Lara Okihiro

Lara is a writer, researcher, and educator of mixed Japanese Canadian heritage, and the author of Obaasan’s Boots, a children’s novel based on her family’s experience of being uprooted, incarcerated, and dispossessed, and co-written with her cousin, Janis Bridger (Second Story Press, October 2023).

Intrigued by the power and magic of stories, Lara studied literature and psychoanalysis in university and went on to earn a MA in English Studies from Goldsmiths, University of London (UK), and a PhD in English from University of Toronto (Canada). She has lectured and published internationally on literature, the Japanese Canadian internment, issues of racism and social justice, memory, trauma, and education. She is currently completing another book, Lost Objects: Literature and the Dispossession of Incarcerated Nikkei (McGill-Queens University Press).

“Beautifully done.”

Joy Kogawa, author of Obasan, Naomi’s Road, and Naomi’s Tree

“A book that so beautifully captures the intimate and ongoing effects of internment on post war Japanese Canadian families.”

Kyo Maclear, author of Virginia Wolf, The Wish Tree, It Began with a Page, and Unearthing.

“They had everything taken from them because they were Japanese”

Cousins Lou and Charlotte don’t know a lot about their grandmother’s life. When their obaasan invites them to spend the day in her garden, she also invites them into their family’s secrets. Grandma shares her experience as a Japanese Canadian during WWII, revealing the painful story of Japanese internment. Her family was forced apart. Whole communities were uprooted and moved into camps, their belongings stolen.

Lou and Charlotte struggle to understand how their family could have been treated so terribly by their own country, even as they marvel at their grandmother’s strength and resilience. The girls begin to see how their identities have been shaped by racism, and that history is not only about the past.

Learn more about Obaasan’s Boots.

Published by Second Story Press, October 2023.

Available from most independent and all major bookstores,

or order your copy from the publisher.


Coming Events

Join me and Ambreen Butt-Hussain, author of Unlovable Alina Butt, at the WEP headquarters on Saturday 11 May, at 11:00 a.m. Click here for details.

As part of Asian Heritage Month celebrations, join me at the North York Central Library on Friday 31 May, 7:00 – 8:00, when I’ll read from Obaasan’s Boots and talk about the history of the internment of Japanese Canadians from my family’s stories. Click here for details.

I am extremely pleased to be partnering with schools in the TDSB to talk with students about Obaasan’s Boots, the history of Japanese Canadians in Canada, and what it’s like to be a writer. I even get to visit my old school, Dixon Grove! A huge thanks to The Writers’ Union of Canada and the Ontario Arts Council for helping make these talks happen.

Public Talks and Events

I was honoured and thrilled to join Governor General’s Literary Award winning author Kyo Maclear (Unearthing) for a discussion during the Mata Ashita writers’ workshop. Thanks for a wonderful conversation, Kyo! And a huge thanks to Erica, Megan, and Nico for organizing such a thoughtful conversation about our books and the ethics of telling family stories.

I cannot say enough about Seagrass by Meredith Hama-Brown. It’s an amazing film. I was absolutely honoured to be asked to participate on this panel, and thrilled to join author Kerri Sakamoto, curator Kristopher Sakamoto-Marshall, and community organizer Lynn Deutscher Kobayashi at the screening and for the panel discussion on 27th January. We talked about mixed race identity and intergenerational family relationships.

I had a super time at the author meet-and-greet and book signing on Thursday 25th January at the Ontario Library Association Super Conference. I met some wonderful librarians and educators — thanks for your work! And I met some amazing fellow authors: Nadia L. Hohn, who I serendipitously first met at Lucy Maud Montgomery’s cottage, Eric Walters, and Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer. Thanks to Second Story Press for hosting me.

On Saturday 20th January at 1:00 p.m. Janis and I presented Breathing Life into Difficult Histories and Engaging Children toward Ethical Citizenship through Fiction at ALA’s Library Learning Experience. It was a wonderful experience. Thanks to all the librarians and educators who attended the session, and thanks for sharing your stories and experiences. As your stories testify, you do incredible work.

I was honoured to be selected to participated in the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) Kids’ “Engaging Japanese Canadian History” with such wonderful authors and artists: Mark Sakamoto, Sara Truuvert, and Henry Tsang. Our conversation was so inspiring. Thanks for the great questions and discussion! To view a recording of our panel discussion, click here.

Nuit Blanche 2023

Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre Lantern

This one was super special. On the invitation of the JCCC, I read my grandfather’s poetry and my own work with the Toronto Haiku Club during the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre (JCCC) and Aga Khan Museum‘s Nuit Blanche 2023 celebrations. A special thanks to Yosh at the JCCC for his translations and to Harue Clipsham for reading the original poems in Japanese.

A huge thanks to the Early Childhood Pedagogy Network for inviting me to participate on the panel discussion on “Literature and Education” with Pauline Sameshima and Aparna Mishra Tarc. This was the first public reading of Obaasan’s Boots, before it was published. The response was wonderful. Thank you everyone!  See a recording of the panel’s conversation.

Having helped with drafting the City of New Westminster’s Proclamation commemorating “80 years since the internment of Japanese Canadians,” Janis and I (virtually) were able to speak at the Council Meeting (see 60 mins into meeting recording). It’s pretty amazing that the research that went into writing Obaasan’s Boots could give way to our family and community being recognized by the city in this way. Thanks to the mayor, councillors, and staff at the NW Archives.

Education through Artistic Representation, Soka University

A huge thanks to Soka University for hosting us. It was an incredibly memorable experience to be at the university, to present our work at the Faculty of Education Public Lecture, and to meet the fantastic students there.


Thanks to Soka University and Professor Kanako Ide, I presented “The Japanese Canadian Internment and Its Literary ‘Things’ (Dedicated to the Memory of Jeanne Tanaka)” at the International Speakers Seminar Series for Faculty and Graduate Students (Tokyo, Japan) in November 2018.

Articles and Chapters

Newspaper Articles

“The Exceptional Ones: Grappling with the Emergencies Act”

Koichiro and Hisa Okihiro. Family photo featured in Nikkei Voice article.


Other links: