by Joy Kogawa
Illustrated by Ruth Ohi
I was in the Japan Foundation two weeks ago and I was able to meet with these two wonderful people when I was volunteering for their book talk event: Joy Kogawa, a Japanese-Canadian children’s book writer and novelist; and Ruth Ohi, also Japanese-Canadian who draws for children’s books. These photos were taken with my own camera.
Left: Ruth Ohi talking about what inspired her to draw and how she does it.
Right: Joy Kogawa sits down and talks about their book, “Naomi’s Tree”.
Ruth Ohi and Joy Kogawa after the Book Talk event together with their new book “Naomi’s Tree”. I requested to take their photos and to tell you, they’re really nice. I do hope the photos are just fine if ever they see it. I had a chance to get a copy of “Naomi’s Tree” and had both of them sign it. I also had a copy of “Obasan” by Kogawa which the author alone signed.
The first time I encountered Joy Kogawa was in the novel “Obasan” back when I was still in college. I wasn’t a really hardworking student back then which is why I didn’t have the chance to read the novel cover-to-cover. I’m sure I’ll be able to go through that book very very soon.
For now, I want to talk about one of Joy Kogawa’s children’s books which was done with the help of the creative and expressive drawings of Ruth Ohi.
I was able to learn all about the lives of Japanese-Canadians in Canadian history back in college. This book just gave me an idea of the events that time from the perspective of an individual who is a Japanese-Canadian and who went through those experiences along with her family. From the time they were living peacefully in the beginning of the century as immigrants to Canada up to the Second World War which have affected drastically the Japanese-Canadian community, and even until today…
I was able to learn about how it is so important to “preserve love” within the lives of people no matter how unavoidable separation can be even if separation itself could last for a long, long time. Kids need to value the importance of love – of caring for other people, of spending quality time with other people, of making peace and harmony within family and friends a great deal. “Naomi’s Tree” have provided that experience through the relationship between Naomi and the cherry tree – the Friendship Tree, whose role is to become a symbol of love which lasts for a long time and is preserved for generations to come. This love is shown through its beautiful pink petals during spring and its sweet fruits as they ripen.
But the best thing about this is that it relates to the life of Joy Kogawa who had this exact experience and who realized great things throughout those encounters in life. Thank you very much for sharing those experiences.
With regards to Ruth Ohi’s drawings. I have to admit that there are emotional moments in the book that the pictures do intensify and I really liked it. And of course, these images can be appreciated very well by the youngsters who can open up to different perspectives of life aside from just sticking to their out-of-this-world imaginations which parents always find really interesting.
I hope everyone was able to acquire something valuable out of my reflections to this work. It was a great read! I’m pretty sure that I will pass this literature on to my kids if ever I would get one hehehe.