Author and poet Joy Kogawa to deliver the 2009 Asian Heritage Month Lecture

Author and poet Joy Kogawa will speak about her new memoir, Gently to Nagasaki, when she delivers the 2009 Asian Heritage Month Lecture at York on Thursday, hosted by the York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR), and celebrates the national launch of the Virtual Museum of Asian Canadian Cultural Heritage (VMACCH).

Born in Vancouver in 1935, Kogawa’s first novel, Obasan (Lester & Orpen Dennys, 1981), tells of the internment and dispersal of Canadian citizens of Japanese ancestry during the Second World War. Kogawa and her parents were among the thousands of Japanese Canadians who were forcibly interned during that time, taken from the coastal areas and brought to camps in BC’s interior. Obasan won the 1981 Books in Canada First Novel Award and the Canadian Authors’ Association Book of the Year Award, and was listed on the American Library Association’s Notable Book List and the Literary Review of Canada’s 100 Most Important Canadian Books list, published in 2006.

Right: Joy Kogawa

Kogawa is also the author of Itsuka (Viking Canada, 1992) and The Rain Ascends (Knopf Canada, 1995) and she has penned several poetry collections, including A Choice of Dreams (McClelland & Stewart, 1974), Jericho Road (McClelland & Stewart, 1977) and A Garden of Anchors: Selected Poems (Mosaic Press, 2003). Naomi’s Road (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1986), commissioned as an opera by the Vancouver Opera in 2005, is one of Kogawa’s best-known books for children and young adults.

She is a member of the Order of Canada and the Order of British Columbia and has received a National Association of Japanese Canadians National Award. In Vancouver, Nov. 6, 2004 was proclaimed Joy Kogawa Day. 

Mona Oikawa, a professor in York’s Race, Ethnicity & Indigeneity Program in the School of Social Studies, Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, will be the Asian Heritage Month Lecture’s discussant. Oikawa’s book, Cartographies of Violence: Women, Memory and the Subject(s) of the "Internment", is forthcoming from the University of Toronto Press. Her current Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada funded research project examines the relationship of Japanese Canadians to a history of colonialism in the settler society of Canada.

Canadian Senator Vivienne Poy (left), patron of the Asian Heritage Month Canadian Foundation for Asian Culture (Central Ontario) Inc., will chair the lecture and launch of the VMACCH. The VMACCH will allow for the preservation and online showcasing of one of Canada’s most culturally diverse communities. Organizers hope that it will become a valuable resource for Asian Canadians and other Canadians to share cultural experiences.

There will also be a performance by Raging Asian Women, a diverse collective of East and Southeast Asian women that are carrying on the North American taiko drumming tradition and promoting social justice while making music. York Professor Susan Henders, director of YCAR, will deliver the closing remarks.

The Asian Heritage Month Lecture will take place Thursday, June 4 from 7 to 9pm in the Robert McEwan Auditorium in the Seymour Schulich Building, Keele campus. Light refreshments will follow the lecture and the launch. 

Seating is limited. To register, visit the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies Web site. For more information, visit the YCAR Web site.

The event is sponsored by the Office of the Vice-President Academic & Provost and the Asian Heritage Month Canadian Foundation for Asian Culture (Central Ontario) Inc. Asian Heritage Month is held in communities across Canada annually in May.