The enduring impact of a nuclear bomb, told through the stories of those who survived: necessary reading as the threat of nuclear war emerges again. On August 9, 1945, three days after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the United States dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, a small port city on Japan's southernmost island. An estimated 74,000 people died within the first five months, and another 75,000 were injured. Nagasaki takes readers from the morning of the bombing to the city today, telling the first-hand experiences of five survivors, all of whom were teenagers at the time of the devastation. Susan Southard has spent years interviewing hibakusha ("bomb-affected people") and researching the physical, emotional, and social challenges of post-atomic life. She weaves together dramatic eyewitness accounts with searing analysis of the policies of censorship and denial that colored much of what was reported about the bombing both in the United States and Japan. A gripping narrative of human resilience, Nagasaki will help shape public discussion and debate over one of the most controversial wartime acts in history.
WINNER of the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize and the Dayton Literary Peace PrizeFINALIST for the Ridenhour Book Prize - Chautauqua Prize - William Saroyan International Prize for Writing - PEN Center USA Literary Award NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-05-18
- Reviewer: Staff
Southard, founder and director of the Arizona-based Essential Theatre, presents a vivid (if gruesome) group portrait of five hibakusha, or “atomic bomb affected people,” 70 years after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Her long acquaintance with the survivors and facility with the Japanese language result in an invaluable snapshot of that harrowing moment in history. Opening with a description of Nagasaki circa 1945, “an L-shaped city built along two rivers,” Southard dramatically depicts how its 240,000 residents toiled to support a hopeless military effort. The Japanese had been deluded into believing that Nagasaki would be spared, as it was home to “the largest Christian community in the nation.” Zeroing in on the crucial event, Southard movingly focuses on her subjects’ experiences against the backdrop of the Manhattan Project, the whitewashing of the bombing’s aftermath by the U.S. government, and the tug-of-war over autopsy specimens, which was finally resolved in 1973 by President Nixon. While the hibakusha initially chose to remain silent, a doctor named Akizuki Tatsuichiro pushed for transparency, organizing the Nagasaki Testimonial Society. This group, having reached old age, continues to share stories at public events around the world. Southard offers valuable new information and context, and her work complements John Hersey’s 1946 classic, Hiroshima. Photos. Agent: Richard Balkin, Ward & Balkin Agency. (Aug.)