Hiroshima In The Morning

The more I read in this novel the more I saw how interconnected we are; America, Japan, Afghanistan all become similar in the face of war. In the tragedy and destruction and reaction it brings. Author Rahna Reiko Rizzuto interviews a woman in Japan, asking her if she’s thought about war.
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)

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15 thoughts on “Hiroshima In The Morning”

  1. That's so true, Kathleen, about understanding war's effects on the generations. I was so struck by the innocence of the civilians in Hiroshima, as well as the innocence of the civilians in Afghanistan and New York. There's no part of war that can ever make it justifiable, to me. I'm such a pacifist at heart. (And politically? I'm totally isolationist. In a big minority there!)

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  2. Suko, probably most of us bibliophiles are pacificsts at heart! We, of gentle spirit…I'm glad that you like ths post visually. I have a plan to fold 1,000 cranes, with all the paper necessary, but as you can see I only have the orange ones folded so far. It'll give me something to do this Winter when I'm not reading. Which should be for about five minutes.Vasilly, that's one of the best things about blogging: finding out about books we'd not have discovered otherwise.

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  3. This is one I'd like to find time for. And, I'd be very interested in reading it in parallel with accounts of events in Pompeii and Herculaneum, and their aftermath.I suppose we could quibble about details, but the physical facts of what happened are remarkably similar in each of these events: Hiroshima, the Twin Towers, Vesuvius. I wonder how the coping differs after the fact when it's nature who seems to have declared war.Thought-provoking, for sure.(And do see my comment on the previous post for something less thoughtful, but far more fun and perhaps even useful!)

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  4. Your love of Japanese literature always make me want to read more. If only there was more time. Certainly not available here at the beginning of the school year, right?Also really appreciate your insight that war has a similarly destructive effect on individuals regardless of culture. Those themes of violation. I wonder if they are found here too?

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  5. Thank you for introducing the book. I initially thought the crane was part of the book cover, but what a beautiful amber cranes addition to an otherwise grey cover!

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  6. America, Japan, Afghanistan. I bet we could add some others to that list as well. Makes you wonder if we really learn from the past?This sounds like a really beautiful book and I've enjoyed reading snippets about the book here and there.

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  7. Beautiful review, Bellezza! It reminds me of the book 'Blossoms in the Wind' by M.G.Sheftall, which is a beautiful book on kamikaze pilots. If you haven't read it, I would recommend it. Have you also read 'I saw it' by Keiji Nakazawa (it was expanded later as 'Barefoot Gen – A Cartoon story of Hiroshima')? It is a beautiful and tragic story set in Hiroshima during the bombing. It made me cry.

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