Joy Kogawa

Best known for her Canadian classic, Obasan, Joy Kogawa is also a widely anthologized poet. Born in Vancouver in 1935, she was relocated with her Japanese Canadian family during the second world war. Kogawa’s contribution to Canadian life and letters has been recognized by several honorary doctorates. Since 1986 she has been a Member of the Order of Canada, and was named to the Order of British Columbia in May 2006. Kogawa lives in Toronto.

Fiction

Itsuka (reissued in 2005 as: Emily Kato)

Toronto: Viking, 1992.
PS8521 .O44 I8 1992
Toronto: Penguin, 1993
PS8521 .O44 I8 1993

Publisher’s Synopsis (Penguin, 1993)

In Obasan, Naomi’s childhood was torn apart by Canada’s betrayal of Japanese Canadian citizens during the 1940s. Now, years later, Naomi’s scars have left her fragile and uncertain. Quietly teaching school on the prairies, she watches as her family slips away from her. Then Naomi’s Aunt Emily brings her to Toronto and encourages her to become involved in the Japanese Canadian fight for redress.

Fiction (Juvenile)

Naomi’s Road

Drawings by Matt Gould.
Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1986.

New, expanded ed.
Drawings by Ruth Ohi.
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2005.

Publisher’s Synopsis (from Fitzhenry & Whiteside website)

Naomi’s Road is the story of a girl whose Japanese-Canadian family is uprooted during the Second World War. Separated from their parents, Naomi and her brother Stephen are sent to an internment camp in the interior of British Columbia. For the young girl growing up, war only means that she can no longer return to her home in Vancouver, or see her parents. Told from a child’s point of view and without a trace of anger or malice, Naomi’s Road has been praised as a powerful indictment of the injustice of war and the government’s treatment of Japanese-Canadian citizens, both during and well after World War II.

Book cover of Naomi's Tree

Fiction (Juvenile, Picture book)

Naomi’s Tree

Illustrated by Ruth Ohi.
Markham, Ont.: Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2008.

Publisher’s Synopsis (from its website)

A young couple leaves Japan for the coast of Canada, bringing a cherry seed to plant in their new garden. During the years that follow, the little cherry tree watches over the family as the couple have children, and then grandchildren. Young Naomi makes the cherry tree her special friend, and the tree’s branches shelter her as she plays. But one day, war breaks out between the two countries, and the family is sent to an internment camp away from the coast. And though Naomi often dreams of going home, the dream fades as the years go by. The little tree is left behind to mourn its loss.
Based on the World War II story of Naomi and Stephen in Naomi’s Road, Naomi’s Tree is a poetic story about enduring love and its almost mystical power to heal the spirit.

Awards and Honours

2009 CLA Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator’s Award (Finalist)

Fiction

Obasan

Toronto: Lester & Orpen Dennys, 1981.
PS8521 .O44 O2 1981
Markham, Ont.: Penguin Books, 1983.
PS8521 .O44 O2 1983

Publisher’s Synopsis (Penguin Books, 1983)

This powerful, passionate and highly acclaimed novel tell, through the eyes of a child, the moving story of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War.

Awards and Honours

1982 Books in Canada First Novel Award (Winner)
1982 Canadian Authors Association Book of the Year–Fiction (Winner)
1982 RUSA Notable Book (American Library Association)
1983 American Book Award, Before Columbus Foundation
1983 Periodical Distributor’s Best Paperback

Fiction

The Rain Ascends

Toronto: Knopf Canada, 1995
PS8521 .O44 R35 1995

Publisher’s Synopsis

The Rain Ascends tells the story of a woman — the loyal, devoted daughter of an eminent and popular minister of the Church — who discovers in middle age that the elderly father she adores has abused small boys throughout his life.

Awards and Honours

1996 Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize (Nominated)
1996 Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada–Prose / General Trade category (1st prize, designer: Concrete Design Communications, Inc.)

Poetry

A Choice of Dreams

Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1974.

Poetry

A Garden of Anchors: Selected Poems

Oakville, Ont.: Mosaic Press, 2003.
PS8521 .O44 G37 2003

Publisher’s Synopsis

This volume contains carefully selected poems from previously published books. It also includes a number of new poems, as well as re-writes of previously published works.

