July 5th, 2020

Hatter’s book named to top 15 list of CBC’s Canada Reads program

By Mo Cranker on January 22, 2018.

Mark Sakamoto, who grew up in Medicine Hat, recently learned his book will be made into a four-part mini series by CBC. --PHOTO CREDIT JEFF NOON


A Hatter has found his way into the national spotlight.

Author Mark Sakamoto recently found out that his book ‘Forgiveness’ was named to the top 15 list of CBC’s Canada Reads program.

“This was out of the blue for me, and it’s just so humbling to be a part of it,” said Sakamoto, who grew up in Medicine Hat but now resides in Toronto. “It was a great surprise for me. When you start a book like ‘Forgiveness’ it’s such a personal endeavor. To be receiving public accolades for it, it’s all just gravy for me.”

The book, which chronicles the lives of Sakamoto’s paternal and maternal grandparents during the Second World War, took roughly 20 months to write, and was published in 2014.

“The book is about both sides of my family during the Second World War,” he said. “The paternal side of my family, the Sakamotos, lost everything during the Japanese-Canadian internment. Their only crime was their ethnicity, so it was quite a black mark on the Canadian government and how they treated their citizens. On the other side of my family, was my grandfather, Ralph MacLean, who wanted to go and fight in Europe. He was sent to Hong Kong and was captured by Japanese forces on Christmas Eve of 1941. He was a prisoner of war, which was a horrific experience.”

Sakamoto says the book was created by interviewing his grandparents, as well as recalling memories of stories he was told when he was young.

“I did a lot of extensive interviews with my grandparents, and that really brought them into the darkest corners of their lives,” he said. “It was a really challenging process for all of us, but the devil really is in the details. Uncovering their stories, I really saw the devil and injustice on both sides. I’m just so grateful that they were willing to talk, and that they still had the capacity to recall these things in specific detail.”

At the end of the month, CBC will be shortening the list of books to five, and then will be putting them up against each other to see which will take the top spot in this year’s Canada Reads.

“The final five get to be part of the three-day broadcast on CBC, and get a well-known Canadian to be their advocate. Those advocates debate for their books and try to get the book their representing to be the final one,” Sakamoto said.

The title of ‘Forgiveness’ is an important one to Sakamoto and his family, and he says he is honoured to be able to tell his grandparents’ stories.

“The book is called Forgiveness because my family found a way to not pass on those transgressions committed against them, and to move past those years,” he said. “That forgiveness is what allowed me to come into this world, and now I’ve done this book.”

Sakamoto says he has no expectations for the next cut of books, and that he is just happy to see his book get national attention,

“Just looking at the history of the authors who have been associated with this program, it really reads like a who is who of Canadian authors. It’s just an honour to be amongst the 15,” he said. “Everything else that has happened is just a bonus. I never expected this, and I just want to wish all of the other authors good luck going forward.”

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