Writer Joy Kogawa is photographed in her Toronto home on Friday, February 22, 2019. Kogawa is giddy about the “miracle” of technology allowing people to learn about Canada’s racist past that forced thousands of citizens like her out of their homes and into internment camps during the Second World War. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Writer Joy Kogawa is photographed in her Toronto home on Friday, February 22, 2019. Kogawa is giddy about the “miracle” of technology allowing people to learn about Canada’s racist past that forced thousands of citizens like her out of their homes and into internment camps during the Second World War. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

B.C. tree that inspired award-winning author Joy Kogawa damaged by windstorm

The backyard tree is the focus of Kogawa’s children’s book ‘Naomi’s Tree’

A cherry tree that inspired award-winning Canadian author Joy Kogawa has been damaged in a fierce windstorm that swept across southern British Columbia.

Ann-Marie Metten, executive director of Historic Joy Kogawa House in Vancouver, says a huge limb of the aging cherry tree was torn off during the storm on Tuesday night.

The backyard tree is the focus of Kogawa’s children’s book “Naomi’s Tree” which became a symbol of her desire to return home after she and thousands of other Japanese Canadians were interned during the Second World War.

Her acclaimed novel “Obasan” prompted Canada to confront the legacy of persecution suffered by Japanese Canadians and although Kogawa could not return to her first home, supporters saved it from demolition in 2006, turning it into a literary landmark.

Metten says the old cherry tree is diseased and can’t be saved, but that there are already plans to plant a new tree in almost the same location, using a cutting from the original.

She says artists, from carvers to papermakers, are being urged to use the wood to create items suitable for auction to support programs at Kogawa House.

Although the remains of the tree are “somewhat hazardous,” Metten says the city is giving her organization time to decide how to salvage what’s left.

“People care about this tree and they are aware that it’s not going to be easy to take it down,” Metten says in an interview.

The loss of the tree won’t be the end of it, though, she says.

“In 2004, we had taken some grafts from this tree and one was planted at Vancouver City Hall, there is one at a community garden at the local elementary school, I’ve got one on my front boulevard that’s now 15 years old and massive.”

Grafts were also taken from downed branches after the storm, says Metten.

“We can’t have this as a sad story or tragedy, because there have been enough of those,” she says.

“We want to make something out of this.”

Kogawa was six when she and her family were interned and forced to relocate in southern Alberta, where they worked on sugar beet farms.

Her memory of those times inspired “Obasan” in 1981 and the poet and author has since published two other novels, two children’s books and numerous works of poetry and non-fiction.

Kogawa is a member of the Order of Canada and the Order of British Columbia and was honoured by the Japanese government in 2010 with the Order of the Rising Sun, marking her contribution toward understanding and preserving Japanese Canadian history.

Metten says the 85-year-old currently lives in Toronto.

The recent windstorm that toppled trees and downed power lines across much of southern B.C. also damaged a cherry tree in Vancouver, shown in a handout photo, that inspired writer Joy Kogawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Ksenia Makagonova Mandatory Credit

The recent windstorm that toppled trees and downed power lines across much of southern B.C. also damaged a cherry tree in Vancouver, shown in a handout photo, that inspired writer Joy Kogawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Ksenia Makagonova Mandatory Credit

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health reports 16 new COVID-19 cases

423 cases remain active in the region

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

School District 8 is considering moving some programs out of Central School to make more room. Photo: Tyler Harper
SD8 considers moving Wildflower classes, REACH program out of Central School

The district says the building is set to operate over capacity in the fall

A emergency response team assisted the RCMP in apprehending a woman in Kaslo who was barricaded in her house on March 1. File photo
RCMP apprehend woman barricaded in Kaslo house

The woman had been writing threatening messages about taking hostages, police say

A byelection will be held on March 27 to fill the council seat vacated by Brittny Anderson, who is now the MLA for Nelson-Creston. File photo
Meet the Nelson byelection candidates at online forum

Event sponsored by Nelson at its Best will take place online March 11

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

(Black Press file photo)
Agassiz boy, 11, dies from ‘extensive injuries’: Homicide team

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

Dr. Amit Desai of St. Francis Hospital receives a COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 17. (Photo courtesy of CHI Franciscan)
B.C. has now vaccinated more people from COVID-19 than total confirmed cases

B.C. has reached a milestone, vaccinating roughly 1.6% of its population from the coronavirus

Most Read