How Mark Sakamoto's visit to Ottawa connected the history of family and country

The Canada Reads 2018 contender and author of the memoir Forgiveness joined audience members in the capital to reflect on the book’s title.
231 audience members packed into Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa to hear Mark Sakamoto discuss the family stories behind his Canada Reads shortlisted memoir Forgiveness. (Leah Hansen/CBC)

In March, Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa and the Ottawa Writers' Festival hosted author Mark Sakamoto's conversation about his Canada Reads shortlisted memoir Forgiveness and its history of a family torn apart during war.

Ottawa appears in the memoir as the site where the country declared its involvement in the Second World War — a decision that landed Sakamoto's grandfather in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. It was also because of the internment decisions made in Ottawa that Sakamoto's Japanese Canadian grandmother was relocated to Alberta.

Mark Sakamoto, left, and host Alan Neal take a moment to lighten the tone of the conversation around the memoir Forgiveness and its depiction of wartime Canada. (Leah Hansen/CBC)

In addition to the personal significance of Sakamoto's visit, a discussion with CBC All in a Day's Alan Neal was part of a series of Canada Reads 2018-related events that occurred across the country. 

Manahil Bandukwala was one of the audience members that joined Mark Sakamoto on the stage to share her personal story of forgiveness. (Leah Hansen/CBC)

Forgiveness was championed by Jeanne Beker on Canada Reads (March 26-29, 2018). Discussing forgiveness — his grandmother's, his grandfather's and his own — became a community event that evening. Several members of the audience volunteered to share their own stories involving forgiveness and how they came to terms with their grievances.

Instrumentalist Ryoko Itabashi plays at the Canada Reads 2018 event organised in Ottawa around Mark Sakamoto's memoir Forgiveness. (Leah Hansen/CBC)

Music also helped the audience and author comprehend the themes of the book in new ways. Musician Ryoko Itabashi played the Japanese samisen, a three-stringed instrument, in a musical reading of the memoir, lending a soundtrack to Sakamoto's words.

Mark Sakamoto engages with an audience member as he signs a copy of his Canada Reads shortlisted memoir, Forgiveness. (Library and Archives of Canada)

The author also visited CBC Ottawa to talk about the story behind his memoir with Alan Neal. The interview can be heard below along with audio highlights from the evening's event.

Mark Sakamoto's grandparents went through much hardship during WWII. But instead of being bitter, they taught Sakamoto about forgiveness, and now it's documented in a new book. 10:52
Mark Sakamoto joined me on stage at Library and Archives Canada recently -- as listeners shared their own tales of forgiveness. 14:24

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