The Story of Joy Kogawa

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  • Joy Nozomi Kogawa, was born Joy Nozomi Nakayama on June 6, 1935, in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her mother, Lois Yao Nakayama, and father, Gordon Goichi Nakayama, were both born in Japan and immigrated to Canada before Joy was born. Her mother worked as a kindergarten teacher, and her father as a minister. Joy was raised as a nisei (second-generation Canadian) child of issei (first-generation immigrants).
  • 1935
  • Welcome home Joy!
  • Kogawa remembers the lingering smell of burning wood in the fireplace, the book, and picture covered walls, and all of the happy memories that took place in her childhood home. Her bedroom had boxes full of toys and games, and the perfect view of a cherry tree that stood in their yard.
  • 1940
  • Papa I don't want to go.
  • On December 7, 1941, the Japanese military attacked Pearl Harbor. Twelve weeks later, Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King sent every person of Japanese descent living in Canada away to work and live in camps. This was done due to a popular belief that the Japanese were going to invade British Columbia and that Japanese Canadians currently residing in Canada were spies and allied with Japan. Joy and her mother were separated from her father, put on a train, and shipped to Slocan - an old silver-mining region in Eastern British Columbia.
  • 1941-1942
  • Everything will be ok Joy. Mama will keep you safe. I love you.
  • 1988
  • In Slocan, Joy and her mother were essentially imprisoned in internment camps. They spent their days living in a one-room shack, under terrible conditions, and working on a farm. Joy, at six years old, was often forced to work alongside her family in the beet fields, instead of attending the poorly run schools managed by the detention centres Joy and her mother resided in. In 1943, the Canadian government also authorized the sale of all property taken from Japanese Canadians, including homes, cars, businesses, and personal belongings.
  • 1942-1945
  • I wish I was back home in Vancouver
  • After the war, Japanese Canadians were prohibited from returning to British Columbia and were forced to move to eastern Canada or be deported to Japan. Joy and her family resettled in Coaldale, Alberta, where Joy completed school and attended the University of Alberta for writing and literature. In 1974, Kogawa took on a literary career and in 1981 she published a fictional novel, titled "Obasan". The novel was published around the time when Japanese Canadians began demanding reparations from the Canadian Government for their forced internment.
  • 1945-1981
  • Have a great day at school Joy!
  • Joy Kogawa began to work for justice for the Japanese Canadians who had been put into camps, and used "Obasan" to reveal the untold story and hardships that Japanes Canadians experienced in the internment camps. Finally, on September 22, 1988, the Canadian Prime Minister at the time, Brian Mulroney apologized on behalf of the Canadian government for the terrible injustice that the Japanese Canadians endured during wartime. Along with the apology, the government promised to pay compensation to the Japanese Canadians interned and deprived of their property in World War II
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