Joy Kogawa was born Joy Nakayama in Vancouver, Canada. She is a second-generation Japanese Canadian, or nisei, born to Reverend Gordon Goichi Nakayama, an Anglican priest, and Lois Masui Nakayama, who had immigrated to Canada as a Christian missionary. She was taught as a child to assimilate into Canadian culture, which she wanted very much to do. She became a person who often would not speak, would not question, and did not expect to be heard.
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Canadian government began a movement of Japanese people to internment camps and also confiscated their possessions and property, including land, houses, boats, cars, and personal possessions. Kogawa, age six, and her family were evacuated from their comfortable Vancouver home to an internment camp in Slocan in central British Columbia and later to Coaldale, Alberta. At the camps, she and her family lived a life of field labor until the late 1940’s.
Kogawa pursued studies in education at the University of Alberta and taught elementary school in Coaldale for a year. She then studied music at the University of Toronto, followed by studies at the Anglican Women’s Training College and the University of Saskatchewan.
She later fought for redress from the Canadian government for the internment of twenty thousand Japanese Canadians during the war. Kogawa worked with the National Association of Japanese Canadians. In 1988, they received a formal apology from the Canadian government for injustices. They also received a $350 million settlement for retribution.
In 1957, she moved permanently to Toronto. There she married, had two children, and divorced in 1968. In 1959, she began writing. By 1964, she had her first short story published. Kogawa...
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Canada includes people of diverse races and ethnicities. Joy Kogawa’s novels consider the victimization of the Japanese Canadians and how their dual culture inflects their experience during three generations, the issei, nisei, and sansei. Traditional Japanese values strengthen the revolutionary elements in the community so it can speak to the government to achieve justice. She also explores victimization of children by a British Canadian clergyman who fogs over his crimes with the privileges of class and religion. The light of truth prepares the way for healing mercy.
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