Category Archives: One Book One Vancouver: Joy Kogawa's Obasan

Ann-Marie Fleming's new movie plays at VIFF

Ann-Marie Fleming is the brilliant animator/film
maker and graphic artist of “The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam” – which
we featured at the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year
Dinner a few years ago….

Ann-Marie's great-grandfather was the legendary vaudeville magician, Long Tack Sam.  Her great-grandmother was his Austrian wife.  Her family ancestry comes from around the world, and she describes herself as hybrid – both DNA-wise, historically and culturally.

Check out the link to the Vancouver Courier article:

Ann Marie Fleming strums her uke prior to the Vancouver 
International Film Festival, which screens her animated short I Was A 
Child of Holocaust Survivors Oct. 11.

Ann Marie Fleming strums her uke
prior to the Vancouver International Film Festival, which screens her
animated short I Was A Child of Holocaust Survivors Oct. 11.

Photograph by: Dan Toulgoet, Vancouver courier

Ann Marie Fleming is no stranger to the Vancouver
International Film Festival both as a past volunteer and a filmmaker
whose works have included feature films (The French Guy), documentaries
(The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam) and animated shorts such as this
year's I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors. The talented artist and
aspiring ukulele player talked to the Courier about her latest film,
her eclectic background and why “tongue on a hot rock” is not a

1. What about Bernice Eisenstein's memoir I Was a Child of Holocaust
Survivors made you want to adapt it into an animated short?

It's an amazing book. b) I was asked to. c) I thought I could bring
something to it.

2. Was there anything about the subject matter
you related to?

There is something everyone can relate to: it's
about family. For me, I'm constantly interested in the continuing
legacy of WWII, the burden of the history, cross-over immigration
patterns and cultural diaspora, older generations not telling their
stories-but-somehow-you're-still-living-in-them, trying to find your
own way. I think it has universal relevance and resonance.

Your background is quite diverse (born in Okinawa, of Chinese and
Australian parentage, your great grandfather was a travelling Chinese
vaudevillian acrobat and magician). How does this inform or influence
your work?

Well, I'm kind of a hybrid, and so is the work I
do–thematically and technically. And I am very curious about people's
histories and backgrounds and what that represents in geopolitical
terms. I'm such a cultural mash-up that I can relate to just about
anybody's story. Six degrees of Kevin Bacon.

Read the rest of the article at the Vancouver Courier article:

20th Anniversary of Japanese-Canadian redress: “Friendship Tree” plaque installed at Vancouver City Hall for the “Kogawa House cherry tree graft”

Kogawa House cherry tree at Vancouver city hall is given a plaque on the 20th anniversary of the Japanese-Canadian redress.

Cellphone photo of plaque in place at Vancouver City Hall, Sunday, September 21, 2008

“Friendship Tree” plaque at Vancouver City Hall for the “Kogawa House cherry tree” graft – photo Ann-Marie Metten.

Sixty-six years ago, in 1942, Japanese-Canadians were “evacuated” from Canada's Pacific coast and sent to internment camps for the duration of WW2.

in 1981, Joy Kogawa wrote her first novel Obasan, the first novel to address the issue of the Japanese-Canadian internment.  Joy Kogawa would receive the Order of Canada in 1986 for her literary acheivement, what Roy Miki called
“a novel that I believe is the most important literary work of the past 30 years for understanding Canadian history.”

2005 was a busy year for Joy Kogawa.  Obasan was the “One Book One Vancouver” selection for the Vancouver Public Library.  “Naomi's Road”, a mini-opera based on her children's novel debuted by the Vancouver Opera Touring Ensemble.   And the childhood home of Joy Kogawa, which she had always hoped her family could return to after the war, was threatened with demolition.

And on November 1st,at Vancouver City Hall, there was the Joy Kogawa Cherry Tree Planting”.
Then city councilor Jim Green accompanied Joy Kogawa in turning the sod.  Jim had helped Joy take the original grafts from the tree a year before.  They were accompanied by Vancouver chief librarian Paul Whitney, and Vancouver Opera managing director James Wright.

