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Mother, I am listening. Assist me to hear you: Remembering Traumatic Memories in Joy Kogawa’s Obasan

Authors
육성희
Issue Date
May-2009
Publisher
한국아메리카학회
Citation
미국학 논집(Journal of American Studies), v.41, no.1, pp.249 - 277
Journal Title
미국학 논집(Journal of American Studies)
Volume
41
Number
1
Start Page
249
End Page
277
URI
https://scholarworks.sookmyung.ac.kr/handle/2020.sw.sookmyung/7625
ISSN
1226-3753
Abstract
What does it mean for postcolonial subjects who have endured oppressive histories to remember the painful past? This paper explores this question by focusing on Joy Kogawa`s Obasan which unravels the traumatic experience of Japanese Canadian internment and the ensuing dispersal policy of the internees. A key part of the novel involves the psychological journey that the narrator Naomi takes in order to fill out the space of memory left empty by the collective silence of her family members. Naomi is a melancholic subject who lives with unresolved losses, deaths, separations, etc. all caused by the Japanese evacuation and relocation. Therefore, diving into the reservoir of her traumatic experiences means confronting unmourned losses and deaths as well as previously unclaimed and unacknowledged experiences. To confront her past is to salt her wounds, but that is the cost Naomi pays in order to end the silence that has been kept so long by her family-the decades long hushed secret concerning her mother`s disappearance. This paper examines Naomi`s relationships with her family members and traces her journey out of silence, as it offers an exploration of how Naomi negotiates between the past and the present, forgetting and remembering, and verbal and nonverbal languages. Naomi`s traumatic past also serves as the place from which questions of her present identity arise. Thus, Naomi`s journey is explored in relation to the construction of her present identity.
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