Few Canadian writers have been more successful in both literature and politics than Roy Miki, a sansei, or third-generation Japanese Canadian. Working with his brother Art, the leader of the Japanese Canadian redress movement, Roy Miki played a key role in obtaining financial compensation from the federal government for camp internees and their families. [Photo: Roy Miki, in front of the Canadian flag, stands between Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Art Miki during the signing of the Redress Settlement.] Roy Miki's 2004 book, Redress: Inside the Japanese Canadian Call for Justice has chronicled those events. He has subsequently received an unprecedented string of honours during the 2006-2007 period, making him one of the respected professors and writers in British Columbia.

In 2002 he won the Governor General's Award for Poetry for his collection called Surrender, which challenges the official history relating to the internment of Japanese-Canadians in the 1940s. Two years later Miki chronicled the long and ultimately successful fight for compensation in Redress. It includes Miki's personal and family histories as an examination of race and (in)tolerance in Canada. "I always felt the dichotomy between our pre-internment and post-internment lives," he told the Simon Fraser University News in 2005. "There was the mythical and glorious world of the Fraser Valley with its great weather and landscape that my parents told me about, and then there was this God-forsaken place called Manitoba. I always had a feeling of having been sent into exile."

One year later, on October 2, 2006, Mahatma Gandhi's birthday, Miki received the 20th annual Gandhi Peace Award and the 16th annual Thakore Visiting Scholar award for his commitment to Mahatma Gandhi's ideals of truth, justice, human rights and non-violence in regards to his his long and outstanding achievements related to redress. This award was created in 1991 by former SFU faculty member Natverlal Thakore to recognize those who have displayed a consistent concern for truth, justice and non-violence. In the same year Miki received the 2006 Nora and Ted Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy, and he was admitted to the Order of Canada for his contributions to community and the arts.

Roy Miki was born in 1942, six months after his parents were uprooted and shipped from Haney to a sugar beet farm in Ste. Agathe, Manitoba. After growing up in Winnipeg and attending university, Roy Miki and his older brother Art went to live in Japan where he discovered he felt more Canadian than anything else. Upon his return to Canada in the 1970s, he met individuals such as Rick Shiomi and Randy Enomoto who were increasingly concerned with the need for redress.

Roy Miki and Art Miki were at the forefront of the successful Redress Movement which Roy Miki has chronicled with Cassandra Kobayashi in Justice in Our Time: The Japanese Canadian Redress Settlement. The movement led by the National Association of Japanese Canadians was complicated by the interventions of a faction led by George Imai of Toronto who did not believe individual compensation would be possible. The Japanese Canadian community of Canada galvanized their support for the NAJC in response, electing Art Miki to the position of president in 1984. In that year the NAJC successfully pressured Conservative leader Brian Mulroney to make a campaign promise to negotitate a redress settlement. The NAJC had already presented Prime Minister Trudeau with an accounting of cumulative losses prepared by the Vancouver office of Price-Waterhouse, estimated at not less $443 million in 1986 dollars. With the Miki family at the forefront of the NAJC's efforts, individual redress was achieved in 1988. [See Joy Kogawa entry.]

As a longtime professor of English at Simon Fraser University, Roy Miki is the author of an extensive 320-page annotated bibliography of George Bowering that won the Gabriel Roy award from the Association for Canadian and Quebec Literatures as the best book on Canadian Literature for 1991. He has also edited two books about the work of poet bpNichol; Tracing the Paths and Meanwhile: The Critical Writings of bpNichol; plus Pacific Windows: Collected Poems of Roy K. Kiyooka, winner of the 1997 Poetry Award from the Association of Asian American Studies. As a social activist and historian, he has edited This Is My Own: Letters to Wes and other Writings on Japanese Canadians, 1941-1948 by Muriel Kitagawa. [See Muriel Kitagawa entry.] As well, Miki is a musician, poet and editor of West Coast Line: A Journal of Contemporary Writing and its Modernist Sources. His other titles include Random Access File, Saving Face: Poems Selected 1976-1988, There and Broken Entries: Race. Subjectivity. Writing. Essays. The essays in Broken Entries reflect his participation in the redress movement from the late 1980s to 1997.

Miki received a 1997 poetry award from the Association of Asian American Studies. His fifth poetry collection, Mannequin Rising, according to New Star Books, "describes a world of consumerism, and answers the visual cacophony of commodities and window displays with a series of poems and photomontages that reflect the uncanny juxtapositioning he sees all around him." Miki observes mannequins in shopping areas of Kitsilano, Granville Island and Tokyo.

Roy Miki appeared on the BC Bestsellers List in October of 2014 after he contributed text for a children's book, Dolphin SOS (Tradewind 2014), co-authored with his wife Slavia Miki and illustrated by Julie Flett. Based on true events, Dolphin SOS recounts the story of three dolphins trapped in an ice-covered cove on the coast of Newfoundland. After the government fails to provide assistance, some young boys take matters into their own hands in order to save the distressed dolphins. The book received the Christie Harris Illustrated B.C. Book Prize in April of 2015.

He lives in Vancouver.

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
In Flux: Transnational Shifts in Asian Canadian Writing

Peggy’s Impossible Tale by Slavia Miki & Roy Miki,
Illustrated by Mariko Ando (Tradewind $19.95) Ages 6 – 8

When their daughter Elisse was a young girl, writers Slavia Miki and Roy Miki bought her a guinea pig they named Peggy. It turned out to be transformative for both Elisse and her new pet.

