Summary Of Obasan By Joy Kogawa

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Kogawa, Joy. Obasan. Toronto: Penguin Group, 1983

The novel Obasan by Joy Kogawa center around the memories of Naomi Nakane, a Canadian of Japanese descent growing up during the internment in Canada. The story begins with Naomi, a 36 year old school teacher in the town of Cecil, Alberta. She receives news of her Uncle’s death, which leads her to visit her aunt Obasan. A few days after she arrives, she finds a parcel sent from Aunt Emily, which contains a scrapbook, a folder, an envelope, and a journal. These documents cause Naomi to remember her past, taking her back to her childhood. She remembers when she was five years old, her mother disappears after returning to Japan. Returning to the present, she reads the journal from Aunt Emily …show more content…

The format of the book was also rather confusing as Naomi skips from past to present-- and even skips around within her past. Often, this made it difficult to figure out exactly where in time the story was taking place. However, once the section with the letters from Aunt Emily began, I felt absolutely fascinated, and at the same time, ashamed (86). Originally, I had thought that the people held in the internment camps were treated like prison inmates. Never had I thought that they would be treated as such lowly beings, in such poor conditions. I could not believe that the Canadian government not only considered the Japanese enemies, but the Canadian Japanese that were born and raised here as well. Issei, nisei, and sansei (first, second, and third generations) were no longer considered as “Canadians”, and were labeled as the Japanese. Their land was taken away and sold by the government, their possessions confiscated, families were torn apart, and they were forced to endure inhumane conditions once interned. When the war ended, I expected Naomi and her family to return to their homes in Vancouver, but on the contrary, they were not allowed to return home for four years after the end of WWII. Instead, they were sent to places further away if they did not wish to ‘return’ to Japan. When I think about it, I realize that Obasan is …show more content…

I think it is because as a child, I have always had my parents by my side; whether it may be through hard times or joyous times. In Naomi’s case, however, her mother disappears, she never quite knows what her father is doing nor where he is, as he seems to drift in and out of her life. One would think that in hard times like this, the siblings would be close, tight-knit together. However, it is quite the opposite, as Steven is not close with Naomi at all. When he visits, it has been eight years since they last saw each other. However, he does not even greet her nor any gesture of affection is shown

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