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"Little Boy" --the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. "Fat Man" --dropped on Nagasaki August 9, 1945. Stories of Hiroshima Bombing–(2) Historical Representation and Identity Reconstructions. -- Different Online Reproductions -- Joy Kogawa’s Obasan. Outline.

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stories of hiroshima bombing 2 historical representation and identity reconstructions
"Little Boy" --the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.

"Fat Man" --dropped on Nagasaki August 9, 1945.

Stories of Hiroshima Bombing–(2) Historical Representation and Identity Reconstructions

-- Different Online Reproductions

-- Joy Kogawa’s Obasan

  • A Footnote to Vietnam –a poem on Vietnam “Recollection”
  • Online Representations of Hiroshima Bombing
  • Q & A
  • Obasan –
    • General Intro
    • Issues of Race;
    • Repression of History
    • Trauma, Reconstructions & “Language”
  • For Next Time and References
a survivor s vision recollection by joan a furey
A survivor’s vision: “Recollection” by Joan A Furey
  • An example of how the war has been seen from different perspectives (women’s, Vietnamese’, Vietnamese-Americans’)
  • The poem is a recollection of a woman whose lover died in the V war as a soldier.
  • The first 6 stanzas presents a haunting vision. --can be compared with that of Sam in In Country, and Naomi towards the end of Obasan
  • The last 3 stanzas — an ironic contrast between the (lack of) purpose, sense of mission, reason on the one hand, and the on-going presence in her mind of the vision of his death.
online representations of hiroshima bombing
Online Representations of Hiroshima Bombing
  • “Scientific” interest: Atomic Archive (example)
  • Medical Studies (of the effects of Atomic bombs)
  • For Anti-Nuclear weapon causes –e.g. No More Nagasaki (examples of the victims’ voices)
  • For Hiroshima victims from an Artist who’s not there at the time (examples)
  • THE HIROSHIMA DEBATE -- Was Harry Truman a War Criminal? Was it necessary (example)
  • Fake Hiroshima; an Example of extreme videos ( )( ) (example)
different online reproductions
Different Online Reproductions
  • From Atomic Digital Archive
  • Little Boy (left; dropped on H) Fat Man (right dropped on N)
examples of the victims voices
Examples of the victims’ voices
  • Mr.Akio Sakita : Still today I receive regular treatment as an outpatient at Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Hospital. When my condition is poor I feel a great weariness with life, but I have never given up hope. In the face of every trial and every hardship, I have found new incentives to continue living and working.The survivors continue to die today,finally released from lives of untold suffering.We have suffered enough.There must never be another Hiroshima or another Nagasaki.

the artist s statement begins with a quotation from a book
The Artist's Statement –begins with a quotation from a book
  • "In a cistern under a bridge were some mothers. One mother held on her head a baby that was burned all over, and another mother wept bitterly as her child suckled her badly burned breast.Children in the cistern cried out for their parents, holding their heads above water and joining their hands in prayer. Since they all were hurt, none could help the other. Their hair was singed, and covered with white dust. They scarcely looked like human beings.Looking at these people, I could hardly imagine how I must have looked. My hands were red with blood, with skin hanging down. In my wounded flesh I saw black, red, and white things appearing. I was alarmed and tried to remove my handkerchief from my pocket. But there was no handkerchief or pocket. The clothes below my waist were burned away...." [From Genbaku no Ko (Children of the Atomic Bombing), published in 1951 by Iwanami Shoten, Publishers.]
artist s statement end
Artist's Statement –end
  • I have completed my work of portraying Hiroshima, with this collection of photographs. If anything else remains for me to do about Hiroshima, it would be for me to go on honestly admitting my shameful attitude as an artist as I continue to gaze at Hiroshima.
the hiroshima debate necessary
The Hiroshima Debate --Necessary
  • Revisionist:Gar Alperovitz's book “The Decision to Use theAtomic Bomb, and the Architecture of an American Myth Alperovitz: The real decision to use the atomic bomb was the decision not to give the Japanese another way to surrender. The documents make it very clear that it was known they would never surrender if we threatened their emperor-who was more like Jesus or Buddha in their theology. The demand for unconditional surrender was a threat to their entire culture, their religion, and their politics, and we knew it. (source)
  • Criticized by some other historians: Truman "acted for the reason he said he did: to end a bloody war that would have become far bloodier had invasion [of Japan's home islands] proved necessary."
fake hiroshima argument
Fake Hiroshima argument
  • Reasons: 1) impossible—the range of B-26; the three images of the mushroom cloud –the same one; only three A-Bombs; a lot of opponents; the victims—only regular burns, etc. etc,
  • Conclusion: “戰後不久,日本政府發現這了“兩顆原子彈”卻有巨大的利用價值,可以掩蓋日本“害人國”的地位,突出其“被害國”的地位,所以日本不願再懷疑那兩顆“原子彈”。現在,每年的8月6日和9日,在日本廣島和長崎,都有紀念活動,紀念從未有過的原子彈爆炸,在兩地還有紀念館,以突出日本在歷史上的“被害”,但是卻從未反省自己對亞洲和世界各國人民犯下的罪行。 歷史上就認可了美軍在日本本土投放原子彈的謊言。 歷史是公正的,今天,這段謊言被揭穿了。歷史雖然已經過去,那么,我們在今天該說些什么 ”
Q & A
  • What do you think about all these representations? Which of them are to be trusted?
  • Any other questions from the groups?
joy kogawa biographical sketch
Joy Kogawa—Biographical Sketch
  • born in Vancouver, B.C. in 1935
  • relocated to Slocan and Coaldale, Alberta during and after WWII
  • Selected Publications:
  • Obasan. 1983.
  • Woman in the Woods. 1985.
  • Naomi's Road. 1986.
  • Itsuka. 1993.
  • The Rain Ascends. 1995.
awards for obasan
Awards for Obasan
  • Books in Canada, First Novel Award.
  • Canadian Authors Association, Book of the Year Award.
  • Periodical Distributors of Canada, Best Paperback Fiction Award.
  • Before Columbus Foundation, The American Book Award.
joy kogawa

