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

General voting day for the Terrace trustee by-election is Saturday, March 6 at the Terrace Sportsplex Multipurpose Room from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Black Press file photo)
Terrace trustee by-election: Meet the candidates

General voting day is March 6 at the Terrace Sportsplex Multipurpose Room from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Terrace RCMP arrested two men on Feb. 17 after they were told to leave the Sunshine Inn and then became combative with police. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Terrace RCMP arrest men visiting a person in COVID-19 isolation

Men attempted to strike police with a chair, threatened to kill officers when told to leave

The Terrace & District Chamber of Commerce hosted a virtual all candidates forum for the Coast Mountains School District trustee by-election on Feb. 23, 2021. (Screenshot/Terrace & District Chamber of Commerce Facebook)
Terrace trustee candidates lay out top priorites during virual all candidates forum

All candidates forum was held virtually on Feb. 23, 2021

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

The City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

A vial of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a family doctor office, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 in Paris. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Christophe Ena
Trudeau ‘optimistic’ that timeline for rollout of COVID vaccines can be accelerated

Canada set to receive more than 6M COVID-19 vaccine dose than initially expected, by end of March

Beginning late Tuesday, anti-pipeline protesters blocked the intersection of Hastings Street and Clark Drive in Vancouver. (Instagram/Braidedwarriors)
Demonstrators block key access to Vancouver port over jail for pipeline protester

They group is protesting a 90-day jail sentence handed to a fellow anti-pipeline protester

Most Read