1. Lynne Magnusson opens her analysis of language and longing in Joy Kogawa’s Obasan with questions that highlight anxieties about language and trauma:

    What does it mean to attend a voice by embracing its absence? And why does a novel that finds such adequate language for a story of suffering persistently question the adequacy of words? (58)

    Consider how these questions relate to Choy’s representations of the connections and disconnection between people in The Jade Peony. How does Choy comment on multiculturalism by employing the tension between stories and languages, on the one hand, and silence and incommunicable experiences on the other? How do the silences, what is left out or kept at a distance, contribute to the story?

  2. The Jade Peony illustrates social tensions between Canadians of Chinese, and Japanese descent. Discuss the significance of two marginalized ethnic and cultural groups in conflict with each other, and with the Eurocentric, colonial state. How does Choy nuance and complicate these tensions? How does this reflect the complexity of marginalization, and how does this draw out alternative perspectives on the state as representative of all citizens?

Works Cited

  • Choy, Wayson. The Jade Peony. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1995. Print.
  • Magnusson, A. Lynne. Language and Longing in Joy Kogawa’s Obasan. Canadian Literature116 (1988): 58–66. Print. (PDF)