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Obasan by Joy Kogawa

Obasan (original 1981; edition 1981)

by Joy Kogawa

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1,048238,036 (3.78)93
Authors:Joy Kogawa
Info:Toronto : Penguin Books, [2002], c1981.
Collections:Your library
Tags:japan, canada, historical fiction

Work details

Obasan by Joy Kogawa (1981)

  1. 20
    Snow Falling on Cedars: A Novel by David Guterson (kiwidoc)
    kiwidoc: Explores the WW2 Japanese internment in America.
  2. 10
    When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka (SqueakyChu)
  3. 10
    A Child in Prison Camp by Shizuye Takashima (SylviaC)
    SylviaC: These books are both about young children of Japanese descent, living in Canadian internment camps. A Child in Prison Camp is a memoir, beautifully illustrated by Takashima. Obasan is a novel based on Kogawa's childhood memories.
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    Midnight at the Dragon Café by Judy Fong Bates (JenMDB)
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» See also 93 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
Powerful novel about a Japanese Canadian family during WW2 and aftermath. Canada's exclusion and internment policies were draconian, even more so than the US's, and this book explores the traumas inflicted by those policies. The conclusion of the novel unravels a mystery that is as shocking as it is heartbreaking. ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
Naomi Nakane lives in British Columbia and while sheltered by her parents from the many realities of being Japanese in a racist society, she lives a happy cultured life. In 1941, her mother goes to Japan to look after Naomi"s grandmother. After December 7, 1941, her mother is trapped in Japan for the duration. To protect Naomi, her aunt & uncle never tell her the truth about what happen to her mother who was in Nagasaki the day the second Atomic Bomb was dropped.

Meanwhile the Canadian Japanese many of whom were Canadian citizens were force ably removed from the BC coast and forfeited most of their possessions including cars and fishing boats. After the War, they were not compensated for these items and were resettled on the Prairies or further east. British Columbia was not an option. Kogawa vividly describes the trauma of the removal of the family from their home and sent to live in Slocan in a wooden barracks that was not built for the cold winters. This is a part of Canada's history of which we are not proud.

After the War, Naomi continued to with her aunt & uncle living a sheltered life in a Japanese environment. Her brother refused to "be Japanese" and lived the life of a famous concert violinist and rarely visiting her or his aunt & uncle because they were too Japanese. She always waited for Mother to contact her not realizing that her Mother had eventually died in Japan. ( )
  lamour | Jun 12, 2014 |
I enjoyed this book a lot. I thought it did a wonderful job recounting a terribly shameful period of Canada's history (the absurdly racist internment of thousands of Japanese Canadians during/after WWII) without being overly sentimental or theatrical. Kogawa mixed storytelling methods (relating much of the story through old letters, diary entries, and childhood flashbacks/recollections) to deliver a book that is poignant and readable. Because this is a period of time largely glossed over in US/Canadian history classes, I would encourage folks to give this a read. ( )
  andrewreads | May 16, 2014 |
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. ( )
1 vote Korrick | Feb 26, 2014 |
This is not a book to give up on. It is a bit depressing and slow at the beginning but picks up near the middle when she reads a diary of the stages of the Japanese losses property and rights and her family being eventually sent to Slocan BC.

Loyal Canadians treated badly, a national disgrace. One would hope this would never happen again, but it could when you think of the dilemma facing moderate Muslims in North America.

A very interesting book where at times you hate your white heritage. ( )
  Lynxear | Nov 25, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
Obasan's power comes from the beauty of the writing, the stark imagery and vivid symbolism, and from the calm recitation of events that destroyed families, a culture, and a way of life.
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This book is dedicated to my mother and father and to those amazing people, the Issei - the few who are still with us and those who have gone.
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The coulee is so still right now that if a match were to be lit, the flame would not waver.
She takes half a piece of leftover toast and puts it away in a square plastic container. The refrigerator is packed with boxes of food bits, slices of celery, a square of spinach, half a hard-boiled egg. She orchestrates each remainder of a previous dinner into a dinner to come, making every meal like every meal, an unfinished symphony. Our Lady of the Leftovers.
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Book description
This powerful, passionate and highly acclaimed novel tells, through the eyes of a child, the moving story of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War. Naomi is a sheltered and beloved 5 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 that haunting silence.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385468865, Paperback)

Based on the author's own experiences, this award-winning novel was the first to tell the story of the evacuation, relocation, and dispersal of Canadian citizens of Japanese ancestry during the Second World War.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:02 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

The little prince discovers the secrets of friendship while traveling thoughout the universe.

(summary from another edition)

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