Itsuka: on the redress movement

“itsuka, someday, the time for laughter will come."

Joy Kogawa
obasan background
Obasan background
  • Racism against the Japanese during WWII;
  • Suspected as ‘Enemy Aliens”
    • under surveillance before the Pearl Harbor
    • suspected, (clip 3)
    • relocation (clip 4) –dispersal of Japanese-Canadian family members -- men sent to road camps in the interior of B.C., sugar beet projects on the Prairies, POW camp in Ontario; women and children to Hasting Park, etc.
    • Deportation (clip 5)
Obasan--Family Trees


Issei. Grandma Nakane

Arrive in Canada 1893;

~ 1945

Grandpa Nakane

~ 1942








(Tadashi Mark)


Nisei: Emily








Ref. Chap 4; pp. 17-19; 20

obasan three topics for discussion
Obasan: Three Topics for Discussion
  • From a postcolonial perspective: Wartime Racism and its influence on Family and Children
  • History: Different Views and the consequences of its repression
  • Trauma and Reconstruction –a gradual process of listening, imagination and holding imaginary dialogue
traumatic moments in naomi s life
Traumatic Moments in Naomi’s Life
  • 1941—(episode of the white hen and chicks, and of the Old Man Gower) Mother returned to Japan (clue: p. 20 )
  • 1941—Dec. Pearl Harbor
  • 1942 – Moving to Slocan, BC
  • 1945-- the bombing of Nagasaki
  • 1950 – Father’s death
  • 1951--moved to Granton, Alberta
  • (minor episodes: drowning, chicken killed by school boys; kitten in an outhouse, nightmares, etc.)
stages of reconstructions
Stages of Reconstructions
  • 1954--the first visit to the coulee (p. 2;斜壁峽谷); the grass treated as sea waves
  • 1972—August, last visit to the coulee; Aunt Emily’s visitwith a package of documents and newspaper clips.
  • 1972 – 9/13 narrative present --Uncle’s death
naomi s racial identities and her aunts
Naomi’s Racial Identities and her Aunts’
  • Naomi--sansei--spinster, tense ([2] 7),
  • Obasan--issei—
    • language of grief--silence ([3] 14);
    • ancient; accepting death;
    • live with the past ([3]11, 14-16; [5] 25-26 ),
  • Emily--nisei—
    • energetic, visionary ([2] 8),
    • “word warrior” (32),“white blood cells” (34)
    • different from Obasan ([7] 32); from Uncle and Naomi (35-36); /
    • Canadian identity--“This is my own, my native land”
naomi s two aunts
Naomi’s two Aunts
  • How different my two aunts are. One [Emily] lives in sound, the other[Obasan] in stone. Obasan's language remains deeply underground but Aunt Emily, . . . , is a word warrior. She's a crusader, a little old grey-haired Mighty Mouse, a Bachelor of Advanced Activists and General Practitioner of Just Causes. (32)
  •  Two endings – one poetic reconciliation, the other, a political document
race naomi s sense of her japanese family
Race: Naomi’s sense of her “Japanese” family
  • Intimate; beyond language
  • Mother--‘yasashi’ on the photo -- “Mother is a fragile presence. Her face is oval as an egg and delicate. She wears a collarless straight-up-and-down dress and a long string of pearls.” (19)
  • Momotaro (桃太郎) – behave with honor, family’s love—a Canadian story.
  •  recollection – p. 242 – 43
naomi s experience of racism
Naomi’s experience of racism
  • In the past – Old Man Gower’s sexual harassment;
  • In the present – “Where are you from?” An ice-breaker question that shows the ice.
  • In childhood – expressed thru’ fairy-tales and animals she projects herself to.
naomi s responses
Naomi’s Responses
  • Fails to understand (A riddle: end of Chap 12); fear Chap 13 (73);
  • Sense of guilt; Old Man Gower (end of Chap 11)
  • Nightmares– chaps 6; 11; 20; 22, 35
    • As a grown-up: the three Oriental women; a soldier with a beast commanding a couple to work;
    • (end of chap 20)
    • Nightmare (chap 22)
  • “Tense” in the present
children s responses 3 naomi s 2 as a victim identification with animals
Children’s Responses (3): Naomi’s (2): as a victim –identification with animals