On November 3rd, a presentation was made to Vancouver City Council to do whatever they could to stop or delay the proposed demolition of Joy Kogawa's childhood home.  An unprecedented motion was passed to delay the processing of the demolition permit by 3 months.  read
Kogawa House: Vancouver Council votes unaminously to create 120 day delay to demolition application

Now there is a plaque to officially recognize and commemorate the significance of this young cherry tree.  It is grafted from the original cherry tree from Joy Kogawa's childhood home.

Joy Kogawa with City Librarian Paul Whitney, Opera Managing Director James Wright, and City Councillor Jim Green – photo Deb Martin

November 3rd, a presentation was made to Vancouver City Council to do
whatever they could to stop or delay the proposed demolition of Joy
Kogawa's childhood home.  An unprecedented motion was passed to delay
the processing of the demolition permit by 3 months.  read Kogawa House: Vancouver Council votes unaminously to create 120 day delay to demolition application.

In May of 2006, The Land Conservancy of BC purchased the house at 1450 West 64th Ave, to help preserve the childhood home of author Joy Kogawa.

In April 2008, Joy released a children's picture book titled Naomi's Tree.  It encompasses the stories of the WW2 internment, and also the saving of her childhood home, while reflecting on the friendship of a young child and cherry try as they both age and meet again.  This book tells the story of the “Friendship Tree,”  Joy Kogawa reads “Naomi's Tree” at Vancouver Kidsbooks for the Vancouver book launch.

It seems very fitting that a plaque at Vancouver City Hall be placed at the baby cherry tree on the 20th anniversary of the Japanese-Canadian redress settlement.

A Place of Compassion: Joy Kogawa's Dream Vancouver statement

A Place of Compassion:
Joy Kogawa's Dream Vancouver statement

Joy Kogawa holds up her arms to embrace and support everything she loves in the world
– photo Todd Wong

Joy Kogawa, author of Obasan, has written A Place of Compassion for her submission  to the Dream Vancouver conference and website, organized by Think City. While Joy will not be attending the conference, I will be as one of the directors of the Joy Kogawa House Society

Dream Vancouver is an all-day conference which will take
participants from their dreams about Vancouver to a possible agenda for
change. The conference will be facilitated by Bliss Browne, internationally-renowned speaker and president of Imagine Chicago.  Former City of Vancouver Co-Director of Current Planning Larry Beasley is key note speaker. 
Ms. Browne will then facilitate a discussion-based session which will
take participants through a series of questions designed to bring them
to a collective vision of what the city could be. 

To attend you must register, click here.

Registration: 9:30 am – 10:00 am

Conference: 10:00 am – 3:30 pm

Reception: 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm

Location: Jewish Community Centre, 950 W. 41st Avenue, Vancouver (at Oak Street).

photo courtesy Joy Kogawa

Is Joy a Vancouver dreamer?  She was born in Vancouver in 1935.  During WW2 in 1942, when she was 6 years old, her family was removed from Vancouver and sent to internment camps for Japanese-Canadians.  She forever dreamed about returning to the the house in Vancouver's Marpole neighborhood, even after the Canadian government confiscated the property of the Japanese-Canadian internment victims, and resettled them to work as labourers on Alberta beet farms.  She lives mostly in Toronto but returns to Vancouver often, and has great hopes for Vancouver as a city, and as a cultural entity.

Joy Kogawa and her brother Rev. Timothy Nakayama, at the opening event for Obasan, the 2005 choice for One Book One Vancouver at the Vancouver Public Library – photo Todd Wong

Joy is acknowledged as one of Canada's most important writers in the 20th Century for her ground breaking novel Obasan – a story about the impact of the internment on the Japanese Canadian community.  Since May 2005, when I met Joy, at the first Obasan event for One Book, One Vancouver event at the Vancouver Public Library, our developing friendship was been a wild ride as I became a key player on the Save Kogawa House committee (See my articles on Joy Kogawa & Kogawa House).

I have witnessed Joy speak in numerous circumstances and she always seems to have an unwavering position that calls for peace and compassion in so many circumstances.  It embraces her anti-war stance, the Japanese-Canadian redress, South African apartheid, the Chinese-Canadian head tax issue, Japanese atrocities against China in WW2, the history of her ancestor's home of Okinawa, the naming of the 401 Burrard building after Howard Green.  Joy doesn't look to find blame for right or wrong, she looks to find resolution.

