My Life in Books

3 books that left a mark on Forgiveness author Mark Sakamoto

The author of the memoir that won Canada Reads 2018 shares the books that made a lasting impact on him.
Mark Sakamoto's memoir, Forgiveness, was the winner of Canada Reads 2018. (Peter Power/CBC)

Mark Sakamoto has worn many hats in his life. He's worked in media and as a political advisor to a national party leader, he's a lawyer, a father and an author. In his 2014 memoir, Forgiveness, he narrates his grandparents' harrowing experiences of survival during the Second World War.

Forgiveness was the winner of Canada Reads 2018. It was defended by Jeanne Beker.

The Kingfisher Geography Encyclopedia by Clive Gifford

Journalist Clive Gifford is the author of the Kingfisher Encyclopedias series. (Clive Gifford/Macmillan)

"My grandpa Sakamoto was a well-educated man. He wasn't the kind of grandpa who took you out golfing or fishing. This book was how my grandpa and I would converse and how we got to know each other, by learning that Brazilia was the capital of Brazil and Indonesia was the fourth largest country in the world. It introduced me to my grandfather and to the facts of the world. The notion that these pages contain knowledge that you can take with you out into the world is what, I think, got me loving books."

Obasan by Joy Kogawa

Obasan by Joy Kogawa is based on her experiences during the Second World War and the displacement of Japanese Canadians during that period. (Joy Kogawa/Penguin Random House)

"I loved seeing the smells and sounds from my grandparents house on the page. The food — the way first generation Japanese [people] would converse in broken English — were captured beautifully. This book had a profound impact on the country. And this was a great story for me, in that it deepened my love for literature.

"On Sept. 22, 1988, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney apologised to Japanese Canadians in the redress and those who were impacted were financially compensated. When that apology happened, Ed Broadbent, the leader of the NDP, actually read a passage from Joy's book. Her work was enshrined in that day. It was also powerful because through her book people came to appreciate the hardship that Japanese-Canadians experienced. What a wonderful way for one person to be able to impact her surroundings."

​Scar Tissue by Michael Ignatieff

Scar Tissue by Michael Ignatieff tells the story of a mother's slow descent into Alzheimer's disease, told from her son's point of view. (Bernadett Szabo/Reuters/Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

"I worked closely with Michael Ignatieff for the entirety of his political journey in Canada. I'd read a lot of his work. I was drawn to him from a political perspective, but I read and re-read his book about his mom's passing. My book is a family memoir, so his advice on how to talk to your family about what you're doing, but to not be dominant or bend to what they might want the story to be was terrific. It's your story, but you need to maintain an open dialogue because they're people you love and you want them around after the book is published."

Mark Sakamoto's comments have edited and condensed.

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