Obasan by Joy Kogawa

Obasan by Joy Kogawa

Obasan by Japanese-Canadian author Joy Kogawa was first published in 1981 by Lester and Orpen Dennys. It recounts the internment and persecution of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War. In 2005, it was chosen as a One Book, One Vancouver selection. While it may not be well-known to many Western readers, Obasan is well worth reading.


The enigmatic narrator of Obasan is not the only character to possess the ability to evoke a strong emotional response. In contrast to the passive Obasan, Poh-Poh is an aggressive, flamboyant figure who has a powerful capacity for nurturing and guiding. In the book, Kogawa explores the role of language and the significance of silence in the life of an Asian-Canadian woman.

The book's complex plot, intense imagery, and quiet bitterness are all part of the storyline. The characters struggle to make sense of their own histories, as well as those of the larger Japanese-Canadian community. It's no wonder Obasan has attracted so much attention from critics and readers alike. While it's not easy to read, this novel commands the reader's full attention.

Naomi Nakane, a 36-year-old schoolteacher, is the central character of Obasan. The story is told from her point of view. It opens in 1972, while Uncle Isamu is still alive. Naomi's Aunt is Aunt Aya, a word that can mean a woman in general. During the war, her Aunt Emily sends Naomi a package containing wartime documents from her Aunt. In addition to the wartime documents, she also finds Emily's diary.


Since the 1981 publication of The Setting of Obasan, Joy Kogawa's novel has gained a significant place in the literary canon of both Canadian and Japanese-American literature. The novel's powerful poetry and portrayal of a long-forgotten part of Canadian history have drawn praise from readers and critics alike. This book is richly textured and demands the reader's full attention.

This novel, a work of Japanese Canadian literature, blurs the line between fiction and nonfiction. Though Kogawa's story is based on actual events, she seamlessly weaves these accounts into her clearly fictional work. In the process, her narrative operates on several levels, allowing her to seamlessly shift between documentary reportage, metaphorical language, and stream-of-consciousness exposition. The result is a multilayered and unsettling novel.

This novel has a diverse cast of characters and influences the storyline of the main characters. The setting of Obasan is a series of locations in Canada, beginning in Cecil, Alberta, during World War II. Naomi is a Japanese-Canadian whose family lived in Vancouver before the War, and was eventually evicted and resettled in Alberta. This novel also features several Japanese-Canadians who came to Canada after the War.

Writing Style

The writing style of Obasan by Joy Kogatawa is a complex blend of fiction and nonfiction. Kogawa draws from many sources and incorporates some of them into a clearly fictional work. As a result, her narrative operates on multiple levels and shifts seamlessly between documentary reportage, metaphorical language, and stream-of-consciousness exposition. This style can be confusing to readers and at times unsettling.

The narrator of Obasan is a young girl, and as such, the tone of the novel is geared towards children. As a result, the writing style is more readable for a younger audience. Naomi's narration emphasizes silence and accepts all events, while her older brother, Stephen, is portrayed as needy for approval from his father. The novel also offers a compelling analysis of how children relate to different characters.

Joy Kogawa is a Japanese Canadian and the author of the novel Obasan. Her experiences as a Japanese Canadian during the Second World War inspired her writing, including Obasan. The book explores the relationship of a Japanese Canadian family with their heritage during the war. The second novel, Naomi, is a fictional story about a young woman who seeks redress for her mistreatment in an internment camp.

Historical Context

The novel Obasan by Joy Kogawa explores the history and culture of Japanese Canadians and examines how the author uses recollection, memory, and experience to tell the story of an aunt's death. As a result, it explores the concepts of identity, memory, and representation. In addition, this book highlights the role of recollection and history in fiction.

The novel explores the history of Japanese Canadians by bringing to life the lives of two different families. The novel begins in 1972, the same year Naomi's uncle passes away. Her aunt is the Obasan in the novel, a nickname Naomi receives from her aunt. Obasan is also the Japanese word for aunt. As Naomi's family is destroyed by World War II, her aunt continues to haunt her, and her relationship with her family changes dramatically.

Naomi's story reconstructs a section of Canadian history that has been suppressed. Naomi's childhood is rife with trauma and pain. Naomi is forced to confront the trauma and pain of her past as the novel traces her roots to a family's past. Eleanor Ty provides a psychological analysis of Naomi's memories, comparing Naomi to Lucy in Jamaica Kincaid's novel.

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