Posted by on 3 June 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

The horizon of my real life will never be as big as that of my writerly imagination. That’s probably a good thing, really (although, if you’ve ever read my writing…).

Nonetheless, in the last week or so, the horizon of my real life has expanded somewhat. I’ve been awarded a writer’s residency at a site in Vancouver, Historic Joy Kogawa House, from 8 August until the end of the year. During that residency, I’ll continue to progress my novel. Also doing the residency will be my partner, Jackie Wykes, who will progress a scholarly book that she’s writing about fatness and sexuality. We are so grateful to the Historic Joy Kogawa House Society for this incredible opportunity.

Moreover, Creative Victoria has awarded me a VicArts grant to further develop my novel. Excitingly, this grant will also fund the philosopher, poet and editor Nick Trakakis, to be my mentor over the course of my project. I know that the current arts funding climate in Australia is becoming ever more competitive and I’m very thankful to Creative Victoria for their support.

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A little more about Historic Joy Kogawa House.

These days, the house is used for writing residencies and for hosting arts and community events. But, as noted by The Land Conservancy of British Columbia, it has a historic and cultural significance that stretches back further than this:

The Historic Joy Kogawa House… has national significance as a symbol of the racial discrimination experienced by Japanese-Canadians as a consequence of World War II. The house is one of a small number of known and documented residences in Vancouver that have been traced back to ownership by a Japanese-Canadian family, confiscated by the Canadian Government and sold without the owner’s permission.

Additionally, the house is of cultural and heritage significance since it is the childhood home of renowned Canadian author Joy Kogawa (nee Nakayama). Joy Kogawa (born 1935) lived in the house with her family between 1937 and 1942 until they were removed as a part of the internment of Japanese-Canadians during the Second World War. The house is featured prominently in several of Kogawa’s books, including the award-winning novel Obasan which recalls the experience of Japanese-Canadians during the Second World War based on Joy’s experiences during her childhood. Joy Kogawa was awarded the Order of Canada in 1986.

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The scholar Stephen Hong Sohn wrote:

(T)he writerly imagination cannot be tethered to a single ancestry or origin point.

I had come to pick up Sohn’s book  because I was puzzling (as I sometimes do) about the classification of “hyphenated-Asian” literature which, unsurprisingly, is heavily determined by blood ancestry and geographical location.

Over the last couple of years, my own geographical location has been hard to track. In the course of my travels last year, Look Who’s Morphing was released in Canada and the USA, leading the book to be read as Asian-Canadian literature on some occasions and Asian-American literature on others. Around five years ago, I gave a talk about Asian-Australian literature and, in that talk, I said:

(I)n describing my own fiction, I would wish for many more hyphens to reflect the concerns of my work.

Happily, in one sense at least, I actually got my wish.

But in that same talk, I also did an exercise of sorts in which I dispensed with the hyphen and replaced it with an asterisk. I suggested that the asterisk could function as a wildcard – that is, a substitute for any other character or characters in a string:

Asian*

In the future, maybe my travels and locatedness might prompt more people to affix an asterisk to their ideas of my work, along with their ideas of me. My novel-in-progress is definitely a hungry traveller: it’s even more voraciously intertextual than Look Who’s Morphing. It also has this insatiable interdisciplinarity that’s allowing me to traverse a lot of new terrain.

Who knows? Maybe my future travels will make my life more closely resemble the breadth of my writerly imagination. I think, actually, that this would be a good thing.

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