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Fri, May 24

An intimate look at Nagasaki

"Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War" by Susan Southard

Random House timed the release of Susan Southard's book, Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War, to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the August 9th atomic bombing of that city in 1945. It will be the first book about that bombing since John Hersey's book, Hiroshima, published shortly after the war, first in magazine form in 1946. Nagasaki complements that book. It is a powerful, compassionate, and thoroughly researched account of the political lead up to the bombing on both sides, of the deaths of 74,000 civilians, and of the long, painful aftermath for the 75,000 wounded men, women and children and their families

Throughout the book, Southard returns to the intimate experiences of five hibakusha (atomic bomb-affected people) survivors, who were ages 10 to 17 at the time of the blast. We meet them in their lives before the bombing, then follow them into the harrowing chaos and confusion that followed, stay with them while they are injured and helpless, while they heal, then when they go on to live with horrific disfigurement and chronic and unrelenting pain. We get to know these brave and courageous people as they endure the unthinkable-then go on to speak out against the use of such weapons so that no one else will have to do so again.

Southard does not spare the Japanese government for their role in causing this calamity. Nor does she spare the US for the censorship policies that followed the bombing, policies that not only hid true extent of the bombing from public view, but also kept it from medical science so that doctors didn't know how to treat the terrible problems caused by radiation . This resulted in even more suffering and countless deaths.

Nagasaki is a stunning book. Despite the brilliant writing, or maybe because of it, some parts are difficult to read-but I am very glad I did. I came away deeply moved and inspired by these hibakusha. I will never forget them. I am glad, too, that Susan Southard will be at the Peregrine on Saturday, August 8th , 2:00 p. m. to talk about and answer questions about her book.


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