In Slocan:

  • Quiet (chap 21)
  • Naomi as a victim,
    • like a red insect chap 21,p. 140, 142 King bird
    • little yellow chicken vs. white fairies chap 22
  • Her guilt over the deaths of little chicken(chap 22); The kitten in the outhouse (end of chap 22)
naomi s experience of racism expression thru fairy tales and of fragmentation
Naomi’s experience of racism – expression thru’ fairy tales and of fragmentation
  • e.g. Being harrassed by a white Canadian old man (Old Man Gower);

”I am Snow White in the forest, unable to run. He is the forest full of eyes and arms. . . . ”

 “In the center of my body is a rift.”

 Mother separated from her by the chasm.

  • The Other Responses to the changes thru’ Fairy-Tales
    • The house’s being taken: Goldilock vs. the little bear; (chap 17)
    • Humpty Dumpty (chap 15) –fall into pieces;
fragmentation survival
Fragmentation & Survival:

Beginning of Chap 15 (leaving for Slocan )

  • “We are the hammers and chisels in the hands of would be sculptors, battering the spirit of the sleeping mountain. We are the chips and sand, the fragments of fragments that fly like arrows from the heart of the rock. We are the silences that speak from stone. We are the despised. . .

We are those pioneers who cleared the bush and the forest with our hands, the gardeners tending and attending the soil with our tenderness . . .

three ways of dealing with memories
Three ways of dealing with memories
  • Obasan: ancient woman who stays in history
    • --can be consumed,
    • --can make use of the leftovers
  • Emily: “The past is the future” p. 42
  • Naomi: “Crimes of history . . . Can stay in history” p. 41
identity and repression of history
Identity and Repression of History
  • Aunt Emily to Naomi: "You have to remember," Aunt Emily said. "You are your history. If you cut any of it off you're an amputee. Don't deny the past. Remember everything. If you're bitter, be bitter. Cry it out! Scream! Denial is gangrene." (49-50)
trauma and memory silence and speech
Trauma and Memory; Silence and Speech
  • How is trauma endured by grandmother and mother?
  • What are the functions of the two letters? How are they read?
  • How does Noami respond to them?
  • What do you think of these imagery--the child with the “double wound” (243) the letters as skeletons and bones of the past (38: 243)?
  • Why does Kogawa end the novel with an official document?
grandmother s letter
Grandmother’s letter
  • A contrast between family togetherness and the deaths afterwards in Tokyo and Nagasaki.
  • The moment of bombing –taken with incomprehension; fell into what seems like a dream.
  • Never mentions her own wound;
  • Cannot help the others but only the two children;
  • The Mother – burning a dead child’s body while she herself is naked.
  • No return address.
letters as release
Letters –as release
  • --for Grandma Kato--“however much the effort to forget, there is no forgetfulness” (281)--release the burden of memory with writing (283)--the reader as burden sharer
  • Prefaced with “Everybody someday dies” (231)
  • (232-33)-- for the relatives and pastor (Sensei): read with care many times, keeping them from the children (“for the sake of children”)
the letters beginning of silent communication for naomi
The letters –beginning of silent communication for Naomi

The novel’s preface on silence --

There is a silence that cannot speak.

There isa silence that will not speak.

Beneath the grass the speaking dreams and beneath the dreams is a sensate sea. The speech that frees comes forth from that amniotic deep. To attend its voice, I can hear it say, is to embrace its absence. But I fail the task. The word is stone.

I admit it.

(sensate: related to senses; amniotic – 羊水)

the novel s preface on silence 2
The novel’s preface on silence (2)

I hate the stillness. I hate the stone. I hate the sealed vault with its cold icon. I hate the staring into the night. The questions thinning into space. The sky swallowing the echoes.