“Overcoming her initial fears and limitations, Peggy accepted any challenge, just so they [Peggy and Elisse] could be together, at least so it seemed to us,” write the Mikis in the acknowledgments to their fictionalized kidlit story about a similar guinea pig, Peggy’s Impossible Tale.

“The relationship between Elisse and Peggy enriched our lives, showing us how Elisse’s love could transform and elevate the life of even the smallest of beings. Peggy’s love for Elisse showed us how the seemingly impossible could become possible and how the ordinary could become special.”

The story is told in the voice of the pet guinea pig. It starts with Peggy alone in her cage at a pet store as a mother and daughter walk in. We quickly learn that Peggy knows what the humans are saying when the pet store owner calls guinea pigs stupid.

“Hey Sandy, I’m not stupid,” squeaks Peggy. “I can understand you.”
Then Peggy agonizes as the mother and daughter (a girl named Lisa) check out the special guinea pigs such as the Peruvian with long silver hair that covers its eyes and a tortoiseshell with dark eyes.

“I’m just an ordinary guinea pig with short white hair and small pink ears,” says Peggy. “I was afraid that Lisa wouldn’t choose me.”
But Lisa does opt for Peggy and the two become instant best friends. “Finally I had a family of my own,” says Peggy.

Soon, Peggy teaches Lisa to understand her ‘squeak talk’: “For five days I repeated my squeaks until Lisa finally understood me.”

Peggy falls into the rhythms of each day, from waking up and having breakfast to dinner time and “delicious morsels from the table.” Her favourite time of day though, is when Lisa comes home from school. “Even before she stepped on the front stairs, I would squeak, ‘Welcome home, welcome home.’”

Lisa spends all her spare time with Peggy. One day Peggy tries to follow Lisa to the study upstairs. But the guinea pig can’t climb the stairs. Lisa’s mom sees Peggy struggle and offers this advice: “The difficult is done immediately. The impossible takes a little longer.”

Eventually Lisa helps Peggy do the impossible as, “one day, Lisa put my paws on a step and gave my round bottom a little push. To my surprise I climbed one stair, and then another … I could finally climb stairs.”

Peggy learns many other things, some the hard way. Like staying away from electrical plugs and not chewing electrical cords as they can deliver an uncomfortable zap. The vacuum scares her. And when Lisa trains Peggy to walk outdoors with a special harness and leash, cats and crows are to be avoided.
Most other people don’t believe that Peggy could possibly climb stairs and walk on a leash. That’s when Lisa’s mom suggests they enter Peggy in a Special Pets Contest. There, Peggy shows disbelieving humans that ‘the impossible’ can be realized.

It’s a valuable lesson for everyone.


BCBW 2021-22


This Is My Own: Letters to Wes and Other Writings on Japanese Canadians (Talonbooks, 1985) ISBN 0-88922-230-4; $24.95

Tracing the Paths: Reading' Writing The Martyrology (Talonbooks, 1988) ISBN 0-88922-256-8; $24.95

Saving Face: Poems Selected 1976-1988 (Turnstone, 1991)

Justice In Our Time: The Japanese Canadian Redress Settlement (Talonbooks, 1991). Co-edited with Cassandra Kobayashi. ISBN 0-88922-292-4; $29.95

Random Access File (Red Deer College Press, 1995)

Pacific Windows: Collected Poems of Roy Kiyooka (Talonbooks, 1997) ISBN 0-88922-378-5; $29.95. Editor.

Broken Entries: Race. Subjectivity. Writing. Essays (Mercury, 1998) ISBN 1-55128-059-0 $19.95

A Record of Writing: An Annotated and Illustrated Bibliography of George Bowering (Talonbooks, 1990) ISBN 0-88922-263-0; $29.95

Meanwhile: The Critical Writings of bpNichol (Talonbooks, 2002). ISBN 0-88922-447-1 $24.95

Surrender (Mercury Press, 2001) ISBN 1-55128-095-7 $15.95

Redress: Inside the Japanese Canadian Call for Justice (Raincoast, 2004) ISBN 1-55192-650-4 $34.95

There (New Star, 2006) ISBN 978-1-55420-026-9 $18.00

Trans.Can.Lit: Resituating the Study of Canadian Literature (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2006)

Reshaping Memory Owning History: Through the Lens of Japanese Canadian Redress (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2009), with Yuko Shibata and Michiko Ayukawa

Mannequin Rising (New Star Books, 2011). Miki's fifth collection of poetry. 978-1-55420-056-6

Dolphin SOS (Tradewind, 2014) with Slavia Miki. Illustrations by Julie Flett $17.95 9781896580760

Flow (Talonbooks, 2019) $29.95 978-1-77201-217-0

Peggy's Impossible Tale (Tradewind, 2021) with Slavia Miki. Illustrations by Mariko Ando $19.95 978-1926890210


Tracing the Lines: Reflections on Contemporary Poetics and Cultural Politics
in Honour of Roy Miki (Talonbooks 2013, $24.95) Edited by Maia Joseph, Christine Kim, Chris Lee, and Larissa Lai. 978-0-88922-694-4

[BCBW 2021] "Racism" "Japanese" "Poetry"