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 dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region since the pandemic began is now at 7,334

A rainbow shining on Kelowna General Hospital on May 12, 2020 International Nurses Day. (Steve Wensley - Prime Light Media)
New COVID cases trending down in Interior Health

24 new cases reported Thursday, Feb. 25, death at Kelowna General Hospital

From left: Councillor Lucy Taylor, Councillor Barry Banford, Councillor Bill Haring, Mayor Merlin Blackwell, Councillor Lynne Frizzle, Councillor Lyle Mckenzie and Councillor Shelley Sim. (District of Clearwater photo)
Council to consider raising taxes in 2021

The District of Clearwater council is considering a tax increase this year… Continue reading

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)
30 new COVID-19 cases, five more deaths in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases to 7,271 since testing began

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Kara Sorensen, diagnosed with lung cancer in July, says it’s important for people to view her as healthy and vibrant, rather than sick. (Photo courtesy of Karen Sorensen)
B.C. woman must seek treatment overseas for inoperable lung cancer

Fundraising page launched on Karen Sorensen’s behalf, with a goal of $250,000

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

Most Read