Joy Kogawa's debut novel won the Books in Canada First Novel Award in 1982.

Joy Kogawa

A powerful and passionate novel, Obasan tells, through the eyes of a child, the moving story of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War. Naomi is a sheltered and beloved five-year-old when Pearl Harbor changes her life. Separated from her mother, she watches bewildered as she and her family become enemy aliens, persecuted and despised in their own land. Surrounded by hardship and pain, Naomi is protected by the resolute endurance of her aunt Obasan and the silence of those around her. Only after Naomi grows up does she return to question the haunting silence. (From Penguin Books)

Obasan won the Books in Canada First Novel Award (now known as the First Novel Award) in 1982.

Read an excerpt | Author interviews

From the book

Mother removes the live chicks first, placing them in her apron... there is calm efficiency in her face and she does not speak. Her eyes are steady and matter-of-fact — the eyes of Japanese motherhood. They do not invade and betray. They are eyes that protect, shielding what is hidden most deeply in the heart of the child.

From Obasan by Joy Kogawa ©1981. Published by Penguin Canada.

Author interviews

Joy Kogawa recalls her internment experience in 1999

24 years ago
Duration 7:44
One woman remembers the positives and negatives of living in an internment camp. Aired on CBC's Midday on Nov. 11, 1999.