Poetry

Jericho Road

Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1977.
PS8521 .O44 J47 1977

Publisher’s Synopsis

Whether writing of strangers or loved ones, of angst or anguish, of tenderness or despair, Joy Kogawa achieves a powerful fusion of images that adds special impact to her verse. These are poems arising from a finely tuned sensibility, poems crafted with exacting precision and weighted with emotional substance, and solidity. Jericho Road is a search for answers to the ancient question, “And who is my neighbour?”

Poetry

A Song of Lilith

Vancouver: Polestar Book Publishers, 2000. Poem by Joy Kogawa. Artwork by Lilian Broca.
PS8521 .O44 S62 2000

Publisher’s Synopsis

According to biblical legend, Lilith and Adam were created out of clay to be equal partners in Eden. In this wise, contemporary and spirited retelling, Lilith flees Eden when the equality of her partnership with Adam is shattered by his desire for power and control.

Poetry (Chapbook)

The Splintered Moon

Fredericton, N.B.: Printed by Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1967.

Poetry

Woman in the Woods

Oakville, Ont.: Mosaic Press, 1985.

Gently to Nagasaki book cover

Memoir

Gently to Nagasaki

Halfmoon Bay, BC: Caitlin Press, 2016.
PS8521 .O44 Z46 2016

Publisher’s Synopsis (from its website)

Gently to Nagasaki is a spiritual pilgrimage, an exploration both communal and intensely personal. Set in Vancouver and Toronto, the outposts of Slocan and Coaldale, the streets of Nagasaki and the high mountains of Shikoku, Japan, it is also an account of a remarkable life. As a child during WWII, Joy Kogawa was interned with her family and thousands of other Japanese Canadians by the Canadian government. Her acclaimed novel Obasan, based on that experience, brought her literary recognition and played a critical role in the movement for redress.

Kogawa knows what it means to be classified as the enemy, and she seeks urgently to get beyond false and dangerous distinctions of “us” and “them.” Interweaving the events of her own life with catastrophes like the bombing of Nagasaki and the massacre by the Japanese imperial army at Nanking, she wrestles with essential questions like good and evil, love and hate, rage and forgiveness, determined above all to arrive at her own truths. Poetic and unflinching, this is a long-awaited memoir from one of Canada’s most distinguished literary elders.

Selected Criticism and Interpretation

Abrams, Carlotta Lady Izuma. “Speaking Through the Silence: Uncovering the Buddhist Traditon in Joy Kogawa’s “Obasan”.” Ph.D. diss., The University of Southern Mississippi, 1997.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses


Adams, Bella. “Joy Kogawa, Obasan (1981).” In her Asian American Literature. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008.
PS508 .A8 A33 2008


Babcock, Rebecca. ““One Small Way”: Racism, Redress, and Reconciliation in Canadian Women’s Fiction,1980-2000.” Ph.D. diss., Dalhousie University, 2011. Accessed August 30, 2013.
Available as an open access dissertation from http://hdl.handle.net/10222/14198


Beauregard, Guy Pierre. “Asian Canadian Literature: Diasporic Interventions in the Work of SKY Lee, Joy Kogawa, Hiromi Goto, and Fred Wah.” Ph.D. diss., University of Alberta, 2000.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses


Campbell, Catherine. “Hearing the Silence: A Legacy of Post-modernism.” Ph.D. diss., Universite de Sherbrooke, 2003.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses


Caylor, Jennifer Lynn. “Claiming Space: Exile and Homecoming in “Roughing it in the Bush” and “Obasan”.” M.A. thesis., McGill University, 1999.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses


Chu, Janet Hyunju. “A Politics of Representation: Articulating Identities in Contemporary Asian-American Literature.” Ph.D. diss., State University of New York at Stony Brook, 1996.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses


Darias-Beautell, Eva. “Obasan: Subject to/of Memory, Silence, (M)Others.” In her Graphies and Grafts: (Con)texts and (Inter)texts in the Fiction of Four Contemporary Canadian Women. Bruxelles: P.I.E.-Peter Lang, 2001, 29-47.
PS8089.5 .W6 D37 2001


Davidson, Arnold. Writing Against the Silence: Joy Kogawa’s Obasan. Toronto: ECW Press, 1993.
PS8521 .O44 O23 1993


Day, Iyko Lisa. “Beyond “Obasan”? Ethnic Idealism, Victimization, and the Problem of Canonizing Japanese Canadian Literature.” M.A. thesis., Dalhousie University, 2000.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses


