Affiliation with UVic English: Graduate Student, PhD Third Year
Special Book: Obasan, Joy Kogawa
When did you first read this book: 2002
Which sentence from this book has special significance for you?
“We are hammers and chisels in the hands of would-be sculptors, battering the spirit of the sleeping mountain. We are the chips and sand, the fragments of fragments that fly like arrows from the heart of the rock. We are the silences that speak from stone. We are the despised rendered voiceless, stripped of car, radio, camera, and every means of communication, a trainload of eyes covered with mud and spittle [. . .] We are the scholarly and the illiterate, the envied and the ugly, the fierce and the docile. We are those pioneers who cleared the bush and the forest with our hands, the gardeners tending and attending the soil with our tenderness, the fisherman who are flung from the sea to flounder in the dust of the prairies. We are the Issei and the Nisei and the Sansei, the Japanese Canadians. We disappear into the future undemanding as dew.” (119-20)
What does the sentence mean to you?
Obasan is a novel about the problems, paradoxes, and possibilities of memory. By bearing witness to the internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War, Kogawa’s story gives voice to an important but marginalized chapter in Canadian history, and finds in narrative an active vehicle of memory against the oblivion of forgetting.