Kogawa and Todd Wong at the 2006 Canadian Club Vancouver's annual Order
of Canada / Flag Day luncheon.  Joy was key note speaker, and Todd was
one of the event organizers – photo Deb Martin

Vancouver has long had a reputation for a history with peace activism.  This is part of our social-cultural make up, and can be embodied through social policy initiatives.  Perhaps it has become such because so many people have come to Vancouver after leaving war, destruction, starvation, revolution, upheaval in their home lands.

Joy has given Dream Vancouver a very apt and fitting dream statement to find reconciliation and understanding “within and between the
faiths, between rich and poor, among immigrant groups, in established
neighbourhoods, in the Downtown Eastside, among those who are still
suffering from unresolved injustices of the near and distant past can
come to healing and hope and inner freedom.”

Kogawa and children from Tomsett Elementary School in Richmond.  After
seeing the Vancouver Opera Touring Ensembles production of “Naomi's
Road”, the children were inspired to helps save Kogawa House from
demolition.  Joy and the children stand in front of the house for their own private tour and reading event. – photo Joan Young

On November 10th, come to the 2nd open house event at Kogawa House.
Sunday, 3-5pm.  1450 West 64th Ave. (just East of Granville St.)
Admission is by donation.  Proceeds go to restoring historic Joy Kogawa House, now owned by The Land Conservancy of BC.

A Place of Compassion

Joy Kogawa, poet and novelist: The
dream I have for this west-coast city on the edge of the peaceable
ocean is the dream I have for the world – a dream of peace. What better
time than this to abolish war as we face our common planetary fate?

We have choices – to continue blithely on our way, fighting and
devouring one another for the rest of our dwindling days, or we can
individually and collectively lay down our weapons and practice the
ways of truth and reconciliation, cooperation and peace.

In a city where east-west faces and races meet and mix, where
cultures both clash and blend, the ways of peace can be cultivated,
watered, nurtured and the seeds of that action can fly to the farthest
corners of our hearts and the world.

As a Japanese Canadian, I have welcomed conversations with two
granddaughters of Howard Green, the politician whose public words
against us during the Second World War were dreaded in our community.
If they can seek to make peace with us on behalf of the grandfather
they loved, ought we not to walk with them? What an opportunity for
peace making and for walking on.

And ought we not, as Canadian descendants from Japan, to stand with
those Canadian descendants of China, who seek a fulsome parliamentary
acknowledgment from the country of our ancestors for the horrors their
ancestors faced in the Rape of Nanking? Or is it our choice to turn
aside and say, “These are no concerns of ours.” I believe that the
morally appropriate action is to respond to those who suffer and who
call our names.

But it is not for me to say what is right for anyone else. We are
each required to struggle with our own conscience and to respond to the
many voices that call us.

Beyond the Book: a research study on “One Book” programs

Beyond the Book: a research study on “One Book” programs

Beyond the Book website lists information about the trans-national phenomenon of
“mass reading events,” our name for book events that are meant to bring
readers of one city, region or nation together by reading and sharing
the same book.

I was invited to meet with two of the researchers, North American director DeNel Rehberg Sedo (Mount Saint Vincent University, Canada), and Anouk Lang post-doctoral fellow.  I quickly contacted Larry Wong, as we were the community representatives/experts on the inaugural One_Book_One_Vancouver program in 2002 which featured The Jade Peony by Wayson Choy. We were great additions to the OBOV committee as Larry was a childhood friend of Wayson, and I was a vice-president of Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop, and also volunteering with Asian Heritage Month in Vancouver.

Here's a picture of (l-r): Larry Wong, Wayson Choy, Anouk Lang, Todd Wong (me) and DeNel Rehberg Sedo – photo courtesy of Larry Wong.

The Beyond the Book project seems to be a fascinating study of the mass book clubs for an entire city, such as One_Book_One_Vancouver, CBC Radio's Canada Reads, Seattle Reads, and One Book One Chicago.

It was a great privilege to be part of the inaugural One Book One Vancouver project.  I was invited by Community Programming Director Janice Douglas.  Also on the committee was Corrine Durston, then the Division Head Librarian for VPL Popular Reading, and Lisl Jauk, manager for The Word on the Street Book and Magazine Festival. It was an excellent exercise in community networking, as early meetings also included the VPL communications staff, as well as a representative from Douglas and McIntyre Pulishing, which published The Jade Peony.

