chinese Canadian, and loves Monkey King stories and Asian Canadian history.

Wednesday, March 30th.  7:30 to 9pm

Discount tickets to Marty Chan's
The Forbidden Phoenix

Marty Chan's The Forbidden
opens next month at the Gateway Theatre in Richmond. Become a
member of the Historic Joy Kogawa House Society and get the discount
ticket price.

Bonus: Meet the playwright this Wednesday, March 30, 7:30 to
at Historic Joy Kogawa House, 1450 West 64th Avenue, Vancouver.

$25 = Tax-deductible one-year membership in Historic Joy Kogawa House

$39 = One ticket to any production of The Forbidden Phoenix,
running April 7 to 23 at the Gateway Theatre in Richmond

$64 total

This event is a fundraiser for our writer-in-residence program at
Historic Joy Kogawa House, which September 15, 2011, to April 15, 2012.

For tickets, email email

About the play
The Forbidden Phoenix, combines adventure and martial arts to
present an eye-popping musical that tells the story of a father who
comes to Canada looking for a better life. High drama and visual
spectacle combine for a unique evening of family entertainment.
Performed in English with Chinese surtitles. The play runs April 7 to 23
at the Gateway Theatre in Richmond.

About the event
On Wednesday, March 30, please join us in the living room of Historic
Joy Kogawa House, childhood home of the author Joy Kogawa, for a rare
opportunity to sit with this master author, hear him read from the
playscript, and discuss the issues of history and mythology he raises in
his work.

About the playwright
Marty Chan explores the tensions between opposing forces of assimilation
and the search for heritage and cultural roots.

Marty Chan is an award-winning playwright. His Mom, Dad, I’m Living
with a White Girl
won the Sterling Award for Best New Play and Best
Sound Design, and Harvard University’s A.C.T. Award. The Forbidden
won the Alberta Literary Awards Gwen Pharis Ringwood Award
for Drama in 2004.

For tickets, email email

An Intimate Evening with playwright Marty Chan @ Kogawa House

30 March · 19:30 21:00

Historic Joy Kogawa House

Created by:

More info
his role as Canadian playwright, radio writer, television story editor,
and young adult author, Marty Chan explores the tensions between
opposing forces of assimilation and the search for heritage and cultural

His new play, The Forbidden Phoenix, combines adventure,
martial arts, and the coolest 10-piece orchestra you’ve ever seen, in an
eye-popping musical that tells the story of a father who comes to
Canada looking for a better life. High drama and visual spectacle
combine for a unique evening of family entertainment. Performed in
English with Chinese surtitles.

Please join us in the living room
of Historic Joy Kogawa House, childhood home of the author Joy Kogawa,
for a rare opportunity to sit with this master author and indulge in the
art of his smooth prose.

Ticket price $65
Includes admission to any production of The Forbidden Phoenix, running April 7 to 23, at Richmond’s Gateway Theatre.

To purchase tickets, email

will be brilliant…. Marty is entertaining and very funny. He is the
playwright of “Mom, Dad, I'm Living With a White Girl.” I have been
waiting years for a story about Monkey King comes to Canada…. this is
it! Tickets to Kogawa House exclusive event include tickets to the
Forbidden Phoenix play at Gateway Theatre…. I am honoured to moderate
and host, Cheers, Todd

Cherry Tree at Kogawa House is Yarn-bombed!

Q: How do you make an aging cherry tree blossom again?
A: Cover it with knitted cherry blossoms!
– The Kogawa House Cherry Tree is yarn-bombed!


On March 6th, the Cherry Tree at Historic Joy Kogawa House became covered with “knitted cherry blossoms”, along its aged bare branches.  It's damaged trunk, became covered with “knitted wool bark”.  Scores of knitters from around the world, had sent knitted cherry blossoms to hang from its branches.  Scores of volunteers came on Sunday, to help decorate the tree with the “blossoms” and the “bark”. 

