The Canadian Sansei


218 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-4179-5
DDC 305.8956'071




Reviewed by Patricia Morley

Patricia Morley is professor emerita of English and Canadian Studies at
Concordia University and an avid outdoor recreationist. She is also the
author of The Mountain Is Moving: Japanese Women’s Lives, Kurlek, and
Margaret Laurence: The Long Journey Hom


The Japanese-Canadian community, 66,000 strong, is one of the smallest
ethnic communities in Canada, and, historically, was concentrated on the
West Coast. During World War II, Japanese Canadians were dispersed
through expulsion and internment. In postwar decades, the long fight for
redress of injustices to citizens interned during the war united the
community, especially among the second generation Nisei who had suffered
massive discrimination. After the redress settlement in 1988, however,
community ties began to weaken.

The scattered and isolated third generation Sansei have largely married
outside the Japanese-Canadian community and integrated into mainstream
society. Most do not speak Japanese and are indifferent to their
cultural heritage. Many are well-educated professionals. Is the
community destined to vanish?

Tomoko Makabe, a Toronto consultant and researcher, thinks not. After
interviewing 36 sansei men and 28 women, Makabe reflects on history,
culture, and identity in general as they relate to ethnic minorities in
and beyond Canada. She probes social mobility, identity, childhood
socialization, intermarriage, and reaction to redress as experienced by
these 64 individuals. They feel secure, and value autonomy and freedom.
Makabe concludes that they seek both assimilation and ethnicity.

The Canadian Sansei is a well-documented study on a fascinating topic.
It should interest both general readers and academics.


Makabe, Tomoko., “The Canadian Sansei,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 18, 2024,