Our discussions acknowledge the incredible creative energy of our inaugural commitee, which recognized that we were on an adventure and creating something brand new, never before done in Canada.  We created programming to help make The Jade Peony come alive. DeNel really liked my phrase “to turn the book inside out.”  Larry highlighted “The Jade Peony Walking Tour” that was created by Vancouver historia John Atkins, and was organized through the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Gardens.

Wayson Choy spoke about the One Book program from an author's experience.  During the program, Wayson was simply amazed as The Jade Peony, was pushed back up on the BC Book Publishers'  “Best Seller” lists.  Wayson stated that OBOV (Jade Peony) committe was an important and unique program, devoid of egos, but especially strong because of the presence of community activists, and strong connections throughout the community.

I emphasized how incredible the event “Dim Sum with Ways Choy & Friends” was.  I had scouted the Floata Chinese restaurant as the best possible site.  Larry invited friends of Wayson's who had been the basis for some of the composite characters in the story.  As well, Larry showed a video greeting from author Carol Shields, who had been one of Wayson's teachers at the UBC School of Creative Writing.  I also recounted setting up reading events titled “Stories from Chinatown” featuring authors Paul Yee, SKY Lee, and Jim Wong-Chu, as well as “More Stories from Chinatown” featuring poet Sean Gunn, historian enthusiast Dr. Wallance Chung, and Roy Mah – founder of Chinatown News.

I also commented about the programming for the 2005 One Book One Vancouver selection, which was Joy Kogawa's novel, Obasan.  Early in January, 2005, I wrote a letter on the Kogawa Homestead website stating 20 reasons why Obasan should be the 2005 OBOV choice.  By September 2005, I was an active member and coordinator for the Save Kogawa House campaign to rescue Joy Kogawa's childhood home from demolition, and to turn it into a national historic landmark for all Canadians to share.

check out my articles on the OBOV program featuring Joy Kogawa's novel Obasan.

Ujjal Dosanjh supports the preservation of Kogawa House

Ujjal Dosanjh supports the preservation of Kogawa House

This morning the Save Kogawa House committee met with federal Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh who is MP for Vancouver South which includes the child hood home of Joy Kogawa at 1450 West 64th Avenue.

Both Minister Dosanjh and Mrs. Dosanjh were very warm and welcoming to
our committee.  The Save Kogawa House Committee was represented by
co-ordinators Ann-Marie Metten and Todd Wong (me), Ellen Crowe-Swords,
and Steve Turnbull.  Joy Kogawa also accompanied us, and former
City Councillor Ellen Woodsworth accompanied us as an advocate.

Our background information gave him the importance of
preserving this house, as he was unaware that not only was the 1915
house one of the last remaining original Marpole homes, it is the only
identified house in Vancouver that had been confiscated by the Canadian
government due to the internment of Japanese Canadians in 1942.

Minister Dosanjh was very supportive of our efforts to save and
preserve Kogawa House, but was cautious of what he could commit to
because of the uncertainty whether he would be re-elected or
re-instated in cabinet.

In our discussions, we talked about how previous 2003 efforts by the
Kogawa House committee to obtain Canada Parks heritage status had been
turned down, because the person in questin being honoured must have
been dead for 30 years.  Dosanjh agreed that the 1942 Japanese
Canadian internment would qualify as an event to be recognized and

We were very specific that we were not asking for further redress for
the Japanese Canadian internment, but to recognize Joy Kogawa's
achivements as an important Canadian author and literary figure. 
He did share to having purchased a copy of “Obasan” a number of years
ago, but also admitted to not having finished reading the book. 

We told him about the Vancouver Opera's
production of Naomi's Road, currently touring schools in British
Columbia, and volunteered to find him a performance at a school in his
Vancouver Riding for him to see in the new Year.  Dosanjh listened
attentively when we shared with him, how the opera has become a
catalyst for healing in both the Japanese Canadian and Canadian
communities, as so many audience members have been emotionally moved by
it's performances.

