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).

“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

On Saturday 20th January at 1:00 p.m. Janis and I will present Breathing Life into Difficult Histories and Engaging Children toward Ethical Citizenship through Fiction at ALA’s Library Learning Experience.

Join me on Thursday 25th January at 12:00 p.m. for an author meet-and-greet and book signing at the Ontario Library Association Super Conference.

Kerri Sakamoto, Kristopher Sakamoto-Marshall, Lynn Deutscher Kobayashi, and I will be at the screening of the new movie Seagrass by Meredith Hama-Brown on Saturday 27th January. Our panel discussion on mixed race identity and intergenerational family relationships follows the film.

I’m looking forward to participating in this event! More info coming soon.

Articles and Chapters

Public Talks

Participated in “Engaging Japanese Canadian History” with Mark Sakamoto, Sara Truuvert, Henry Tsang. For more information or to view recordings from the festival, see Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) Kids.

Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre Lantern

Read Grandpa’s Poetry and my own work with the Toronto Haiku Club for the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre (JCCC) and Aga Khan Museum‘s Nuit Blanche 2023.

Participated in Early Childhood Pedagogy Network’s panel discussion on “Literature and Education” with Pauline Sameshima and Aparna Mishra Tarc. See a recording of the panel’s conversation.

Helped draft the City of New Westminster’s Proclamation commemorating “80 years since the internment of Japanese Canadians” and spoke at the Council Meeting (see 60 mins into meeting recording).

Education through Artistic Representation, Soka University

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

Newspaper Articles

“The Exceptional Ones: Grappling with the Emergencies Act”

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


Other links: