Annual LiterAsian Festival reimagines the colonial experience

The third annual LiterAsian Festival celebrates and nurtures Pacific Rim Asian writers. 

This year features Vancouver born writer and UBC alum, Christina Park and her book, The Homes We Build On Ashes. The novel focuses on Korea’s colonial history with Japan, forced Japanese assimilation, the Busan Fire of 1953 and the challenges of immigration. 

Park believes motivation drives inspiration. As such, her work draws on personal experiences as well as historical events for inspiration. She steadily and poignantly depicts the capacity for women to be resilient in times of hardships and dramatic changes in life.

The Homes We Build On Ashes follows the story of Nara Lee during Korea’s colonization in the early 20th century. The relationship between Korea and Japan is one marred with brutality and abuse. This subject is intricately woven into the story to provide more insight on the condition for women at that period in time. 

Park’s intention was to capture the situation of "Comfort Women" and the psychological and physical trauma they endured. Comfort Women were young women and girls who were forced into sex slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during Japan’s occupation of Korea. Park lends her work to the feminist ideal by aiming to change the meaning behind this label which has caused women more pain than actual comfort. 

Nara Lee’s journey takes her from abject injustice and violence to emancipation and eventually rehabilitation in Vancouver. There, she has the chance to find herself once again after enduring years of oppression and suffering.

Issues regarding assimilation and occupation are painful topics many societies can relate to — it's part of what gives Park’s work its edge. It demands that readers confront the bitter truths about the experiences of immigrants, from culture shock to change in scenery. 

At its core lies a deep appreciation for societies, such as the one in Vancouver, that are willing to embrace immigrants without proposing that they abandon their culture and take up the new. Park has conducted arduous historical research giving the story credibility, the benefit of hindsight and a critical view on the historical past despite it being pure fiction.  

Christina Park, with The Homes We Build On Ashes, hopes to celebrate the human story of survival and resilience. It compels us to reflect and appreciate our stories rather than forget them. Her story invites the notion of forgiveness and urges us to utilize the past to educate ourselves in the present.