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Daily Dose — Local Author’s Memoir Making New Waves

Ari Lord
By Ari Lord
August 10th, 2023

Diana Cole, a longstanding member of the Nelson community, published Sideways: Memoir of a Misfit in 2015 with Diaspora Press.

Today, Washington State Library, which serves patrons who are blind and print-disabled, is transcribing Sideways: Memoir of a Misfit into braille and narrating it for an audiobook.

“This is a great honour to have my story available in audiobook and braille for those who have documented print disabilities,” says the 79-year-old Cole.

Cole started Diaspora Press in 2015 to publish her memoir, inspired by other Nelson writers, like Ernest Hekkenan and Margrith Schraner, who had successfully self-published.

She heard how competitive publishing houses can be for new writers, so she decided to take things into her own hands. She also liked the idea of publishing her book without an editor’s heavy pen.

“Most importantly, I wanted to tie the launch of Sideways: Memoir of a Misfit to the 75th anniversary of the persecution of the Japanese emigres in Canada and the United States during WWII,” says Cole.

Cole describes the moment she realized she needed to write this book:

“My filing cabinet is filled with stories that I attempted to write in my youth and middle age. As I look back, I see that I was too young to fully grasp the complexities of my family’s story. Perhaps I had to come toBritish Columbiain order to gain the geographical and psychological distance required to write my memoir.”

The memoir tackles relevant topics like internment and displacement.

“What was meaningful about my story was the trauma that my family endured as a result of racism and war. These atrocities have informed my life and made me who I am today.”

Writing the memoir was a challenging process.

“The writing of Sideways: Memoir of a Misfit caused me a great deal of physical discomfort. I had an ache near my gallbladder throughout the creative process. Thankfully, the pain dissipated as soon as I completed the final chapter of my memoir, and I received the announcement that I was chosen as a recipient of a grant from the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance.”

Cole was encouraged to write her memoir in an immigrant writers’ group created in 2011 by Jenny Craig, the recently deceased Stephen Leacock Memorial Award for Humour winner.

“That group of writers was the best group you could ever wish to have listen to your memoir. Even today, I can still see their smiles and hear their laughter as I read my stories to them.”

One challenging topic this memoir outlines is the circumstances of Cole’s birth.

“I was born under a cruel and inhumane government policy designed to rob my family and me of our freedom, dignity, and sense of belonging. Executive Order 9066 threw us into exile within the boundaries of our own country. Suddenly, ‘home’ turned into a place of terror and heartbreak.”

Particularly poignant are the details of her birth.

“When my mother, Masano, gave birth to me in the Minidoka concentration camp hospital in 1944, the term, ‘NON-RESIDENT,’ was stamped across my birth certificate in white letters. Diana Lynn Reiko Morita was born a homeless transient — an infant born to an ‘enemy alien’ detained behind barbed wire fences.”

This experience has made Cole very conscious of the worldwide plight of refugees.

“Migrancy and dislocation are the contrapuntal themes of our times,” she says.

Cole explains how she arrived in Nelson from Cape Breton.

“My husband, Wayne Cole, and I moved to Nelson 17 years ago when he was hired to fill the position of Chief Librarian for what was then called the Nelson Municipal Library.”

Cole enjoys cross-country skiing, hiking in old-growth forests, pine mushroom hunting, and swimming in Kootenay Lake. She recalls one memory.

“Wayne and I would drive to the Whitewater ski resort to watch the sunrise as we skied on the magnificently-groomed trails and then head back down to Nelson, somy husband could begin his day at the library.”

Sideways: Memoir of a Misfit is available through the Diaspora Press website here or at Otter Books, Coles at Chahko Mika Mall, Nelson Museum and Art Gallery, Greenwood Museum and VisitorCentre, New Denver’s Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre and Raven’s Nest, Kaslo’s Eurythmy Studio & Bookstore, Castlegar’s Doukhobor Discovery Centre, and Ainsworth Hot Springs Gift Store.

Diana Cole is joined on stage at the Capitol Theatre for the Asian Heritage Event 2018.

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