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"For better or worse, I am Canadian." Demand for Ethnic Recognition in Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King and Obasan by Joy Kogawa

September 2010

This essay examines the discrimination that natives and Japanese Canadians have suffered at the hands of the Canadian government through the ages and how it is reflected in the novels Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King and Obasan by Joy Kogawa. Although initially colonized by France and England, Canada eventually came under English domination. A nation of diverse identities due to emphasis on immigration since late 19th century, Canada adopted an official multicultural policy in order to accommodate the cultural diversity of the nation.
In this essay I consider how two Canadian minority writers, King and Kogawa, reject the idea of “universal” or traditional writing and draw instead upon their own cultural tradition regarding literature. In comparing similarities and differences in the novels, I demonstrate in what way these writers present their criticism of the Canadian government's actions, especially regarding the appropriation of the native Canadian land and the incarceration of Japanese Canadians at the time of WWII. King and Kogawa present a clear difference in values that is unique for each novel. Kogawa's narrative suggests that Japanese long for assimilation into dominant society as individuals, but King's that natives wish to keep their own culture and to be acknowledged as a separate nation. However, I find that despite the basic difference between the novels, the demand for ethnic recognition is the same in King's Green Grass, Running Water and Kogawa's Obasan.


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