Photo: Yukiko Onley
Joy Kogawa is one of the most influential Canadian authors of Japanese descent. She is celebrated both for her moving, fictionalized accounts of the internment of Japanese Canadians and for her work in the Redress Movement to obtain compensation and reparation for her community. She is a Member of the Order of Canada and the Order of British Columbia, as well as Japan’s Order of the Rising Sun.
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 semi-autobiographical, lyrical and heart-rending account of the losses and suffering endured by Japanese Canadians during the Second World War. By the late 1980s, the novel was being taught in schools and universities across Canada. Both Ed Broadbent and Gerry Weiner read passages from the novel during the official redress settlement and apology in Parliament in 1988.
Kogawa has also published two picture books about these events, Naomi’s Road (1986) and Naomi’s Tree (2009), as well as 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. She published two more novels, Itsuka (published as Emily Kato in 1992) and The Rain Ascends (2005). A new edition of Itsuka is planned for publication this year.
Kogawa is also a noted poet, beginning her writing career with her first poetry collection, The Splintered Moon (1968). This was followed by A Choice of Dreams (1974), Jericho Road (1977) and Six Poems (1978), in which Kogawa explores her Japanese ancestry. Kogawa’s later poetry publications include A Song of Lilith (2000) and A Garden of Anchors: Selected Poems (2003).
For her keynote presentation at Convergence 2019, Kogawa will be discussing “The Journey Toward Forgiveness,” which sets the tone for the weekend’s theme of “Writing Toward Forgiveness.” Kogawa will be speaking about the harrowing experiences that led her to write her 2016 memoir, Gently to Nagasaki and how this is relevant to our troubled times.
—from The Canadian Encyclopedia