My Postwar Life: New Writings from Japan and Okinawa

Edited by Elizabeth McKenzie. Chicago Quarterly Review Books (www.chicagoquarterlyreview.com), $19.95 trade paper (328p) ISBN 978-0-9847788-0-5
This engaging anthology of short fiction, essays, poetry, photography, and more illuminates the interconnected past of the U.S. and Japan, from WWII up to 2011's earthquake. Ryuta Imafuku's essay, "Nagasaki. And Scattered Islets of Time," is a walk through the suspended reality of post-atomic Nagasaki, accompanied by Shomei Tomatsu's powerful photos of burn victims, detritus, and seared bamboo stalks. Deni Y. Béchard's story, "The Deleted Line," tells of Yukio, a translator who censors a textbook regarding the Battle of Okinawa and is subsequently reprimanded by an old karate master, who explains that to erase the past is "like saying we must let go of our minds, of our spirits." "The Emperor and the Mayor" is Stephen Woodham's candid interview with Hitoshi Motoshima, former mayor of Nagasaki, who was castigated by some for blaming Emperor Shōwa for Japan's role in WWII. Hiroshi Fukurai's "Disaster Memories" investigates the radioactive threat of the recently damaged Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, and Noboru Tokuda's beautifully illustrated diary from his stint as a young soldier in the Imperial Army during WWII is particularly moving. McKenzie's (McGregor Tells the World) collection is a stunning testament to a country's literal rise from the ashes—casual readers and academics alike will find many of these selections rewarding and informative. Photos & illus. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/16/2012
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