A fire truck parked in the lane behind the house, and firemen on the large ladder, helped to hang strings of blossoms along the tallest branches.  Children helped attach blossoms to the tree trunk.  Photographers gathered to take pictures of the strange site.  Reporters came to interview the creators of this project.

It is an old and diseased cherry tree in the lane at 1450 West 64th Ave.  It probably should have died by now… because it hadn't blossomed in years until the house was saved from demolition in 2006 and purchased by The Land Conservancy of BC.  It is the childhood home of famed author Joy Kogawa. It was the only home she knew until the age of 6, when her family was sent off to the Internment Camps for Japanese Canadians, in 1942, during WW2.  It was still the only real house she had known when in 1947, all her family had lived in were shacks in the Internment Camps, even two years after when the families were not allowed to go back to their homes because they had been sold to help pay for the cost of their internment.

Many years later, when the family had been sent to work on beet farms, as part of the “dispersal program”, the young Joy Kogawa still dreamed about the big house in Vancouver, with the big yard, and the big cherry tree, she used to climb with her older brother.

In 2002, now a long-time resident of Ontario, an aging Joy Kogawa drove through the old Marpole neighborhood with a friend, and discovered that her old family home was still standing… and it was for sale!  She didn't have enough money to purchase the house, so friends rallied and formed a “Save Kogawa House Committee”.  But not enough money was raised, and the house was purchased by an offshore owner and turned into a boarding house for renters.

In 2005, a demolition permit was applied for at Vancouver City Hall, and a group of activists rallied to help save the house.  The demolition permit was temporarily halted.  Letters of support came from writing and writer associations across Canada.  The Land Conservancy of BC, stepped in to help the revived “Save Kogawa House Committee” succeed in raising funds, and negotiate with the owners of the house, until it was saved in 2006.

Five years went by, which saw author readings at the house, and the establishment of a Writer-in-Residence program.  Joy Kogawa's elder brother, now a retired Anglican Minister, came from Seattle to see the house he hadn't seen in 65 years.


knitters can crocheters Deb Martin, Mary Novik and photographer Lydia.

In 2011, a yarn bombing project started.  (more later)

Knitter Cyndy at the dining room covered with yarn and cherry blossoms, inside Kogawa House.


MVI_0583 Click here for video
Video of Firemen walking along ladder and hanging strands of “knitted cherry blossoms” to the Cherry Tree.


Leanne Prain and Druanne attach “the knitted bark” to the tree.

MVI_0237 click here to see video

artist Leanne Prain co-author of “Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and
Knit Graffiti” with Mandy Moore, gives a quick interview at the Kogawa
House Cherry Tree project to Todd Wong.

Deb Martin holds up a strand as she unravels them and prepares to hang them from the tree.

Monica Miller with the almost completed project at the end of the day…



Kogawa House Cherry tree will be “Yarn-bombed” tomorrow as hundreds of knitted “cherry blossoms” will cover the tree

A Long-Awaited Hug for Kogawa House Cherry Tree

Love pours down on Joy Kogawa’s cherry tree

Sometimes all you have to do is ask. Earlier this winter
volunteers at Historic Joy Kogawa House asked knitters from across
Vancouver to help them cheer up the dying cherry tree that stands just
outside the back gate at 1450 West 64th Avenue in Vancouver.

“The 60-year-old tree was leaking sap, branches had been snapped
by passing trucks—it really looked sad this winter,” said Ann-Marie
Metten, executive director of the writing program that welcomes writers
to live and write at the house for three months each year.

But soon the tree will be a cloud of pink blossoms and an early
sign of spring. On Sunday, March 6, 2 to 3:30pm, local knit graffiti
artists Leanne Prain and Mandy Moore, authors of Yarn Bombing: The
Art of Knit and Crochet Graffiti
(Arsenal, 2010), will cover the
tree with knitted blossoms. A fire truck and fire fighters from Fire
Hall No. 22 will be on hand to lift the writers into the tree so they
can safely sew blossoms in place.

