Thursday, 30 May 2013

Joy Kogawa: "Obasan"

From the home page for the (typically excellent) Penguin Classics edition of Joy Kogawa's obasan:
A powerful and passionate novel, Obasan tells, through the eyes of a child, the moving story of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War. Naomi is a sheltered and beloved five-year-old when Pearl Harbor changes her life. Separated from her mother, she watches bewildered as she and her family become enemy aliens, persecuted and despised in their own land. Surrounded by hardship and pain, Naomi is protected by the resolute endurance of her aunt Obasan and the silence of those around her. Only after Naomi grows up does she return to question the haunting silence.
We are going to read and study the novel in the context of Vancouver, in two parts.

1.] An analytic look at the historical period and events with which the novel engages. This involves  looking at the issue of internment in relation to (i.) Japan's acts of war from the 1930s through 1940s; (ii.) the Vancouver situation as a Pacific coast port; and (iii.) the relation between groups of Japanese, European, and Chinese descent; including Chinese refugees from the Japanese invasions of mainland China.

2.] A study into the immigrant experience: here, people with a sensibilty formed in the monocultural values of Japanese civilisation, chosing to move into a society formed on the  mixed-culture tradition of Western civilisation.

The picture here is of the Kogawa immediate family at the time of the novel's setting, courtesy of

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