Beginning again: A misfit’s tale

Nelson author Diana Morita Cole stopped by the Nakusp Public Library on Nov. 9 for a reading of her memoir.

Diana Morita Cole doesn’t look like a misfit. She’s in her 70s, petite, and soft-spoken. But, as her memoir, Sideways: Memoirof a Misfit shows, she’s been one all her life.

Cole’s story begins in the Minidoka Internment Camp near Jerome, Idaho, where she was born.

She gave a reading of her memoir on Nov. 9, at the Nakusp Public Library. Throughout the reading Cole gave examples ofbeing a misfit, going all the way back to when she was still in the womb.

“Sideways was the conclusion of my mother’s attending physician,” she began. “’Your baby is sideways,’ Dr. Sugihara, a captivelike us, spoke to my father as he pulled the stethoscope from his ears with one hand, the other resting on my mother’sswollen belly.”

Cole’s mother was 44 at the time. Because of her age, the doctor wasn’t sure if her mother would survive.

“Luckily I, a mere fetus at the time, had big ears. I turned a somersault in-utero, one of my rare moments of grace, and mymother survived.”

After spending the first year-and-a-half of her life at Minidoka, she and the rest of her family were released in 1945, after theend of World War Two.

Realizing they were no longer welcome in their home in Hood River, Oregon, the Morita family relocated to Chicago, Illinois.

The story of the Morita family isn’t a singular incident. Many Japanese families were rounded up and placed in detentioncentres, much like the Minidoka Camp, during World War Two.

“What I wanted to help people understand was the internment experience didn’t just happen in Canada,” said Cole. “It was alsoin the United States, and in fact it happened all around the Pacific Rim.”

In addition to her memoir, Cole also brought with her a documentary about her brother-in-law, Hidden Internment: The ArtShibayama Story. It documents the ordeal of Shibayama, along with other members of the Japanese community who hadimmigrated to various Latin American countries in the decades prior to WWII.

The documentary featured former prisoners of the internment camps, and showed what life was like for people of Japanesedescent in Peru, before war broke out.

“There were 13 Latin American countries that were involved. It gives you a different view of the whole thing, when you realizethere were so many countries involved,” she said.

Members of the audience were impressed with Cole, and with the documentary.

“I thought it was tremendous, I really did,” said Jane Lancaster. “To have somebody who’s obviously not bitter, but who hassuffered a lot, talk to us with such an open sort of heart, it really touches one.”

Some members of the audience remember when there were internment camps here in the Kootenays.

“I was born here, and whenever we went past the New Denver place, we weren’t allowed to look,” said Elaine Lindsay. “Mymother would turn my face around so we wouldn’t see anything about the internment camp.”

This is Cole’s first book. She doesn’t remember her time at the internment camp. Everything recalled from that period in herlife was recounted to her by her brothers and sisters.

Her siblings were part of the reason she wrote her story. They’re all elderly now. Four have passed away. Cole felt she neededto get their story out.

Another reason Cole wrote her story is because this is a period in Canadian history which isn’t discussed very much.

“Certainly it’s talked about more in the schools than it was, say 20 years ago, certainly when my son was growing up,” shesaid. “It was not talked about, but now it’s being talked about at the University of Toronto and the University of B.C.”

 

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