Obasan is a novel written by Joy Kogawa that tells the story of a Japanese Canadian woman who lived in an internment camp during World War II. Obasan is the Japanese word for "aunt." The adult protagonist, Naomi, reconstructs her childhood memories of that time while caring for her dying aunt. Having been raised by her grandparents, Naomi pieces together the details of what happened to her parents years ago.
During World War II, both the United States and Canada forced Japanese citizens into internment camps out of fear that they were potential spies for the Japanese government, with whom the US and Canada were at war. The conditions in these camps varied depending on the location and government. While the atrocities that occurred in the more famous German concentration camps (torture, mass execution, and human experimentation) are not known to have occurred in American camps, these events are still frequently viewed as a black mark on United States and Canadian histories. Internment is imprisonment, and many of the Japanese American or Japanese Canadian citizens who were held in these camps were imprisoned based on their race alone.
Obasan provides a compelling, and perhaps surprising, look into the lesser-known histories of World War II, and the racism and fear that drove government policy and action.