joy kogawa fonds; learning to use RBSC (slowly)

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Last week I journeyed into the archives independently for the first time. I’ll admit, I was a little lost, unsure of what to do, and distraught without my backpack full of notebooks and pens.

Having said that, I had a look into the Joy Kogawa fonds this week (box 18, to be exact). There were a couple of things that I found interesting; I touched on them in class yesterday but wanted to throw some quotes out there. The letter from Lily Munro (the Minister for Multiculturalism and Citizenship) invited Kogawa “and a small group made up of representatives from the Chinese/Japanese/Korean communities to join [Munro] at a special meeting and lunch” to help develop “a policy on multiculturalism”. This meeting took place at the Armenian Cultural Centre (yet another ‘foreign’ or ‘non-Canadian’ culture, but one that’s unrelated to the ‘Chinese/Japanese/Korean’ immigrants). And finally, how was there still no policy on multiculturalism in Canada in 1986?! For a country that considers itself ‘multicultural’ (whatever we mean by that) and prides itself on that trait, it seems terrible that an official policy was only developed 30 years ago.

The other thing I thought was interesting was an article by a Mr. Kadonaga; Kogawa added a handwritten note mentioning that he died November 6, 1984 at the age of 93. His article explains that the government is trying “to combat racial discrimination and to promote racial harmony” because of previous mistreatment of Japanese-Canadians. Kogawa brackets this section: “First, I as an individual would refuse this government offer. I would simply say, no thank-you. I wish the Japanese Canadian community would do the same thing by saying no to the government and no to the proposal.” Why does Mr. Kadonaga want to reject the government’s offer? Does it feel like a handout to him? What, if any, is the relationship between he and Kogawa? Who saw this article, and did it have any impact on the decision that was made?

And, finally, on our readings for the week –  I was thrilled to get even an echo of L.M. Montgomery in Douglas and MacNeil’s piece on creator and perspective in women authors’ archives.

A brief history of my love for Montgomery: In elementary school, we had an annual project called ‘Evening of Eminence’. Each year, we needed to choose someone from history that we admired and found interesting. In fifth grade, I chose Mary, Queen of Scots; in seventh grade it was Aung San Suu Kyi. In sixth grade we needed to choose a Canadian, so I chose L.M. Montgomery, who’d always been one of my favourite authors. I studied her works, her personal life, some of her letters, and the project culminated in us spending the evening ‘as’ our person, dressed like them, and interacting with other famous figures. It was actually really eye-opening, and she’s a pretty fascinating (and somewhat tragic) figure. (Side note: my dad has also been to the L.M. Montgomery house, which is apparently one of the only things to do in Charlottetown, PEI.)

It’s thrilling to be able to study and read about these famous women writers; both L.M. Montgomery and Joy Kogawa had to overcome some difficult obstacles and assumptions, and both found success. The questions raised in Douglas and MacNeil’s article can be asked of Kogawa’s fonds as well: how do the compiler and the person whose archives they are interact?

Douglas and MacNeil offer a description of archives as a “mirror of the entity that produced them”. This definitely rings true for what I’ve seen so far, and it is a description that I will continue to consider as I research further.