Dobson, Kit. “Multiculturalism and reconciliation in Joy Kogawa’s Obasan.” In Transnational Canadas: Anglo-Canadian Literature and Globalization. Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2009, 91-103.
PS8071 .D62 2009


Eppert, Claudia. “Learning Responsivity/responsibility: Reading The Literature of Historical Witness.” Ph.D. diss., University of Toronto, 1999.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses


Getz, Joshua M. “Devouring Imagery and Sense of Identity in the “Oriental” Immigrant Novel:  Joy Kogawa’s “Obasan”, Albert Swissa’s “The Bound”, Fae Myenne Ng’s “Bone”, and Eli Amir’s “Scapegoat”.” Ph.D. diss., The Pennsylvania State University, 1998.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses


Goldman, Marlene. “Broken Letters: Obasan as Traumatic Apocalyptic Testimony.” In her Rewriting Apocalypse in Canadian Fiction. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005, 128-160.
PS8191.A65 G64 2005


Gordon, Jonathan Fredrick. “Belonging and Homelessness in ‘Post-modern’ Alberta Literature: Community at The Limits of Discourse.” Ph.D. diss., University of Alberta, 2007.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses


Harris, Mason. “Joy Kogawa and Her Works.” In Canadian Writers and Their Works. Fiction Series. Vol. 11, ed. Robert Lecker, Jack David and Ellen Quigley. Toronto: ECW Press, 1996, 137-211.
PS8187 .C375 v.11


Harry, Leanne Marie. “(Re)membering the Subject: The Politics of History, Memory, and Identity in Maria Campbell, Joy Kogawa, and Larissa Lai.” M.A. diss., Simon Fraser University, 2000.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses


Hattori, Tomo. “Orientalist Typologies: The Cultural Politics of the Female Subject in Maxine Hong Kingston’s “The Woman Warror” and Joy Kogawa’s “Obasan”.” Ph.D. diss., McMaster University, 1994.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses


Jeon, Seung-Hee. “Rethinking Truth After ‘The Age of Extremes’: An Analysis of the Chronotype of Anamnesis in Autobiographical Narratives by Pak, Kluger and Kogawa.” Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 2005.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses


Joy Kogawa: Essays on Her Works. Ed. Sheena Wilson. Toronto: Guernica, 2011.
9th floor PS8521 .O44 Z75 2011


Kelly, Sheila. “Representing Resistance: Women’s Novels of the Americas and Human Rights.” Ph.D. diss., Loyola University of Chicago, 2003.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses


Koo, Eunsook. “The Politics of Race and Gender: Mothers and Daughters in the Novels of Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Joy Kogawa.” Ph.D. diss., State University of New York at Stony Brook, 1993.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses


Lee, Hsiu-chuan. “”Post-modern Transferrence”/Reading Identity Politics Beyond Modernity: Cases from Contemporary World Literature.” Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 1997.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses


Lee-Loy, Anne-Marie. “Asian American Mothering in the Absence of Talk Story: Obasan and Chorus of Mushrooms,” chap. in Textual Mothers/Maternal Texts: Motherhood in Contemporary Women’s Literatures, eds. Elizabeth Podnieks and Andrea O’Reilly. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2010, 317-331.
PS8089.5 .W6 T45 2009


Lin, Yi-Chun Tricia. “Translating Cultures and Re-writing Boundaries: Maxine Hong Kingston, Joy Kogawa, and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha.” Ph.D. diss., State University of New York at Stony Brook, 1997.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses


Lo, Meng Yu Marie. “Fields of Recognition: Reading Asian Canadian Literature in Asian America.” Ph.D. diss., University of California, Berkeley, 2001.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses


McGonegal, Julie. “Imagining Justice: The Politics Postcolonial Forgiveness and Reconciliation.” Ph.D. diss., McMaster University, 2004.
E-version available from Digital Commons@McMaster
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses


Meagher, Stephen. “Subjects, Inscriptions, Histories: Sites of Liminality in Three Canadian Autobiographical Fictions.” Masters thesis, McGill University, 1995. Accessed August 30, 2013.
Available as an open access thesis from http://digitool.library.mcgill.ca/thesisfile92142.pdf


Mellor-Hay, Winifred Mary Catherine. “Writing the Gap: The Performance of Identity in Texts by Four Canadian Women.” Ph.D. diss., Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2000.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses
Available as an open access dissertation from http://collections.mun.ca/u?/theses2,74059


