So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Barefoot Gen: Life After The Bomb. A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima, Part 3 by Keiji Nakazawa

Barefoot Gen: Life After The Bomb is volume three of a four part series. The atom bomb has been dropped on Hiroshima, destroying most of the city, killing many people, and causing others to become sick with radiation sickness. Gen's hair is falling out from radiation exposure. He, his mother, and his newborn sister have to leave to survive. His mother can think of only one person to turn to, Kiyo, her childhood friend in the town of Eba. But the people of Eba are afraid the Hiroshima survivors have a strange contagious illness. Kiyo's family and the whole town treat them with suspicion and contempt. As refugees, Gen and his mother have to find food, money, and shelter in a hostile environment. He takes a job caring for a rich man's brother who has been quarantined and left to die by the family because he has radiation sickness. Gen's compassion, humanity, and determination make this an inspiring book about the strength of the human spirit. The close loving values of his family are in sharp contrast to the narrow-minded self interest of the people in the Eba community. The work has been wonderfully translated from the Japanese original: Hadashi no Gen. It was originally published in serial form in 1972 and 1973 in Shukan Shonen Jampu, the largest weekly comic magazine in Japan, with a circulation of over two million. The drawings are all in black and white. This US edition was published as part of a movement to translate the book into other languages and spread its message. It is a powerful testimony to the strength of the human spirit and the horrors of nuclear war. There are a few introductory essays at the front of the book that help to put this book into perspective. It is a tragic but uplifting story that I highly recommend for anyone interested in the topic. This and the other volumes in the series are important books for their message on the dangers of nuclear war.


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