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

The application proposing to rezone Western Speedway was passed by Langford’s planning, zoning and affordable housing committee Feb 8. A petition has since been started by residents of Trudie Terrace, hoping to stop the proposed residential portion of the development plan. (CBRE Victoria)
Petition opposing Western Speedway development proposal gains steam

Save Thetis Heights Neighborhood petition aims to stop extension of Trudie Terrace

The City of Victoria filed a petition with the Supreme Court of B.C. March 2 to have it clarify whether, under the Trustee Act, Beacon Hill Park can be used for temporary sheltering. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria asks court to clarify if Beacon Hill Park can be used for sheltering

City of Victoria filed petition to Supreme Court of B.C. March 2

Activists from the Fairy Creek Blockades hold the injunction application notice which was submitted by logging company Teal Jones to the B.C. Supreme Court. The application, which asks to have blockaders removed from the sites that stop access to cut blocks, is set to be heard on March 4. (Photo contributed/Joshua Wright)
Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew from logging

Forest company Teal Cedar applies for injunction to remove seven-month-old blockades

Boma Brown won the Emerging Leader Award for her work founding the Support Network for Indigenous Women and Women of Colour. (Courtesy of Boma Brown)
Victoria SNIWWOC founder up for national women’s award for volunteer efforts

Victoria’s Boma Brown is a semi-finalist in the running for the L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth award

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

.
LETTER: Anti-semitism definition lacking

Re: We must identify anti-Semitism and combat it (Online, Feb. 26) I… Continue reading

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

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

Most Read