Joy Kogawa

Joy Nozomi Kogawa, née Nakayama, poet, novelist (b at Vancouver 6 Jun 1935).

Joy Nozomi Kogawa

Joy Nozomi Kogawa, née Nakayama, poet, novelist (b at Vancouver 6 Jun 1935). Joy Kogawa spent her early childhood in Vancouver. When she was 6 years old, she and her parents were among the thousands of Japanese Canadians forcibly removed from the coastal areas and interned during the Second World War. They were moved first to Slocan, in the interior of BC, and later to Coaldale, Alberta. Kogawa studied education at the University of Alberta and music at the University of Toronto. She is celebrated for both her moving fictionalized accounts of the internment of Japanese Canadians, and her work in the Redress Movement to obtain compensation and reparation for her community.

Joy Kogawa is best known for her award-winning novel Obasan (1981), one of the Literary Review of Canada's 100 Most Important Canadian Books. Obasan is a lyrical and heart-rending account of the losses and suffering endured by Japanese Canadians during WWII. The story is told from the perspective of a middle-aged woman, Naomi Nakane, remembering her experiences as a young girl. Kogawa has also published a picture book about these events, Naomi's Road (1986), and a young adult novel in Japanese, titled Naomi No Michi. A children's opera based on Naomi's Road was premiered by Vancouver Opera in 2005. Kogawa continued Naomi's story in her 1992 Itsuka (revised and published under the title Emily Kato in 2005). Kogawa takes on a different social ill in her 1995 novel, The Rain Ascends. Here, a middle-aged narrator must find a way to accept that her father, an Anglican minister, is a pedophile.

Joy Kogawa is also an accomplished poet. In her early collections of tightly controlled verse, such as The Splintered Moon (1967) and Jericho Road (1977), Kogawa explores her Japanese ancestry. Her work is characterized by a cool appraisal of issues of identity, a natural dignity and understated literary power. Kogawa's later poetry publications include A Song of Lilith (2000) and A Garden of Anchors: Selected Poems (2003).

Joy Kogawa is a Member of the Order of Canada and of the Order of British Columbia. She has received honourary doctorates from many Canadian universities and was the recipient of a NAJC National Award from the National Association of Japanese Canadians (2001). In 2008 she was awarded the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award, honouring an outstanding literary career in British Columbia. Her family's original Vancouver home was purchased by the Land Conservancy of British Columbia, and saved from imminent demolition, in 2006, a testament to the significance of Kogawa's work for the history and culture of British Columbia.

Selected Works of
Joy Kogawa