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book review

The Three Pleasures

By Terry Watada

Anvil Press, 326 pages, $24

Many Canadians first learned of the country's internment of 22,000 Japanese-Canadians during the Second World War through Joy Kogawa's 1981 novel Obasan. As evocative as that novel may be, Obasan's exploration of childhood memory does not allow a reader the most immediate access to this history, which is why Terry Watada's new novel, narrated by a reporter at The New Canadian, is a welcome addition. The New Canadian (1938-2001), which billed itself as the "voice of the Nisei" (first Canadian-born generation), is a significant primary document of Japanese-Canadian life, as it was the only Japanese-Canadian newspaper allowed to publish during the war, albeit heavily censored. Though fiction, The Three Pleasures sticks close to this historical record, giving a strong sense especially of community life and divisions within Vancouver's Japantown in the early 1940s. As a novel, the pace is slow (there are also a few narrative inconsistencies), but many will want to read it for its strengths in relating this shameful chapter of Canadian history.

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