Yesterday, the woman begins, they went to Iwakuni and saw the place where the kamikazes took off during the war. Sixteen-year-old boys who wanted to give their lives to protect their mothers. So she has been thinking a lot about war. These boys are just like the ones in Afghanistan: indoctrinated. They are going to give their lives. (p. 184)
But, I am ahead of myself. How did this book begin? When the author saw an advertisement in a magazine-“a fellowship, a six month stipend”-she applies for it without really considering that she will win. When she does, she leaves her husband and children in New York, to research Hiroshima in Japan. What does she hope to accomplish?
I want to know what war is. What happens? Not who fights, or who dies, or how does the amputated family rise from the ashes, but: What is the subtle effect of fear, uncertainty, aggression, starvation? How do the things we can see and name, even when we think we’ve survived them, change the people who we are? (p. 77)
In the course of her search, interspersed with her interviews with the hibakusha and observations of life post-atomic bomb, she relates the relationship she has with her husband. What was once a tenuous embarkment on a writing journey becomes a troubled issue between them, especially when America is attacked on 9/11. How can she stay in Japan, away from her family?
How can she leave her research, her life, her very self behind?
Hiroshima In The Morning is a fascinating book, about far more than Hiroshima. It is about wives and husbands, children and mothers, peace and power, and surviving with fear and destruction never quite enough far away.
In Hiroshima, there were thousands of people who were trapped in the rubble as the fires approached after the bomb itself had fallen; in New York, there were thousands of people who were hijacked in the air, or trapped in elevators or in their offices, with the full knowledge that there was no escape, that they were dying, that there was not enough time. And there were those of us who couldn’t get through, who didn’t know what was going on. Those who will retrace the steps that left us alive, that led our loved ones to the wrong place and the wrong time, who will finger our scars, the smooth skin where our ear used to be, and wonder if we should feel blessed or guilty. (p. 157)