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Book Title: Obasan|
The author of the book: Joy Kogawa
Edition: De Geus
Date of issue: 1997
ISBN 13: 9789052264516
Loaded: 2517 times
Reader ratings: 3.7
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 6.18 MB
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The Government makes paper airplanes out of our lives and flies us out the windows. Some people return home. Some do not. War they all say, is war, and some people survive. Out of all the countries in the world, Canada is the one I have most seriously considered for emigration purposes. The stereotypes Americans have for that northern border are notorious; kind, peaceful, oh so funny with their maple syrup and their Mounties, Mounties being a nickname for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, shortened to RCMP and used with devastating effect within the pages of this book. As the popularly Socrates attributed quote exclaims, one that in actuality is not found within the realms of Plato's character craft of his esteemed teacher: I know that I know nothing.
The internment and systematic persecution of the Japanese people in both the United States and Canada is not a popular topic in literature. For every mountain of WWII, there is a granule such as this, yet another book that I wished had replaced one of the multiple Shakespeare's, Dickens', and all those other 'classics' stretching their claws out of their high and mighty grave. Leave me to discover those old and venerated folks on my own when I have the benefit of longer years and heavier thoughts; I'd rather I was led to works more of my own time, so that I may gain a better picture of the world currently around me before foraging in the dry and dusty tombs of my chosen calling.
I will not compare this crime against humanity to others, for that only paves the way to misunderstanding and rampant disrespect. I will lay it out as how it was told to me within this book; how the Japanese were exiled from their homes, how they had the choice of shoddy internment camps or the long voyage back to Japan, how their belongings were sold and their families torn to pieces and Canada methodically gouged out its heart and sloppily stitched it up, with boats and beets and hydrogen bombs. It is a story all too common in the ranks of nations no matter how democratically labeled, and the question is not of comparison to others, but that the tales, all of the tales, be told at all.
This tale is a deft and devious weaving of culture and of chaos, the memories of the young both convoluted and capricious when it comes to a parent's disappearance, a brother's avoidance, racism and abuse and ever the unexplained reasons for the change, the toil, the pain. Kodomo no tame; for the sake of the children, born to a peaceful melding of their family and their country, only to be wrested away on the backs of ostracization where white is supreme and board games decry the 'yellow peril'. Proof of loyalty of the people is changed to proof of betrayal by the government, where every step forward is two notches tightening of the noose and the facts are formulated into forms so brisk, so official, you would not believe the horror lying just beneath the printed surface. Ever the banality of evil, the crux of many a bureaucracy. Where do any of us come from in this cold country? Oh, Canada, whether it is admitted or not, we come from you we come from you. From the same soil, the slugs and slime and bogs and twigs and roots. We come from the country that plucks its people out like weeds and flings them into the roadside. We grow in ditches and sloughs, untended and spindly. We erupt in the valleys and mountainsides, in small towns and back alleys, sprouting upside down on the prairies, our hair wild as spiders' legs, our feet rooted nowhere. We grow where we are not seen, we flourish where we are not heard, the thick undergrowth of an unlikely planting. Where do we come from, Obasan? We come from cemeteries full of skeletons with wild roses in their grinning teeth. We come from our untold tales that wait for their telling. We come from Canada, this land that is like every land, filled with the wise, the fearful, the compassionate, the corrupt. Let the new flowers grow; our humanity lies in remembering the fruit that rotted and fell for the flowering.
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Read information about the authorJoy Kogawa was born in Vancouver in 1935 to Japanese-Canadian parents. During WWII, Joy and her family were forced to move to Slocan, British Columbia, an injustice Kogawa addresses in her 1981 novel, Obasan. Kogawa has worked to educate Canadians about the history of Japanese Canadians and she was active in the fight for official governmental redress.
Kogawa studied at the University of Alberta and the University of Saskatchewan. Her most recent poetic publication is A Garden of Anchors. The long poem, A Song of Lilith, published in 2000 with art by Lilian Broca, retells the story of Lilith, the mythical first partner to Adam.
In 1986, Kogawa was made a Member of the Order of Canada; in 2006, she was made a Member of the Order of British Columbia. In 2010, the Japanese government honored Kogawa with the Order of the Rising Sun "for her contribution to the understanding and preservation of Japanese Canadian history.
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