Changing Tides was chosen as a book that contributes to the understanding and enjoyment of B.C.
This prize is awarded to the book that contributes the most to the enjoyment and understanding of British Columbia. The winners of the 34th annual BC Book Prizes were announced at a gala in Vancouver on May 4.
Their book, Changing Tides: Vanishing Voices of Nikkei Fishermen and Their Families, also received honourable mention in the 2017 Lieutenant-Governor’s Historical Writing Competition. To say the book is about the history of Japanese fishermen and their families only touches the surface of the stories within this book. It is a compelling read and a deeply personal chronicle of Japanese Canadian life. The book explores the challenges confronting Nikkei fishermen and their families, challenges of immigration, a vastly different culture and new language.
While fishing itself can be a dangerous and challenging career path, the stories of the women who supported the fishermen reflect a different but equally demanding labour. While building communities and creating success in the fishing industry the new Canadians are then faced with the impact of Second World War.
The stories of this time reveal the heartbreak of internment: separation from loved ones, loss of homes and possessions and living in an often hostile country. The stories of internment are often difficult to read. Juxtaposed to these recollections however are amusing anecdotes of family and community life that reflect the spirit and the will to survive. The postwar stories add another dimension. Those who returned to the coast to fish benefited as a result of fewer restrictions on them and some very good fishing seasons. Other challenges however were soon to follow.
The stories detail the impact of our modern times. Newer equipment had it’s pros and cons but dwindling salmon returns, and more restrictive licensing policies affected all in the industry. This compendium of very personal stories brings to life how world events shape individual and family life. Other reviewers have said this is a story of hardship and triumph, and I agree.
But I also believe it is much more than that. These are also stories of bravery, persistence and resilience. Unintentionally I think it’s also a narrative of choices one has to make when facing fear and uncertainty. Do we look to blame and to ostracize? Or do we come together and strive to understand and build an even stronger sense of community?
The stories in this book give wonderful voice to the Nikkei fishermen and their families who demonstrated such spirit in the face of adversity.
Judi Clark is a retired BC school administrator.
Changing Tides: Vanishing Voices of Nikkei Fishermen and Their Families, (publisher Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre 2017). The book chronicles the stories of more than 30 Nikkei fishermen and their families on the B.C. coast.