Unless the stone bursts with telling, unless the seed flowers with speech, there is in my life no living word. The sound I hear is only sound. White sound. Words, when they fall, are pockmarks on the earth. They are hailstones seeking an underground stream.

If I could follow the stream down and down to the hidden voice, would I come at last to the freeing word? I ask the night sky but the silence is steadfast. There is no reply

Hailstone: 雹子

naomi s responses1
Naomi’s responses

A. Attentive – “What is it?”

  • 233 – the rain
  • 239 – After the reading, her skin hungry for warmth, for flesh.

B. Listen to her mother – Sansei’s suggestion 

  • 240 --for Naomi--attending the voice of the voicelessness--an eulogy of Mother

C. speak to mother (In chap 38)

  • asserting her Canadian identity; 241
  • feeling her hardship and influence from Alberta – in a surreal manner 241-42

D. Starts her search for ‘flesh’; for dormant blooms and love– with the letters as bones

naomi s responses 2 active reconstruction of love
Naomi’s responses (2) –Active Reconstruction of Love
  • remembering--personal memorial service to the dead (Mother, Father, Uncle--all the “absences”)
  • re-membering last community 244 
  • Understanding Obasan and her love with Uncle p. 245
  • But she still feels the ‘gentle’ touch of Grief
  • Direct address to her dead family; a communion in the forest through ‘picking berries’ with their help, and reading their ‘forest braille.’
naomi s responses 3 active reconstruction of love
Naomi’s responses (3) –Active Reconstruction of Love

-- another act of constructing her community

Visit the coulee in Aunt Emily’s coat;

To do what Uncle used to do;

To smell fragrance of her mother.

silence 1 a means of communication in the family
Silence– (1) a means of communication in the family
  • e.g. the mother’s response in Naomi’s chicken episode;
  • Care taking in the family (chap 10)
  •  Naomi’s lack of resistance to Old Man Gower;
  •  learns of danger only as “whispers and frowns and too much gentleness” (13: 73)
  • father's illness, his coming back, and departure 166, 171, 179
silence 2 for the sake of children
Silence– (2) for the sake of children
  • Obasan's silence
  • Live in stone (p. 32); turns to stone (198)
  • Endurance chap 34 --224 (inviolate); 226;
  •  Trapped in her memory
silence 3 no more inquisition
Silence– (3) no more inquisition
  • mother's silence the avenues of silence are the avenues of speech 228 ==233
  • silence and forbearance of the atomic bomb victims 236
  •  lost together in our silences 243
  •  silent communion with the dead: unity and distance at the end 246-47
official document aunt emily s
Official Document – Aunt Emily’s
  • write the vision Language and make it plain
  • Her documents as “the mind’s meal” (chap 27); her words – not made flesh, not touch N in Alberta (end of chap 27)
  • Pushing Naomi to talk about “facts” chap 27; pp. 183 -
kogawa s own experience
Kogawa’s own experience
  • 1. 1960s -- Not asserting her Japanese identity first: “I would see myself as white. I wrote as a white person. I wrote, in fact, in a male voice initially. In that sense I was a mimic, I read and I wrote what I read. ”
kogawa s own experience1
Kogawa’s own experience
  • 2. the writing of "Obasan"
  • “But even at that point, I was not thinking particularly of writing about Japanese-Canadians, I was simply writing out of my own life and writing it in some of the way I wrote poetry. . . .
  • 3. at the Archives, though, in Ottawa,
  • “ that's when I became aware of another voice that I was not conscious of being within me--Muriel Kitagawa's voice. To me, it was a voice from the outside, . . .. So Aunt Emily's voice was always outside of me throughout the entire writing of Obasan. “
kogawa s own experience2
Kogawa’s own experience
  • 4. after writing Obasan; writing Itsuka
  • ”the Naomi character -- the way I used to be--got more and more transformed, and the Aunt Emily voice came out. I found myself being more like Aunt Emily. And I think in Itsuka I was much more like Emily[though still writing in Naomi’s perspective]. . .
a brief conclusion
A brief conclusion
  • Trauma –
    • not re-presentable; a wound that cries only too late.
    • real survival means understanding and action
  • Representation of Trauma –
    • motivation and effects.
next time
Next Time
  • Different Views on and Representation of Trauma
  • 11”09”01 September 11
  • 凌遲考 – by 陳界仁
  • Please finishes the article on Hiroshima, mon amour.
  • Joy Kogawa Talks to Karlyn Koh: The Heart-of-the-Matter Questions." The Other Woman: Women of Colour in Contemporary Canadian Literature. Ed. Makeda Silvera. Toronto: Black Women and Women of Colour P, 1995. 19-41.