Morrissey, Lynda. “Portraits of ‘Past Actuality’: The Tragedy and Triumph of Japanese-Canadians as Portrayed in Historically Based Canadian Literature.” Ph.D. diss., University of Ottawa, 2002.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses


Nadler, Janna.  “Displaced and Minor Children in Selected Canadian Literature: An Analysis of Ethnic Minority Child Narratives as “Minor Literatures” in “Funny Boy”, “Lives of the Saints”, and “Obasan”.”  Ph.D. diss., McMaster University, 2005.
E-version available from Digital Commons@McMaster
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses


Nakamura, Rika. “Attending the Languages of the Other: Recuperating “Asia,” Abject, Other in  Asian North American Literature.” Ph.D. diss., Rutgers The State University of New Jersey – New Brunswick, 2009.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses
Available as an open access dissertation from http://hdl.rutgers.edu/1782.2/rucore10001600001.ETD.000051057


Nguyen, Minh T. “”It Matters to Get the Facts Straight”: Joy Kogawa, Realism, and Ojbectivity of Values,” chap. in Reclaiming Identity: Realist Theory and the Predicatment of Postmodernism, eds. Paula M.L. Moya and Michael R. Hames-Garcia. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000, 171-204.
HM753 .R43 2000


Rae, Ian Thomas. “Unframing the Novel: From Ondaatje to Carson.” Ph.D. diss., The University of British Columbia, 2002.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses


Shoenut, Meredith L. “Canadian Postwar Perspectives of Her-story: Historiographic Metafiction by Laurence, Kogawa, Shields, and Atwood.” Ph.D. diss., Illinois State University, 2005.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses


Souza, Gabriela Cavalcante Fróes de. “Obasan, Obāchan: Japanese Canadian History, Memory, and the Noisy Silences of Joy Kogawa and Hiromi Goto.” Master’s thesis, Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, 2007.
Available as an open access thesis from the Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro,


Sywenky, Irene. “A Long Journey to Mercy: Joy Kogawa’s Gently to Nagasaki,” chap. in Confluences 2: Essays on the New Canadian Literature, ed. by Nurjehan Aziz. Toronto: Mawenzi House, 2017, pp. 83-93.
PS8117 .C66 2017


Tourino, Christina Marie. “Sex and Reproduction in Contemporary Ethnic Literature.” Ph.D. diss., Duke University, 2000.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses


Visvis, Vikki. “Beyond the “Talking Cure”: Narrative Alternatives for Telling Trauma in Canadian Fiction.” Ph.D. diss., University of Toronto, 2004.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses


Whitmore, Stephen. “Public Whereness: Japanese Canadian Nationality and the Transformation of the Canadian Multicultural Public Sphere.” M.A. thesis., Trent University, 2011.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses


Wilson, Sheena L.  “Paradigms Lost and Re-membered: The Case of the Japanese Canadian Experience in Canadian Media, Cinema, and Literature.”  Ph.D. diss., University of Alberta, 2006.
Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses


Wong, Cynthia F. “Joy Kogawa.” In Asian American Novelists: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook, ed. Emmanuel S. Nelson. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2000, [161]-167.
PS153 .A84 A825 2000


Xu, Wenying. “Enjoyment and Ethnic Identity in No-No Boy and Obasan.” In Eating Identities: Reading Food in Asian American Literature. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2008, 18-36.
PS153 .A84 X8 2008


Yamakami, Brenda Karen Akimi. “Interpretations of history and culture in Japanese- and Chinese-Canadian picturebooks : a new historical approach.”  M.A. thesis, University of British Columbia, 2010. Accessed August 30, 2013.
Available as an open access thesis from http://hdl.handle.net/2429/23488


Yan, Qigang. “A Comparative Study of Contemporary Canadian and Chinese Women Writers.” Ph.D. diss., University of Alberta, 1997.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

Links

Penguin Group (Canada) has information about several of Kogawa’s books

Publisher Caitlin Press

Publisher Fitzhenry & Whiteside

The Land Conservancy of BC saved Kogawa’s childhood home in Vancouver. The site includes lots of photographs and historical information on the Japanese-Canadian relocation during the Second World War. Also included is a bibliography prepared by Chris Kurata.

Jane Evans Braziel’s study guide to Obasan, “Spiritual Autobiography, Comparative Literature” on the ACLAnet website

Joy Kogawa on Obasan’s Legacy from CBC Books