Obasan Themes Essay
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Joy Kogawa is a Japanese-Canadian novelist born on June 6, 1935 in Vancouver, British Columbia. During World War II, she and her family were forced to move from their home to an internment camp in Slocan, British Columbia and eventually Coaldale, Alberta. At the war’s conclusion, Kogawa attended the University of Alberta to study education and later enrolled at the University of Toronto to study music. She is well-known for her participation in the Redress Movement, which demanded reparations for the Japanese community impacted by forced migration during WWII. Kogawa’s experiences during this time period heavily influenced her novel, Obasan, which tells the story of a 36-year-old Japanese-Canadian woman who reminisces on her childhood during the war.
The publication of Obasan in 1981 was a turning point for writer Joy Kogawa. Previously, she had only released her works of poetry, but this novel brought her into the worldwide literary spotlight. Obasan received much praise from critics and won the Books in Canada First Novel Award, the Canadian Authors Association Book of the Year Award, and the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. It was also named as one of the most important books in Canadian literature by the Literary Review of Canada.
Kogawa’s novel is often named as required reading in classrooms for its admirable depiction of the Japanese-Canadian experience. As Cynthia Wong wrote in Reading Asian-American Literature, Kogawa successfully integrates "political understanding and literary artistry" and portrays an authentic "pan-Asian sensibility." Joy Kogawa brought to light the harrowing conditions of internment camps through the art of her writing.
Essay on Racial Discrimination in Obasan and Itsuka by Jow Kogawa
1300 Words6 Pages
The world is filled with different kinds of hatred caused by different reasons. For instance, people may hate others because of their gender, or for having different beliefs. Perhaps people hate others based on their cultural representation instead of who they really are as an individual, whether that representation is a religion or a race. This single fact of racial discrimination has caused many terrible and tragic events in history such as the holocaust, slavery, and among them is the evacuation and relocation of Japanese Canadians during World War II. In the novels ¡®Obasan¡¯ and ¡®Itsuka¡¯ by Joy Kogawa, the main protagonist Naomi and her family go through the mistreatment and racial discrimination, which occurred to all Japanese…show more content…
That way you offend less" (P.187). This shows that the war has denigrated Japanese Canadians as a something even less then even second-class citizens.
The painful experience leaves tormenting remembrance that requires people to take a long time to recover. In ¡®Itsuka¡¯ which is a continuation of ¡®Obasan¡¯, the protagonist Naomi is haunted by her memories of her childhood growing up in the World War II period of Japanese Canadian evacuation and internment. Naomi was involved in the movement for reparation from the Canadian government for the forcible relocation and confiscation of property of Japanese Canadians during World War II. As Naomi went through her painful experiences during her childhood, she realizes the importance her cultural identity. Naomi makes a comment to her aunt, Obasan, "...today, finally, though we can hardly believe it, to be Canadian means what it hasn't meant before. Reconciliation. Liberation. Belongingness. Home" (P.277) and reminiscent the tough past that she had to face during World War II. Japanese Canadians were mistreated because of their racial background, as Japanese Empire was the enemy of Canada during World War II. While Naomi was evacuated and relocated from their own land and her mother, the youth of her life was ruined and memories of her pain are reflected on this quote, "There was a silence