University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine
Headshot of Kerry Sakamoto taken outdoors
Kerri Sakamoto. Photo by Daniel Tisch

Hope Floats

U of T alumna Kerri Sakamoto’s new novel explores racism, architecture – and how to “dream and dare”

After learning that visionary architect Buckminster Fuller had a Japanese-­American business partner, Kerri Sakamoto’s imagination took off – inspiring a fable-like tale that isn’t intended to follow history as it actually happened, but “imagine a story that might have been.”

Sakamoto’s newest novel, Floating City, follows the story of Frankie Hanesaka who, after being displaced from his home time and again, rises to success as a property developer. Forced from his floating house off Vancouver Island to a Japanese internment camp during the Second World War, Hanesaka moves to Toronto after the war. He meets Fuller, who envisions building a floating community in Toronto Harbour – and who teaches Hanesaka that he “must dream and dare.”

“I wanted to detail the past, but also point to the future,” says Sakamoto (BA 1982 UTM), whose own parents and grandparents avoided talking about their time in internment camps while she was growing up in Etobicoke, Ontario.

Sakamoto wanted to explore Hanesaka’s experience of living through perpetual racism, and what it means to negotiate one’s manhood and dignity – as a husband, father and provider – in the face of persecution. The novel also examines what is gained and lost in the name of “progress,” both in the sense of urban gentrification and Hanesaka’s assimilation, says Sakamoto. “Floating City is a cautionary tale, but also one of utopic ideals.”

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