Book Review: Obasan

Joy Kogawa
Children’s literature (I may disagree with this), fiction
Published: 1981
4/5 Stars

                A powerful and passionate novel, Obasan tells, through the eyes of a child, the moving story of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War. Naomi is a sheltered and beloved five-year-old when Pearl Harbor changes her life, Separated from her mother, she watches bewildered as she and her family become enemy aliens, persecuted and despised in their own land. Surrounded by hardship and pain, Naomi is protected by the resolute endurance of her aunt Obasan and the silence of those around her. Only after Naomi grows up does she return to question the haunting silence.


                Oh my gwad, this book actually made me tear up and that next to never happens! In fact I cannot remember any other novel that has made me tear up before. I will be honest with you folks I had to read this for a study on Canadian authors and wasn`t expecting to enjoy this so much in fact I usually hate books I have to read for school…probably because I`m being forced to read them!
                The book took place from Nomi`s point of view as both an adult and as a child (before and after WW2) and there is a whole lot of stuff in here I don`t think little children should be exposed too so I`m slightly confused as to why this is classed as Children`s fiction. There is a scene of sexual abuse and some graphic details regarding the bombings in Japan, graphic enough it might scare them? I found it disturbing and hard to hear at any rate.
                I ‘enjoyed’ the story, at least the way it was told. I learned a lot about Japanese Canadians that I did not know before even though I am a Canadian. I guess even in Canada we don’t like to throw out ‘dirty laundry’ around. I think this is something that we should know about however, it should be talked about and discussed in detail so that it never happens again. The story follows Naomi’s family as they travel through ‘work camps’ to farmer fields in Alberta where they slaved away on turnip farms even after the war and suspension was supposedly ‘lifted’. This book discusses who was actually involved with the decisions in regard to anyone of Japanese descent as ‘enemy aliens’ despite many of these people having lived in Canada for generations and it goes on to talk about how all their belongings were sold and they were never compensated.
                It then follows Nomi to an adult where she finds out what really happened to her mother when during her entire childhood it was talked about in hushed voices and not discussed at all. It turns out her mother was affected by the bombings in Japan shortly after Pearl Harbour and well… though she didn’t die exactly I can’t really say more either because then it’d be a huge giant spoiler and I’d be a huge giant meanie.
                Anyways I really enjoyed this book a whole lot more than I ever thought I would have. It was very eye opening espically considering I had almost no idea any of this stuff happened… most of what I heard was from my Grandparents… and to be honest they may not have been so… honest themselves? It’s/was hard to get them to talk about these things. The only things I ever heard weren’t the greatest and don’t deserve to be repeated or said anywhere at any time in history.
                I think I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the World Wars; it was really nice to actually learn about other aspects of the war that aren’t quite so openly discussed.  So if you’re a history buff pick this up, I do not believe you’d be disappointed!
                Have you ever read this book? Let me know what you thought about it, or maybe why even you wouldn’t be interested in it? I love conversations! : ) let’s talk about books!
                —Hope you’re having a fantastic weekend! ❤


5 thoughts on “Book Review: Obasan

  1. I enjoy historical fiction – its my favourite genre. I’ve been reading way too much of it, so now I’m currently taking a break and reading normal fiction. I will have to add this one to my list!

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