Obasan I decided to read the novel by Joy Kogawa entitled Obasan. The novel was written in 1981 and told the details of how the Japanese were discriminated against during World War 2. The authors main purpose was to educated the reader on how hard life really was for her family and other Japanese Canadians living in British Columbia, and especially in Vancouver. Joy Kogawa tried to show how ignorant British Columbians really were, and that we still do not fully understand what really happened during the war. She also tries to teach Canadians the culture of the Japanese.
The novel starts in the seventies with Naomi a teacher in Northern Alberta finding out that her uncle has died. When Naomi returns home to console her Aunt Obasan, she begins to relive the difficulties of her life. She recounts the struggle against the government and themselves while trying to stay in Vancouver. Naomi is very small at the time of the war and did not really fully understand what was happening to her race. The novel recounts the struggle of Naomis Aunt Emily to ensure that her family would be together in whatever place they were sent to.
Aunt Emily wanted to head east to Toronto, but was unable to get the documentation for the entire family which included her sister children, who she was taking care of. The novel discuses the camps that the Japanese families were sent to in Hastings Park during the war. It described the treatment the families received while there, including the lack of food and the smell of manure. Naomi during this time was being sexually molested by her next door neighbor and did not tell anybody about this. Naomi seems resentful during the novel, as she comes across as a quiet little girl, who does not seem to interact with many people.
Aunt Emily finally finds a place in Slocan for the family to go live, but just before they leave finds out her and her immediate family could go to Toronto. This leaves Aunt Emily going to Toronto and everybody else moving to Toronto. In the end almost everybody ends up dying. The novel had many strengths and weaknesses. One strength that really got to me is the great detail in how the Japanese were treated, though they were Canadian citizens.
Obasan also taught me a lot about the Japanese culture and background. I enjoyed learning that it was custom to take a bath with your family when you were younger. I also learned that the government took away the vehicles of the Japanese and auctioned them off, which really shocked me. Joy Kogawa also brought in a good insight about what the Japanese Canadians were really feeling and going through during these tough times. On the flip side there were also many weaknesses in the book Obasan.
One major weakness was the failure to distinguish between present time and the past. There were to many times that I did not realize that Naomi had switched into a flashback or vice versa. This left me rereading many pages over. I also did not like the way that the novel would drag on. It sometimes failed to have much to do with the rest of the story, and is to wordy.
I believe the story could have been told in about one hundred and eighty pages instead of the two hundred and fifty pages. I think that the novel could have also gone into a little more detail about the living conditions at Hastings Park, and also a political aspect of why this was happening to these people. All and all I would have to say this novel helped me a lot in understanding what happened during the Second World War. Before reading this novel, I would have to admit that I really did not even know this happened in Canada, which is really sad. I did know though that the Japanese in the United States were sent from the west coast, but did not realize that it reached the west coast of Canada. Obasan is a very good novel for anybody who did not know what happened during the Second World War.
I would recommend this novel to all Canadians, but especially to British Columbians. Obasan was on the most part well written and gives an excellent account of the Japanese reviews. Obasan was a good novel to help better understand our Canadian history.