by Joy Kogawa
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A powerful and passionate novel, told through the eyes of a child, about 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.

Based on the author’s own experiences, this award-winning novel was the first to tell the story of the evacuation and dispersal of Japanese-Canadian citizens during WWII.


Joy Kogawa, author

Joy Kogawa is a Japanese Canadian writer. During World War II, she and her family were sent to the internment camp at Slocan, British Columbia — an injustice addressed in her award-winning novel, Obasan. She is a Member of the Order of Canada and has been awarded The Order of the Rising.


  • This quiet first novel burns in your hand. Rage mellows into sorrow; sorrow illumines love. It is love that you come away with, finally, in Obasan. - Washington Post
  • Disarmingly lovely. Beautifully structured. Obasan is a tour de force combining documentary precision with a heightened emotional state. - Quill & Quire
  • Kogawa’s translation of silence into experience is awesome: while she tells the history of the removal, and at the same time expresses the present, she shows what is changed for the Japanese Canadians, and what never changes for anyone. - The Village Voice
  • A bitter, haunting story. - The New Yorker
  • Kogawa’s novel must be heard and admired; the art itself can claim the real last word, exposing the viciousness of the racist horror, embodying the beauty that somehow, wonderfully, survives. - Los Angeles Times
  • Obasan is a very moving vision of an affront to democratic principles. . . . A deeply felt novel, brilliantly poetic in its sensibility. - New York Times Book Review

Rights Holder

Rights Holder: Cooke International

email: rights@cookeinternational.com

website: http://www.cookeinternational.com/

rights sold: English (Penguin Canada), French (World; Livre de Poche)

rights available: World

Additional Information

number of pages: 240

publication date: 01/01/1981

Original language of pub: English

Materials Available: complete manuscript