So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Barefoot Gen Volume Six: Writing the Truth

Barefoot Gen Volume Six: Writing the Truth, by Keiji Nakazawa
The Barefoot Gen series of 10 graphic novels tells the story of the World War II atomic bombing of Hiroshima Japan through the eyes of a young boy Gen Nakaoka who relates the events lived through by the author Keiji Nakazawa. Book 6, Writing the Truth is set in the summer of 1948, three years after the war has officially ended. Gen's father, sister and brother were killed during the blast, and his mother now suffers from radiation sickness. Gen's older brother Koji has left to work in a coal mine to earn money for the family, leaving Gen and his younger brother Akira to care for their sick mother and find food and medical care. Gen has befriended a group of street orphans who develop scheme after scheme to find food, raise money, or steal what they need.
The book opens with the orphans raising money by selling bomb victim skulls to American soldiers as souvenirs. With the money they hope to go into the countryside and buy rice but they have to sneak it past police checkpoints that confiscate black market food being smuggled into the city.
As Gen's mother continues to decline from her bomb-induced radiation sickness, Gen's orphan friend Ryuta, who has adopted Gen's mother as his own, devises a daring plan to rob a group of gangsters to get the money for her care. Once the mob swears to revenge themselves, his only hope of escape to Tokyo is thwarted by their searching for him.
Gen sees a young woman attempting suicide and, when he rescues her, discovers she is Natsue, a radiation-scarred child he met in the days following the blast. She tells him of her desperate life following the blast and her despair at never being able to be the dancer she wanted to be. Gen brings her to the shelter he and his war orphan friends have built, where the only girl orphan Katsuko, who also has facial scars from the bomb, befriends her. The two girls devise a plan to start making clothing to sell.
The orphans live with an old man who is slowly dying from radiation poisoning. He has written a book about the bombing of Hiroshima and hopes to see it published before he dies. Too sick himself, Gen tries to find someone to print the book. The local publishers and printers are afraid of the Americans and will not consider it. The title Writing the Truth comes from the attempts to publish this truthful story of the bombing.


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