Obasan by Joy Kagawa


A shattered silence.
 
Synopsis of Obasan by Joy Kagawa: A powerful and passionate novel, Obasan tells, through the eyes of a child, the moving story of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War. Naomi is a sheltered and beloved five-year-old when Pearl Harbor changes her life. Separated from her mother, she watches bewildered as she and her family become enemy aliens, persecuted and despised in their own land. Surrounded by hardship and pain, Naomi is protected by the resolute endurance of her aunt Obasan and the silence of those around her. Only after Naomi grows up does she return to question the haunting silence.

My two cents

Obviously drawing from real-life experiences, this is a heartbreaking novel that breaks the silence of the horrors faced by Canadian citizens of Japanese ancestry during the second World War.

I picked a copy of this up with the intent of adding some Canadian reading into my TBR. I wasn't quite sure what to expect when a friend pointed out that she (or someone she knew?) had heard the author speak in Vancouver ... and was quite blown away by the unassuming yet powerful woman she is. Kind of like this book ... it seems like a slim novel, it's even a little "quiet," but it packs quite the punch.

Canada is known for its open arms to immigrants, the value it puts on the cultural diversity of its population, and its pride in upholding human rights. It's interesting to think that this book is written by a Canadian national who had suffered through a time that Canada would not be proud of.

Told from the viewpoint of a young girl, this is observational, non-judgmental, yet extremely telling and insightful. There is little histrionics, no blaming (probably because the narrator is a child), just a narrative that tells how this sad history unfolded. I enjoyed the writing and the contemplative mood it put me in.

This is a story of family and how one can never divorce one's identity from culture or history, no matter how horrific, no matter how one wants to forget. It is also a story of how a country can make amends for the wrongs in its past.

Verdict: A novelized child's recounting of the evacuation, relocation, and dispersal of Canadian citizens of Japanese descent during the  Second World War in Canada. This is a powerful commentary of how war lead a country to commit heartbreaking horrors to its beloved citizens.

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© guiltless readingMaira Gall