Joy Kogawa

Joy Kogawa was born in Vancouver in 1935 to Japanese-Canadian parents. During World War II, Joy and her family were forced to move to Slocan, British Columbia, an injustice Ms. Kogawa addresses in her 1981 novel Obasan. She has worked to educate Canadians about the history of Japanese Canadians and was active in the fight for official governmental redress. Ms. 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 Ms. Kogawa was made a Member of the Order of Canada, and in 2006 she was made a Member of the Order of British Columbia. In 2010 the Japanese government honored Ms. Kogawa with the Order of the Rising Sun "for her contribution to the understanding and preservation of Japanese Canadian history.” Ms. Kogawa currently lives in Toronto.

Updated July 2013

culture en

Speaking Up! Democracy, Justice, Dignity

Excerpt from "Gently to Nagasaki" (a work in progress) - Chapter 46

It was a quirky millisecond contact of eyes in the city of angels, city of strangers.

In 2011, I was in Los Angeles, attending an Asian American symposium. During a break before supper, Ray Hsu, a poet from Vancouver and I were exploring an area called Japan town. My first time there. Gift shops, restaurants, tourists milling about. We were wandering back out of the plaza when from out of nowhere a voice called, “Joy!”

I turned, looked up.

“It’s YOU!” he said.

It took me a heart-beat.

“Oh! Asao!” The same happy eyes. The same excitable boyish charm ...

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Speaking Up! Democracy, Justice, Dignity

Excerpt from "Gently to Nagasaki" (a work in progress) - Chapter 42

My brother said the actions by a church that did not want us back were deliberate and intentional and had been concealed by a “code of silence” until Greg revealed them.

The contrast between the companion churches in Vancouver and Seattle is a tale of two bishops, a good shepherd and a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Bishop Huston tends his flock. Bishop Heathcotte rends them.

Love was alive in the Seattle church. The personal belongings of his exiled parishioners were piled in squares marked all over the floor of the parish hall. Bishop Huston had a sense of his ...

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The Asian American Literary Review

From Gently to Nagasaki - Part 3

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The word “rape,” the word “murder,” the word “horror,” the word “atrocity,” the word “massacre,” none can adequately describe ‘that for which there is no word.’ Minnie Vautrin and Iris Chang were both, in the end, swallowed up in the quick sand. Iris Chang, a young woman of thirty-six committed suicide in 2004, driving away from home at 3:00 a.m. with a revolver, leaving a two-year-old son and a husband. I am told by a friend who knows a friend who knows the family of Iris Chang—three degrees of separation—that her suicide was ...

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The Asian American Literary Review

From Gently to Nagasaki - Part 2

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Where, dear Goddess, on the arid landscape of the battle of words, does caring lurk? How, dear Cherry Tree, can we come to the place of caring? Is it in the flight of the wisp through curtains of stone words?

It is, she tells me in the spaces between words and stones, in the spaces within sound and no sound. Caring comes to walk with us in the cracks of the day and the night, as we stumble, as we fall, as we rise again. Caring is present at all times in all places in every dying ...

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identity en

The Asian American Literary Review

From Gently to Nagasaki - Part 1

Marjorie Chan and I sat in the teal blue armchairs in my apartment nibbling rice crackers and sipping green tea. I’d seen her harrowing play, A Nanking Winter, a few months earlier. It addressed one of the roots of the ongoing animosity between China and Japan—the deep historical traumas of Nanking, 1937.

When we began the conversation, we were simply two writers, one young, one old, one of Chinese ancestry, one of Japanese, and from our great distance of time and space, we were far from The Rape of Nanking. Here in 21st century Canada, we could be ...

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