by reviewed by

This memoir by well-known Japanese Canadian author Joy Kogawa takes the reader on a journey that spans a remarkable life. It is a pilgrimage set within the geographies of her own experiences, from Vancouver to the internment camps of Slocan and Coaldale in Canada, and from Nagasaki to the sacred heights of the Shikoku mountains of Japan.

With humility and longing for understanding within a Christian framework, Kogawa unpacks her lifelong struggle to make sense of the internment of Canadians of Japanese descent, the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Japanese denial of atrocities perpetrated in China. Equally paralyzing and haunting, Kogawa spends much of her later adult life trying to make sense of a dark family secret.

There is a gentleness in the writing and a deep desire to penetrate the complexity of racism as well as the paradoxes and contradictions of collective guilt and systemic injustices. Kogawa yearns for the forgiveness and reconciliation that needs to be lived out among the nations of this world and within her own family.

Of writing this memoir Kogawa says “I had to heed the Voice” and to write the pain “as truth.” Even as this reflection is about perpetrated evil on a global, national, and personal level, it is also about naming the pain and coming to a place of wholeness, or, more truthfully, holiness.

Though Kogawa’s story is painful, it is also redemptive. This is a memoir to be pondered. (Caitlin Press)

About the Author

Jenny de Groot is a teacher/librarian in Langley, British Columbia.