How Canada Reads is giving Mark Sakamoto's memoir Forgiveness a second life

The author of Forgiveness, the memoir that won Canada Reads 2018, reflects on personal and national stories.
Mark Sakamoto's memoir Forgiveness was successfully defended by Jeanne Beker on Canada Reads 2018. (CBC)

Mark Sakamoto knows what it takes to write and live a comeback story. His memoir, Forgiveness, charts his family's journey to recover from dark episodes in Canada's history. It chronicles his Japanese Canadian grandmother's internment and his maternal grandfather's time as a prisoner of war in Japan during the Second World War.  

Sakamoto spoke to Portia Clark about these hardships and triumphs on CBC's Radio Active.

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

Reviving a story

"What a resurgence! It's been wonderful to tell my story and my grandparent's story all over again. I published the book in 2014 and went out and did radio hits — then you go and live your life. So having a second kick at the can and being part of Canada Reads is an honour. What a fortunate turn of events to have Jeanne Beker in Forgiveness's corner. She really understands the themes of intolerance and state-led racism."

The fall of a nation 

"My grandparents were both Canadian citizens. Like most Japanese-Canadians, they felt like the rumours of internment and being sent back to Japan were impossibilities because they were citizens. Unfortunately, that's exactly what transpired. They were forcibly removed from Vancouver and lived in a modified chicken coop in southern Alberta. Possessions are one thing, but they were really turned into the enemy in their own country — their only crime was their ethnicity."

Overcoming hate 

"The wonderful thing my grandparents were able to do is shed those injurious years. They used forgiveness to cleanse their hearts and saw it as the escape hatch from the Second World War. Whether it's in world events or in our personal lives, everybody is going to fall down. The getting back up is where the hero lives."

Mark Sakamoto's comments have been edited and condensed.

Mark Sakamoto, author of the memoir Forgiveness, discusses the relevance of remembering the past. 7:54

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