One of the many wonderful things about Canada Reads is that it encourages Canadian’s to read books… books that you might not normally come across, books that make us think, books that we can debate and books that change us! As my followers know, I love Canada Reads! Attending the 2017 Canada Reads finale was one of my book highlights of the year.
The theme for the 2018 Canada Reads is: One Book to Open Your Eyes and the Canada Reads 2018 long list of 15 books has been announced. On January 30th the final 5 books and defendants will be announced and I hope to get tickets for this year’s finale to the event which will be held from March 26th to 29th at the CBC building in Toronto.
As I eagerly await the announcement of the final 5, I checked out a copy of Forgiveness from the library. Once I started reading it, I could NOT put it down and finished it the same day, going to bed with the story still swirling in my head.
Mark Sakamoto lovingly describes how the horrific experiences of his grandparents eventually bring the two families together. His maternal grandmother was a young girl in British Columbia living in a community with other Japanese families, working hard, bringing up their families with education and kindness. As the war raged and Canadian intolerance grew for the Japanese families, they were driven out of their homes and sent across the mountains to Alberta, working like slaves and starting a new life living in a drafty chicken coop. Through these desperate times, the family worked together, grieved together and celebrated love together.
The author’s maternal grandfather grew up on the Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. He was a member of a large family with a volatile father and a loving mother. Once war broke out, he eagerly signed up, modifying his birthdate to go overseas. He was stationed in Hong Kong and was a valiant soldier in a futile effort to stave off the Japanese soldiers. He spent most of the war in a prisoner of war (POW) camp, losing half his body weight and witnessing horror and abuse that is hard to imagine. He persevered and survived against the odds, returning to Canada to marry and move West with his wife’s family.
Both sets of grand parents struggled to improve the lives of their families. Sakamoto’s parents met and the two families built relationships, supporting the couple as they brought two children, Mark and his bother, into the world. Life was not easy, Mark’s father worked long hours, his parents split and his mother struggled with addiction but Mark was blessed with a strong work ethic, loving grandparents and shared his experiences in this memoir.
Mark Sakamoto is a lawyer living in Toronto with his wife and two children. He has shared this epic story of his grandparents and the generations of family that followed. It truly is a story that opens your eyes.
His grandmother’s experience is similar to Joy Kogawa’s Obasan and is a story that should be discussed in senior highschool history classes. Where Obasan tells the story of Kogawa’s family being removed from their homes and sent East (along with 23,000 other Japanese Canadians) during World War II, Forgiveness blends this history with the experiences of his grandfather fighting the Japanese in Hong Kong. The stories of marks maternal and paternal grandparents are horrific but Mark is the result of these stories and has shared this experience in this powerful memoir.
I hope that this book is discussed for Canada Reads 2018 but whether or not it makes the short list, it is a book that Canadians do need to read and meets the theme of One Book to Open Your Eyes!