March 11, 2011

Historic Joy Kogawa House

Last Thursday, I went to Room Magazine’s 35th Anniversary party at Joy Kogawa House. I knew nothing of the house that is located in Marpole, even though I’ve driven down West 64th avenue numerous times throughout my life. It was the house that the writer, for which it is named, lived in until she was six years old, at which time her and her family were forced to leave to live in a Japanese Internment Camp. Her family were never able to reclaim their home as it was sold by the Canadian Government without their permission. After changing hands numerous times, it was bought by someone who was going to demolish it. However, after public pressure grew to save the house, time was granted for The Land Conservancy of BC (TLC) and others to raise the money to finally purchase the property in 2006. The house is now a culture space for events, workshops, and a yearly writers-in-residence program.

But as I mentioned, I didn’t know any of that until I showed up for the party. Room magazine is an entertaining, enlightening, and enriching literary magazine run by and written by women. I had already perused the anniversary issue entitled Journey when it arrived at my door a few weeks earlier. What made me truly understand the stories was when I heard four of the writers read their poetry and short stories. There is something for me about listening to writers read their work. I feel rejuvenated, excited, and inspired whether it is to write myself or to think yet again about how much can be experienced in our world.

Each told their story in very different ways. Katherine Poyner-Del Vento’s three poems (that had been published in the Sister edition) about different types of weddings, gave one account about playing dress up with her own sister, vying to put on their Mum’s wedding dress that had once been put away for safe keeping. I, too, have one of these in my own closet and am not quite sure what to do with it. Barbara Parker’s told a story about her father’s descent into Parkinson’s disease interlaced with dementia who was fast losing his words. What was so ingenious about this narrative was that she paralleled it with an account about an Anthropologist and his journey to study the language of the Penan people who live in the rain forest in Malaysia. Carol Shillibeer read her lyric prose about swimming in a river with a dock, its rope keeping people safe if only they would hold onto it. Lastly, a fiction story from Taryn Thomson about 12 year old girls getting the wrong kind of attention from boys when they can’t stay away from playing a game where they allow these boys to catch and hit them.

What I enjoyed most though was the brief question and answer period after each reading. It was informal and comfortable listening to the small audience ask these authors to reveal their incites, feelings, and motivation into why they came to write what they did. While we sat on folding chairs in the tiny living room with an overflow of people standing in the hallways, I felt internally warm (well, it was warm in the room too) and happily amongst one of many.

I will leave you with these very small tidbits from a great collection of stories you may want to read yourself.

What a wonderful way to celebrate International Women’s Day.



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