Joy Kogawa: Exercise 1 - Reading and Vocabulary
Read the story and answer the questions.
The Story of Joy Kogawa
1 Joy Kogawa remembers her childhood home in Vancouver fondly. The house always had the smell of wood burning in the fireplace. The walls were covered with paintings, photos, and bookcases. The sounds of music, storytelling and laughter sailed through the air. Her bedroom had toy boxes filled with cars, dolls, and games. A cherry tree stood in the yard outside her window. But her happy days there were cut short.
2 In 1941, a warplane from Japan dropped a bomb on the United States. Canada went to war with Japan. The prime minister of Canada thought that Japanese Canadians might be spies. So he had all Japanese Canadians taken from their homes. They were sent to live and work in camps. To pay for the camps, their homes and belongings were sold. Most of the people sent to the camps were born in Canada. Half of them were under the age of 19. Both the RCMP and the military agreed the prime minister’s decision did not make sense. But the prime minister did it anyway. He wanted Canada to be mostly for white people. He hoped the Japanese Canadians would just go back to Japan.
3 Joy Kogawa was just six years old when her family was forced from their home. They were put on a train and shipped to a camp in Slocan, British Columbia. The family had to live in a one-room shack. It was a heat trap in the summer and an ice box in the winter. Her family was forced to work on a farm. Joy had to work alongside them in the beet fields – often instead of going to school. She dreamed of going back to her home in Vancouver.
4 After the war, Joy did not want to be thought of as Japanese. She thought of herself as a white person. It was a way of trying to forget the painful past. One day, Joy came across some letters. They were written by a Japanese Canadian woman from Vancouver and sent to her brother in Toronto. The letters were about how terrible it was to live in a time of so much racism. The writer called for justice. These letters gave Joy an idea. She decided to write a story based on what had happened to her family. She wrote a book called Obasan. As she wrote it, she began to accept herself as Japanese Canadian. And she began to want justice, too.
5 Joy began to work for justice for the Japanese Canadians who had been put in camps. She worked with others to hold meetings, write letters, and organize rallies. Her book, Obasan, helped people across Canada to understand the terrible things that had happened. Finally, in 1988, the federal government said it was sorry for what had happened. It paid back part of what had been taken from Japanese Canadians. It promised to work to make sure such a terrible injustice never happens again.
6 In 2005, Joy’s childhood house in Vancouver was going to be torn down. Joy helped raise enough money to buy it back. To this day, the house still stands as a reminder of the injustice of racism and war. If we remember our past, we can avoid making the same mistakes in the future.
Story by Shantel Ivits at BC Open Textbooks
Adapted under Creative Commons license
Adaptations and exercises by Richard Carrington, English Language Centre
Photo: Joy Kogawa by monnibo is used and adapted under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.
Audio version performed by Peter Polgar, English Language Centre
What is not one of Joy Kogawa's fond childhood memories?
- toy boxes filled with cars, dolls and games
- the sounds of laughter, storytelling and music CDs
- the smell of wood burning in the fireplace
- a cherry tree outside her window
What ended Joy's happy childhood days in Vancouver?
- Her parents divorced.
- Canada made war against America.
- Canada went to war with Japan.
- Japan and Canada went to war against Germany.
Why were Japanese Canadians forced to leave their homes and sent to camps?
- The military suspected they were spies.
- Their skills were needed to build the camps.
- The RCMP suspected them of spying.
- The prime minister felt they were spies.
What is not true about the Japanese Canadians who were sent to the camps?
- Most of them had been born in Canada.
- What they owned, including their homes, was sold to pay for the camps.
- More than 50% of them were over 19 years old.
Joy Kogawa was born in ____________.
What did Joy never do when she lived in the camp?
- attend school
- work on a farm
- live in a shack
- work at a factory
What is not true about the letters Joy found after the war?
- They inspired her to write a book.
- The were sent to her brother.
- They were written by a Japanese Canadian woman from Toronto.
- They cried out for justice.
What is not true about Joy's book, "Obasan"?
- It helped people across Canada understand the injustices Japanese Canadians had suffered.
- It was published in 1988.
- It helped Joy accept her Japanese heritage.
- It helped persuade the government of Canada to apologize for what happened to Japanese Canadians during the war.
What is not true about Joy's family house in Vancouver?
- It is now a symbol of the injustice of racism.
- It was torn down and rebuilt in 2005.
- It reminds people of the injustice of war.
- It teaches us that only by remembering the past, can we avoid making such mistakes in the future.
Which of the words below does not have the same meaning as "fondly" (paragraph 1)?
Which of the words below does not have the same meaning as "shack" (paragraph 3)?
Which of the words below does not have the same meaning as "racism" (paragraph 4)?
Which of the words below does not have the same meaning as "injustice" (paragraph 5)?
In paragraph 5, the word "rallies" is closest in meaning to ____________.
- people coming together for a sad occasion
- people getting together to celebrate and have fun
- people coming together to show support for someone or something