Interview with Joy Kogawa2 min read

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Joy Kogawa is best known as the author of Obasan (1981), which is based on Joy and her family’s forced relocation from Vancouver during the Second World War when she was six years old. Joy’s other books for adults include Itsuka (1992, published as Emily Kato in 2005), The Rain Ascends (1995), and Gently to Nagasaki (2016). Her works for children are Naomi’s Road (1986, 2005) and Naomi’s Tree (2009). Since 1967, Joy has also published several poetry collections, including A Choice of Dreams (1974), Jericho Road (1977), and A Garden of Anchors (2003). Among her many honours, Joy has received an Order of Canada (1986), an Order of British Columbia (2006), and, from the Japanese Government, an Order of the Rising Sun (2010) for “her contribution to the understanding and preservation of Japanese Canadian history.”

Your work is widely considered to be some of the most important in Canadian literature. What are the greatest lessons you have learned throughout your career?

Really? That’s dumbfounding.
In one word: trust.
I trust in goodness or ‘the good.’
I trust that truth and love belong together and must not be separated.
The most transformative experience of my life thus far was a moment at the cherry tree in the backyard.

Since 2004, “Joy Kogawa Day” has been recognized on 6 November. The City of Vancouver planted a cherry tree, propagated from one growing in the backyard of the former Kogawa home, on City Hall grounds. What does the day mean to you? 

Is it every November 6? I thought it was just for that day. Well, if it’s every November 6, that’s news to me and I would be astonished.

Who are the poets you most admire? 

I don’t know. I don’t read that much. Rilke I guess. Blake? Then there’s Shakespeare who is for always, as much as there is an always.



Joy Kogawa will be featured at LiterASIAN Festival 2024.  Please check out the lineup of the festival at

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