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Essay/Term paper: An interview of obasan

Essay, term paper, research paper:  College Essays

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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 author's 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 Naomi's 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.


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