Obasan by Joy Kogawa

1060 Words5 Pages
Obasan is a powerful novel written in first person under the eyes of Naomi Nakane, who is the protagonist of the novel. The book centers on the memories and experiences of Naomi. The setting is Western Canada and the novel frequently goes back and forth between 1972 and World War II. The year 1972 is the year which Naomi is currently in and World War II is the point of time where Naomi and many Japanese Canadians had to deal with onerous difficulties and injustices.

Naomi resides in the West part of Canada and is a thirty-six year old middle school teacher. She is a third generation Japanese Canadian also known as ‘Sansei’ (pg 7). She has no family of her own. She has a brother named Stephan. He becomes a celebrated musician.

When the readers are first introduced to Naomi, we see that she is a self-contained. Naomi tells the readers next to nothing about herself or her life. We lack the basic information about her which suggests she lacks the basic information about herself. It seems that she is pondering, for something but is a mystery during the early pages of the book.

As the novel progresses, we learn a great deal about the questions that preoccupy her. As a girl, Naomi suffered various serious traumas: displacements caused by issues like family and government, interments and sexual molestation. She was also ridiculed, ostracized and faced racism nearly everywhere. Not only that, she also suffered the disappearance of her mother and the death of her father. The book begins to explain why she suffers; as she journeys through her past memories. She attempts to understand her memories further and figure out why and how all her tragedies happened. The book Obasan provides a long answer to the following question: Is it better to remember or to forget?

The experiences Naomi faced during childhood must have had an impact towards on her adult life. During her childhood, Naomi has lost nearly everyone who were close to her, including the mother and the father. While during the beginning parts of the book she might have expected the family to cling to each other but the hardship they will face intensifies when she was separated from the parents. She definitely was angry towards them but she is uncomplaining. She shows flashes of bitterness here and there and feels passionate anger about many injustices stacked on her family.

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