Knitters from across Greater Vancouver have come together to
knit and crochet pink blossoms over the past two months. Knit-ins have
filled the tiny living room of the 1912 bungalow that Joy Kogawa writes
about in her children’s picture book, Naomi’s Tree, a story of
friendship, forgiveness, remembering, and love.

A knit-in Monday night in Council Chambers at Vancouver City
Hall had volunteers sitting in Councillors’ chairs as they spun pink
yarn into delicate blossoms. Young knitters at Bowen Island Community
School crafted beautiful blossoms under the guidance of local knitter
Anne Mann, who brought friends in to help the students with their

Blossoms have arrived in packages from Oregon and California,
from across Canada, and from as far away as Kingscliff, New South Wales.
“The most rewarding moment was when three small children arrived at the
house and lifted a branch full of blossoms from the hatchback of their
mother’s car,” Metten says. The little cherry tree survived yesterday’s
wind and rain, and stands planted in the front garden at the house.

It is the mother tree standing behind the house that on Sunday
will show signs of the love that knitters and writers have showered upon

Media interviews with the knit graffiti artists are welcome
before Sunday’s event. Thanks to Shaw Multicultural Channel, our media


Authors arrive; we orient them to their locations in the house and outside at
the tree

Fire truck and fire fighters arrive; we set them in place at the cherry tree

People begin to arrive. They visit the cherry tree and then gather in the
living room to sew cherry blossoms into chains

Writers start reading while knitters are working. Let’s call this part of the
program “Lit and Knit”—they take turns reading from their work while people sew
blossoms together; then they take a turn outside sewing blossoms onto the tree?
Four writers—40 or 50 minutes

Everyone outside to see cherry tree work in progress

Thank-yous and wrap-up. Attendees encouraged to become members and make

Cleanup and event ends


Yarnbombing at Historic Joy Kogawa House to make knitted blossoms on the cherry tree

Knitted cherry blossoms to cover cherry tree at Historic Joy Kogawa House – come help!

Yarn bombing at Historic Joy Kogawa House
Pink cherry blossoms are being knitted to cover the cherry tree at Historic Joy Kogawa House.  In the photo above, the pinkness of the yarn is compared to the cherry blossoms on the cover of Joy Kogawa's children's story “Naomi's Tree, cover art by Ruth Ohi.- photo courtesy of Jeff Christenson

The Historic Joy Kogawa House Society—with Vancouver authors Mandy
Moore and Leanne Prain—yarn bomb Joy's cherry tree

Momentum and knitted cherry blossoms are growing for the yarn bombing project at Historic Joy Kogawa House.

Here's the invite from

Help writing blossom at Historic Joy Kogawa House! Join Leanne
Prain and Mandy Moore, co-authors of the book Yarn
Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti

You are invited to come and knit or crochet pink cherry blossoms to
help cover this historic tree, whose story is told in Joy Kogawa’s Naomi’s
, a picture book about friendship. Knitters and crocheters of
all levels are welcome to attend these FREE events.

Join one of these two community knit-ins at the Historic Joy Kogawa
House, 1450 West 64th Avenue, Vancouver, on:

Saturday, February 5, 2 to 3:30pm

Or help to stitch all of the cherry blossoms into place at Historic
Joy Kogawa House on:

Sunday, March 6, 2 to 3:30pm

Leanne and Mandy will entertain stitchers with daring tales of yarn
bombing feats from around the world, books will be available for sale
and signing, and refreshments will be served. Yarn and needles will be
provided; however, donations of pink yarn are appreciated!

Can’t make it to the event? Mail in your knitted or crocheted cherry
blossoms to be added to the tree, as follows:

Historic Joy Kogawa House

1450 West 64th Avenue

Vancouver, B.C. V6P 2N4

Or drop your blossoms in the covered bin you’ll find just down the
steps from the sidewalk in front of the house at 1450 West 64th Avenue.
Submissions will be accepted up until March 1, 2011. All cherry blossoms
should be made out of pink yarn. Patterns to use are available here.