As well, we shared with the Minister that the January 22, 2006, Gung
Haggis Fat Choy dinner will share fundraising proceeds with the Save
Kogawa House campaign, and invited him to the spectacular multicultural
event.  I pointed out that my opera soprano friend Veera devi Khare
had performed at the 2005 dinner, and that I had helped recommend and
arrange for Veera to perform at his 2004 fundraiser event.

And we invited him to listen to CBC Radio Sounds Like Canada on Dec.
26th, as Shelagh Rogers (2006 GHFC co-host) will interview Joy about
the Save Kogawa House campaign, and her literary career.

Minister Dosanjh was clearly moved by our presentation, committment to
multiculturalism, and enthusiasm for turning Kogawa House into a
writing centre for the benefit of all Canadians, while simultaneouly
paying respect to an important time in our history.  He next spoke
about how Western Canada has been short-changed in Canada Council
grants for the arts.  He said he was shocked at the statistics,
when he discovered that BC and the Maritimes were under-represented, as
most Canada Council grants went to Ontario and Quebec.  He vowed
to help us in whatever ways possible given the constraints of the
present election season, and noting that after the election on Jan 23,
we would only have about 60 days left to save Kogawa House from

We left the meeting feeling that while we had Dosanjh's ear, clearly he
is in election mode.  But he gave us some good directions to move
towards, particularly that he would put in a word for us with Carole
Taylor, the MLA for the Marpole neighborhood, and coincidently the
Finance Minister of the provincial Liberal government.

We were therefore thrilled to later learn that Minister Dosanjh would
like to have a quick and timely follow up meeting with us on
Wednesday.  Since it will be on December 21st, Winter solstice, we
are hoping our meeting will be a turning point for the Save Kogawa
House campaign as we are presently trying to secure government funding
for the project.

The Land Cconservancy joins community efforts to save Joy Kogawa's childhood home

TLC Joins Community Efforts to Save Joy Kogawa's Childhood Home


December 2, 2005

VANCOUVER, BC – Community efforts to save Joy Kogawa’s
childhood home from the wrecking ball moved into a new phase today as
The Land Conservancy of British Columbia (TLC) has agreed to lead the
campaign to acquire the house and secure its protection.

“The Kogawa house is a very important part of British
Columbia’s heritage,” said TLC’s Executive Director Bill Turner, “and
we are determined to see it protected.  As of today, we have only 118
days to raise the funds needed to achieve this.  We will need to raise
$1.25 million to ensure the future of this site, and we’ll be getting
to work immediately.”

The Kogawa house is located in the Marpole neighbourhood of
Vancouver, and was the childhood home of noted Canadian author Joy
Kogawa.  She and her family were removed from the home in 1942 as part
of the Government’s policy of internment of Canadians of Japanese
ancestry during World War II.” Kogawa’s celebrated novel Obasan
is a powerful and heart-rending story of that internment and features
the house prominently as part of her childhood recollections.  It has
been listed by the Literary Review of Canada as one of the 100 most important Canadian books ever written.

Inspired by the Save Kogawa House Committee, many community
groups such as the Vancouver Heritage Foundation, Heritage Vancouver
and the Vancouver Alliance for Arts and Culture and other cultural
organizations like the Writers’ Union of Canada and the Federation of
BC Writers have come together to support the protection of Kogawa
House.  On November 3 they were able to convince the City of Vancouver
to delay a demolition permit on the house for 120 days (effective
November 30) to give the community time to raise the funds to buy it. 
This followed the symbolic planting at City Hall of a graft from the
cherry tree at Kogawa House, as Mayor Larry Campbell proclaimed Obasan Cherry Tree Day on November 1.

“I am so touched by the way the community has rallied to protect
this house that holds such symbolic importance for me – and for so many
others,” said Joy Kogawa.  “I just wonder when I'm going to wake up
from this dream of miracles.”

Committee spokesperson Ann-Marie Metten said “We are delighted
that The Land Conservancy is taking on this project.  As British
Columbia’s National Trust they have the expertise to know what needs to
be done and the ability to do it.  They have a great record of success
in similar projects around the Province and we all believe that by
working together we will be successful here too.”

