A Washington Post Notable Book: A Japanese Canadian man is haunted by childhood memories of WWII internment camps in this “evocative and cinematic tale” (Maclean’s).
In 1942, in retaliation for the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Canadian government removes young Bin Okuma and his family from their home at a British Columbia coastal fishing village and forces them into internment camps. Allowed to take only the possessions they can carry, Bin watches looters raid his home before the transport boats even undock. One hundred miles from the “Protected Zone,” abandoned by his father, Bin spends the next five years struggling to adapt in the makeshift shacks of the brutal mountain community. For Bin, it was never forgotten, nor forgiven.
Fifty years later, after his wife’s death, Bin embarks on a road trip across Canada. Accompanied by his dog, his classical music tapes, and his memories, he intends to find his biological father whose fateful decision destroyed his family all those years ago. But Bin must ask himself: does he really want to confront the ghosts of the past, or is it time to finally let them go?
A novel of grief, coming-of-age, and coming to terms with our own personal histories, “Requiem is a great work of literature from a determined author at the peak of her powers” (Ottawa Citizen).
In a narrative that alternates between past and present, Canadian author Itani, winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Deafening, examines the internment of Japanese Canadian citizens during WWII and its impact on one family. In 1997, artist Binosuke Okuma drives from Montreal to the site of the camp on the Fraser River where his family has been interned when Bin was very young, and where his father made a decision that would cut him off from his family--and permit him to fulfill his potential as an artist. But at first memories of Bin's wife, Lena, who died of a stroke, chase him. Accompanied by his dog, Basil, and armed with tapes of Beethoven and a bottle of whiskey, Bin grapples with the anger and silence that swathe his experience of internment and separation which his wife had urged him to address. After learning that his aging father sits in a chair facing the door, waiting for Bin's arrival not far from the location of the Fraser River camp, Bin must decide if he can return to the father who altered his fate, allowing him, he hopes, to keep going, as a son, an artist, a widower, and as a father himself who had built his own family far away from the broken histories buried at the camps. This sparse and melancholy meditation on family, history, and the healing properties of art addresses a little-known chapter in Canada's history, though Itani fails to bring those events and his characters fully to life.