For more information see our Facebook page or visit

(Arsenal Pulp
Press), as we cover the Joy Kogawa cherry tree in hundreds of knitted

Here is a wonderful blog article by Monica Miller @

And an article in the Vancouver Courier newspaper.

and blossoms

Vancouver Courier
Help writing blossom at Historic Joy Kogawa
. Join Leanne Prain and Mandy Moore, co-authors of the book
Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit

Poetry + Christmas at Kogawa House with George McWhirter, Christine Lowther and Joy Kogawa

Poets George McWhirter, Christine Lowther
and Joy Kogawa give a special reading
at Kogawa House

2010_December_Kogawa_House 038
Joy Kogawa with Beth and Christine Lowther… old friends reunited. – photo Todd Wong

It was a special Christmas present for supporters of Kogawa House, when author/poet Joy Kogawa spoke to Christine and Beth, the daughters of her long deceased friend and fellow poet, Pat Lowther.  Joy spoke of light and dark, ugliness and beauty, of carrying things in our lives that won't go away, and how we become stronger through our transitions.

The atmosphere sparkled with anticipation and friendly greetings.  Kogawa House board members came early to set up food and drinks.  Supporters of Kogawa House came to witness a special event, and to come see a rare appearance of the house by Joy Kogawa.  Friends of Christine Lowther came as she launched her new book MY NATURE, and read poems from the book for the first time in Vancouver.  George McWhirter and his wife came because they love Kogawa House, and we love them.

Greetings and introductions were made by Todd Wong, president of Historic Kogawa House Society, he introduced the board members and thanked them for helping to create this special event, especially Ann-Marie Metten, the executive director, and chief volunteer.  Todd explained that this was a special one-of-a-kind event, because reunions were happening, new friendships were being made and first time events were going to happen.

Tamsin Baker, the Vancouver Area Manager for The Land Conservancy of BC spoke about the next stage for the house restorations.  She explained that heritage assessments had been done by Donald Luxton and Associates, and we were ready to move towards a restoration of the main floor.  The idea is to re-create and restore features of the house to what it was like when a 6 year old Joy Kogawa lived in the house with her older brother and parents, before they were sent off to internment camps in the BC Interior during WW2.  Tamsin also shared with the audience that City of Vancouver has agreed to a grant for $25,000 if we can secure matching funds.  2011 will be exciting, as we have waited four years since the purchase of Kogawa House, to be able to take out the added bathroom to restore the size of the living room, and to return the French doors to the Music Room, also to help enhance event space, and to restore the house, prior to renovations by the last owner.

George McWhirter was the first poet to read.  Todd and George spoke about the first time they met, right after George had been named Poet Laureate of Vancouver in 2007, and Todd had invited him to speak at the 2007 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Dinner, that Todd organizes each year as a shared fundraiser for Kogawa House.

George read two poems from The Anachronicles, a collection that moves backwards and forwards through time. reimagining the West Coast, from the view of the Spanish explorers as they explore and see the future simultaneously.   McWhirter prefaced his reading by talking about the magnificent sockeye salmon that happened in the fall, and how life must have been like for the First Nations with such bounty.  The poem is also cheeky, because it imagines that the Spaniards comment on the the beach where the movie 10 was filmed, and also about Bo Derek.

2010_December_Kogawa_House 005
Christine Lowther reads at Kogawa House, while Angela Mairead and George McWhirter look on – photo Todd Wong

2010_December_Kogawa_House 003

Christine Lowther explained that she lives outside of Tofino, on a float home, and so she writes about Nature a lot.  She described the beauty of the last unpaved road in Tofino, and the sealife and beaches.

2010_December_Kogawa_House 014
Joy speaks about light and dark, and how it's important to acknowledge the ugliness sometimes.  It was a very thoughtful and emotional moment as she channeled the role of sage, as she spoke with the audience.  The subtext is the internment of the Japanese Canadians, and the untimely death of Pat Lowther.  Joy made the transition seemlessly to say “Now we are in this house.  And it's saved.  And we are happy.  And our joy has come through our tears.”