TLC’s Turner said that the fundraising campaign is underway. 
“We are calling on everyone who has been moved by Joy Kogawa’s writing
to contribute to saving the house.  Your contribution will not only
recognize and honour Joy’s accomplishments but will also provide the
opportunity for a writers-in-residence program that will enable a new
generation of writers to be inspired by her work.  We are also calling
on everyone who has been touched by Canada’s past treatment of
communities such as the Japanese-Canadian community.  This house will
stand as a symbol of the wrongs that were committed in the past, but
also as a symbol of what a community can achieve when it pulls

Donations can be made to The Land Conservancy through our website at, or by calling our Lower Mainland Office at (604) 733-2312 or our Head Office in Victoria at (250) 479-8053.


Contacts:   For TLC   Bill Turner   (250) 213-1090
  Tamsin Baker   (604) 722-2313
  For the Save Kogawa House Committee
  Anne-Marie Metten   (604) 263-6586
  Todd Wong   (604) 240-7090
  Anton Wagner   (416) 863-1209

Joy Kogawa opposes Bill C-333 – ACE program “so-called” Chinese head tax redress

Joy Kogawa opposes Bill C-333 – ACE program “so-called Chinese head tax redress package”

Hi Todd,

is almost exactly what happened with Japanese Canadian redress. My
new/old novel, “Emily Kato” (a re-write of Itsuka and just published)
describes the panic when  government tried to pull the rug out from the
redress movement. But we did stop it.

a copy of the letter that Tam asked for and that went off this morning.
It may not make it, of course, into the Globe & Mail. 


Letters to the editor
Re: Money for grievances, Nov. 19.

Callwood, Dr. Joseph Wong, Michele Landsberg, and many other people of
conscience have added their support to the Ontario Coalition of Chinese
Head Tax Payers and Families plus the Chinese Canadian National
Council. The strenuous efforts of these organizations to have the Head
Tax redress resolved in an honourable manner have thus far been
thwarted by the federal government.

decades ago I was passionately involved in the Japanese Canadian
struggle for redress for the actions against my community during and
after World War II. The aspect of the struggle that was for me the most
arduous was the endeavour to have the government recognize the
legitimacy of our national organization. More than once in its haste
and impatience to resolve the issue, events were staged by government
officials to undercut the community's need for an inclusive, open and
healing process.

this same unseemly haste and disregard for the passions and needs of
the affected people are once more evident in the issue of the Chinese
Head Tax. Surely there is time enough to heed the many voices across
the country, pleading for the healing of those who were directly
affected and those who have been working across the country on this
matter for many years.

am reminded again as I was twenty years ago of the words of the prophet
Jeremiah. “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying
'Peace, Peace,' where there is no peace.”

Joy Kogawa

Naomi's Road – Community Concert at Nikkei Place Sat Nov 26

Naomi's Road – Community Concert at Nikkei Place Sat Nov 26

This Saturday, Naomi's Road, the Vancouver Opera
Touring Ensemble production of Joy Kogawa's children's story plays at
Nikkei Centre in Burnaby – just off Kingsway.

It's a wonderful production, full of hope and tears, great singing, staging and acting.

Click here to read my review of the opening weekend performance on Oct 1

Click here to read my review of the Nov 12 Save Kogawa House special Awareness concert

Saturday, November 26, 2005 1:30 pm
Nikkei Place
6688 Southoaks Crescent
Burnaby, BC
Tickets: Youth $10, Adults $15. Festival seating.
Ticket sales: in person at the National Nikkei Heritage Centre after November 1,
book by phone (604-777-7000),
or at the door on the day of the event.

Joy Kogawa is one of Almanc's 100 Greatest British Columbians

Joy Kogawa is listed in

Almanac's 100 Greatest British Columbians

This past week CBC Radio host Mark Forsythe of BC Almanac, has been promoting his new book Almanac's  100 Greatest British Columbians.  This is a BC Version of CBC television's The Greatest Canadian.

The names are all listed by categories with no numerical value.
BC's top ten literary writers include Joy Kogawa, George Bowering, Wayson Choy, Dorothy Livesay.

Other prominent Asian Canadians include Roy Miki, David Suzuki, Milton Wong, Yip Sang, Tong Louie, Wong Foon Sien, David Lam

The book is published by Harbour Publishing.

