Obaasan's Boots cover image

By Lara Jean Okihiro and Janis Bridger.

Cover and illustrations by Yuka Yamaguchi.

“Grandma, what do you mean when you say, ‘Our family lost everything?’”

Cousins Lou and Charlotte have never called their grandma “Obaasan”—the Japanese word for grandmother. In fact, they are coming to realize that there is a lot they don’t know about their beloved Grandma’s life. When she invites them to spend the day planting in her garden, the girls know this is their chance to learn more about the secrets of their family’s past.

Grandma shares stories of her childhood in Vancouver and her experience as a Japanese Canadian during WWII, revealing the painful story of Japanese internment. Her family was forced apart. Whole communities were uprooted from their homes, moved into camps and ghost towns, 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.


Click here to learn more about author Lara Jean Okihiro.

Praise for Obaasan's Boots

“A book that so beautifully captures the intimate and ongoing effects of internment on post war Japanese Canadian families. Bridger and Okihiro fully inhabit the idea that ‘history is not only about the past’ by tracing its present-day echoes and reverberations—in gardens, at dinner tables and through everyday familial relationships.”

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

“The book’s strongest and most valuable aspect is its poignant and candid representation of the historical injustices endured by Canada’s Japanese communities during the Second World War. … The book is an important contribution to the existing body of literature for young readers that focus on significant periods of Canadian history. It provides a positive message about connecting with the past and feeling proud of one’s roots.”

Highly Recommended

– Huai-Yang Lim, CM: Canadian Review of Materials



Obaasan’s Boots is based on the life of Lara and Janis’s grandmother, Hisa Okihiro, and their family.

Here are some old family photos that inspired our writing, but didn’t always make it into the book itself. Thanks to family members for sharing!

Koichiro and Hisa Okihiro's Wedding
Grandma and Grandpa's Wedding, Vancouver, BC, 1940
Okihiros and Okinobus, Ruskin BC, c.1916
Okihiros and Okinobus, Ruskin, BC, c. 1916: Jutaro holding baby, Masukichi, Koyu, Chise, Yone, Koichiro, Kotaro holding baby
Hisa Okihiro and the house Koichiro built
Grandma and the house Grandpa built. Sadly, permission is being sought to demolish the house