2010_December_Kogawa_House 011

Joy read a poem from the anthology Verse Map of Vancouver, edited by George McWhirter.  George explained that after the house had been saved.  Joy sent out an email expressing her happiness.  McWhirter saw the poetic potential of the words… and arranged it by lines.  This was the first time that Joy had read this poem in public.  A magic moment.  Happy Birthday House!

Joy Kogawa to recieve the Order of the Rising Sun, today in Vancouver

CIMG0190 by Toddish McWong

Joy Kogawa will recieve the
Order of the Rising Sun for her contribution to the understanding and
preservation of Japanese
Canadian history. So glad to be a part of
Joy's life, and to have Joy in my life! 🙂

I first met Joy Kogawa when she gave a reading at Expo 86.  It was soon after her first novel Obasan was published, and it would still be 2 more years until Japanese Canadians received Parliamentary Redress for the internment and confiscation of their properties during WW2.

I got to know Joy during the 2005 One Book One Vancouver program that featured Obasan, as the book for all Vancouverites to read.  By September, I was drawn into a lead role for the Save Kogawa House campaign, as her childhood home became threatened with an application for demolition.

In a few short weeks, together with Ann-Marie Metten in Vancouver and Anton Wagner in Toronto, we mobilized our communities and brought attention to the threat to Joy's childhood home, started a fundraising campaign, and received lots of community and media attention.  The Land Conservancy of BC stepped in to help purchase and finance the house, and today I am the President of the Historic Joy Kogawa House Society and director on the board for The Land Conservancy of BC.

Here's the Vancouver Sun story.

Vancouver novelist Joy Kogawa will be receiving the Order of
the Rising Sun from Japan for her contribution to the understanding and
preservation of Japanese Canadian history. Kogawa is author of several
books, including Obasan — her account of being interned as a
Japanese-Canadian during the Second World War — and the children’s
version, Naomi’s Road. Kogawa is also a member of the Order of Canada
and of the Order of British Columbia.
The Order of the Rising Sun
also commends Kogawa’s promotion of the friendship between Japan and
Canada. Kogawa is the president of the Canada-Japan Friendship
Japan’s Consul-general in Vancouver Hideki Ito will
host a conferment ceremony in Vancouver for Kogawa on Friday, November
Kogawa's childhood home in Marpole was saved in 2006 by a
national campaign headed by The Land Conservancy of B.C., and it stands
as a cultural and historical reminder of the expropriation of property
that Canadians of Japanese descent experienced after the bombing of
Pearl Harbor in 1941.


Nancy Lee at Joy Kogawa House, final event of the writing for Social Change reading series and Kogawa House writer-in-residence program

Nancy Lee reading and interview at Joy Kogawa House on Monday, June 28

Please RSVP at

The time with Nancy and her husband John has been a great experience, as she has brought her insightful thought, probing questions, and wonderful wit to Joy Kogawa House.  Additionally, she hosted a memoir writing workshop on Saturday June 26th.

Please join us for the in the intimate living room at Historic Joy Kogawa
House for the final event of a successful series of small salon gatherings with five writers who use
literature to call for social change and justice and as a tool for
social transformation.

Five Mondays (and a Sunday) This Spring

  1. Joan Macleod, Monday, April 19
  2. Anosh Irani, Sunday, May 2
  3. Steven Galloway, Monday, May 17
  4. Karen Connelly, Monday, June 14
  5. Nancy Lee, Monday, June 28
  • All conversations begin at 7:30 p.m. on a Monday, except the one
    with Anosh Irani, which begins at 3:30 p.m. on a Sunday.
  • Historic Joy Kogawa House is located in the Marpole
    neighbourhood of Vancouver at 1450 West 64th Avenue (two blocks east of
  • Admission by donation
  • Books will be available for sale and signing by the authors
  • Please RSVP at
  • Thanks to the Canada Council Author Reading and Author Residencies
    programs for funds to host these writers at Joy House