Fundraising Drive Launched for Joy Kogawa House

Fundraising Drive Launched for Joy Kogawa House

Organizers of the drive to preserve the childhood home of novelist and poet Joy Kogawa
were jubilant after Vancouver City Council voted unanimously on
November 3 to grant a 120-day demolition delay order to preserve the
home and to recognize its historical and cultural heritage. The four
month period will allow the Save Kogawa House
Committee to raise funds to purchase the property and convert it into a
major centre for Canadian and international writers.  

For Kogawa, the West 64th Avenue property became a symbol of lost hope
and happiness after Joy, then six years old, and her family were
removed from their home and interned in the Slocan Valley in 1942 as
part of the forced evacuations and internment of 21,000
Japanese-Canadians during World War II. Joy's family was never
compensated for the confiscation of their property. Their house and
personal belongings, like those of other internees, were auctioned off
at rock bottom prices by the government's “Custodian of Enemy Alien
Property” and the proceeds used to pay for the government's expenses in
running the internment camps.

The loss of the house and the dispersal of the Japanese Canadian
community until their civil rights were restored in 1949 inspired
Kogawa’s best-known novel, Obasan, winner of the Canadian Authors’
Association Book of the Year Award in 1981. Its adaptation for
children, Naomi’s Road, premiered as a Vancouver Opera
production on September 30th and visits more than 140 schools and
community centres from Vancouver Island to the Kootenays until May
2006. Roy Miki, 2003 Governor General's Award Winner for Poetry, has
called Obasan the most important literary work of the past 30 years for
understanding Canadian history.  In 2005 Obasan was selected by
the Vancouver Public Library for its One Book One Vancouver program, encouraging all Vancouverites to read this single book.

In her letter on behalf of the League of Canadian Poets, Mary Ellen
Csamer wrote Mayor Larry Campbell and the Vancouver City Councillors
that “The League of Canadian Poets, representing over 730 professional
poets across Canada, supports the effort to save Joy Kogawa's childhood
home on 1450 West 64th  Avenue in Vancouver from demolition, and
would like to encourage its conversion into a major writers centre for
Canadian and international writers. Just as Emily Carr’s home in
Victoria and Pierre Berton’s in the Yukon provide a unique sense of the
physical space that helped to define those artists, so this building
forms an important part of our collective cultural imagination. To
create a writers’ centre would be an appropriate and timely action,
which would draw national and international writers to the West Coast
for cultural stimulation and peaceful retreat.”

In addition to the League, the other writers’ organizations supporting
converting Kogawa House into a writers-in-residence centre include the
Writers Union of Canada, the Federation of BC Writers, the Playwrights
Guild of Canada, the Canadian Authors Association, the Periodical
Writers Association of Canada, PEN Canada, the Vancouver International
Writers and Readers Festival, the Canadian Society of Children’s
Authors, and the Asian Canadian Writers Workshop. The project has also
been endorsed by the Vancouver Public Library Board, Vancouver Opera,
the Alliance for Arts and Culture, Heritage Vancouver, the Land
Conservancy, the National Nikkei Museum and Heritage Centre, and the
National Association of Japanese Canadians.

The Save Kogawa House Committee is looking for one thousand individuals
to donate $100 each for the Joy Kogawa Writers-in Residence Centre but
would of course greatly welcome donations of all sizes. The Committee
is also targeting corporations, foundations and the federal government
for support.

Donations can be made through the Vancouver Heritage Foundation which
has established a Kogawa house rescue fund and will issue charitable
receipts. All donations to the rescue fund receive a tax receipt for
the full amount of the donation. Cheques should be made out to
“Vancouver Heritage Foundation” and mailed to the Vancouver Heritage
Foundation, 844 West Hastings St., Vancouver, B.C. V6C 1C8. Donors are
asked to indicate on the cheque memo line: “Save Kogawa House.” Donations can also be made on-line on the Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s website

Speaking at the Vancouver International Writers Festival on October 13,
Margaret Atwood declared, “The destruction of the Kogawa home would be
a great loss of cultural heritage for Vancouver, for British Columbia,
and for Canada. Although Canada scored high on the recent all-nations
report card, it scored low on culture, history and heritage. Why
destroy more of this precious asset?”