What do I remember of the evacuation

  • Posted on: 27 December 2010
  • By: admin

by Joy Kogawa

What do I remember of the evacuation?
I remember my father telling Tim and me
About the mountains and the train
And the excitement of going on a trip.
What do I remember of the evacuation?
I remember my mother wrapping
A blanket around me and my
Pretending to fall asleep so she would be happy
Though I was so excited I couldn’t sleep
(I hear there were people herded
Into the Hastings Park like cattle
Families were made to move in two hours
Abandoning everything, leaving pets
And possessions at gun point.
I hear families were broken up
Men were forced to work. I heard
It whispered late at night
That there was suffering) and
I missed my dolls.
What do I remember of the evacuation?
I remember Miss Foster and Miss Tucker
Who still live in Vancouver
And who did what they could
And loved children and who gave me
A puzzle to play with on the train.
And I remember the mountains and I was
Six years old and I swear I saw a giant
Gulliver of Gulliver’s Travels scanning the horizon
And when I told my mother she believed it too
And I remember how careful my parents were
Not to bruise us with bitterness
And I remember the puzzle of Lorraine Life
Who said “Don’t insult me,” when I
Proudly wrote my name in Japanese
And Tim flew the Union Jack
When the war was over but Lorraine
And her friends spat on us anyway
And I prayed to God who loves
All the children in his sight
That I might be white.
What do I remember of the evacuation?
I remember Miss Foster and Miss Tucker
Who still live in Vancouver
And who did what they could
And loved children and who gave me
A puzzle to play with on the train.
And I remember the mountains and I was
Six years old and I swear I saw a giant
Gulliver of Gulliver’s Travels scanning the horizon
And when I told my mother she believed it too
And I remember how careful my parents were
Not to bruise us with bitterness
And I remember the puzzle of Lorraine Life
Who said “Don’t insult me,” when I
Proudly wrote my name in Japanese
And Tim flew the Union Jack
When the war was over but Lorraine
And her friends spat on us anyway
And I prayed to God who loves
All the children in his sight
That I might be white.

Theme
The theme of this poem is very interesting and complex: a young girl, who is now an adult, remembers a very difficult time in her family’s history but she does so while trying to keep a childish, naïve tone. The poem discussed the very widespread issue of racism and discrimination and particularly the persecution of people of Asian descent during World War II. The poem argues that, in every society there are good people and racist people and that for a child the solution to the racial discrimination is not education but a physical change. A little girl prays to be white because she lives in a society where color of the skin and facial features matter.
Summary
The author is a Canadian of Japanese descent and she tells a story that took place when she was a child: the Vancouver evacuation of Japanese people during World War II. She remembers that her and her family had to leave quickly and that she was excited about taking a trip. She remembers people talking about suffering and having to leave their houses and their businesses in the middle of the night. She remembers people that were nice to her and people that insulted and spat on her and her family. She also remembers that, in that time of confusion and racism her strongest wish was for God to make her white.
- Setting -
Vancouver, Canada during World War II
- Topic -
The evacuation of people of Japanese descent during WWII
- Speaker -
Joy Kohawa, now a grownup remembering something that took place in her childhood
- Situation -
A little girl and her family are being evacuated in the middle of the night because they are Japanese.
- Resolution -
There is no direct resolution in the poem but you get the feeling that everything worked out with the author and her family since she gets to write the poem from an adult’s perspective. Also, the fact that the author remembers wanting to be white is suggesting that she is trying to make a point, give a lesson about the negative effects racism and discrimination can have on young children.
- Tone -
Naïve, child’s tone but suggesting the pain an adult feels looking back at something that affected her life.