Mothertalk: Life Stories of Mary Kiyoshi Kiyooka


191 pages
Contains Photos
ISBN 1-896300-24-3
DDC 971'.004956'0092






Reviewed by Patricia Morley

Patricia Morley is professor emerita of English and Canadian studies at
Concordia University, and the author of Kurlek, Margaret Laurence: The
Long Journey Home, and As Though Life Mattered: Leo Kennedy’s Story.


Born in Japan in 1896, Mary Kiyoshi Kiyooka was raised as the daughter
of a well-educated samurai and sent to Canada for an arranged marriage
in 1917. There she would bear seven children, live to be 100, and suffer
many financial, physical, and emotional hardships, including forced
relocation during World War II. Roy Kiyooka, a Canadian writer and poet,
died suddenly in 1994, leaving the manuscript of his mother’s stories
well developed but still in need of work. His daughters asked Daphne
Marlatt to edit it for publication; her most important contribution has
been to clarify its emotional shape.

Marlatt describes Mary Kiyooka as a woman “endlessly curious about
the vagaries of human existence and grounded, at the same time, in the
Bushido code of ethics she learned as a child.” Mary knew well the
significance of the Issei—the first generation of
Japanese-Canadians—to those who would follow, and she knew that as the
years flew by their time was almost over: “All of us Issei are dying
off like summer flies.”

Mothertalk is a powerful record of love and pain, of struggle and
achievement. In Mary’s words, it conveys how “the heart-of-Tosa sang
in our home behind an English facade.” With stories like Mary’s
available, it will not be forgotten.


Kiyooka, Roy., “Mothertalk: Life Stories of Mary Kiyoshi Kiyooka,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 12, 2024,