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The Souvenir: A Daughter Discovers Her Father's War [Kindle Edition]

Louise Steinman
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Louise Steinman’s American childhood in the fifties was bound by one unequivocal condition: “Never mention the war to your father.” That silence sustained itself until the fateful day Steinman opened an old ammunition box left behind after her parents’ death. In it she discovered nearly 500 letters her father had written to her mother during his service in the Pacific War and a Japanese flag mysteriously inscribed to Yoshio Shimizu. Setting out to determine the identity of Yoshio Shimizu and the origins of the silken flag, Steinman discovered the unexpected: a hidden side of her father, the green soldier who achingly left his pregnant wife to fight for his life in a brutal 165-day campaign that changed him forever. Her journey to return the “souvenir” to its owner not only takes Steinman on a passage to Japan and the Philippines, but also returns her to the age of her father’s innocence, where she learned of the tender and expressive man she’d never known. Steinman writes with the same poignant immediacy her father did in his letters. Together their stories in The Souvenir create an evocative testament to the ways in which war changes one generation and shapes another.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When Norman Steinman a member of the 25th Infantry Division, which fought in the Philippines in 1945 died in 1990, he left behind a box full of WWII letters (more than 400), later discovered by his daughter. Among the souvenirs was a small Japanese flag, inscribed with words Louise could not read. She had them translated and found that the flag had belonged to a Japanese soldier. Obsessed, Steinman began her search for him or his family. This small book, a moving memoir about reconciliation and honor, is her tale of her successful quest, her trip to Japan to return the flag and the friendships she forged along the way. Steinman visited the battlefields on Luzon in which her father battled the weather, jungle and Japanese. This volume contains many of his letters, published here for the first time, that show typical G.I. behavior, attitudes toward the enemy and longing for good food and friends back home. Steinman's visit to Hiroshima helped her to understand the war from the Japanese point of view. In coming to understand her father and his postwar behavior, Steinman discovers how real WWII can become to a survivor's family. (Oct.)Forecast: This quiet, heartfelt book is the perfect contrast to all the Pearl Harbor 50th anniversary bombast, telling another side of the war's story. Baby boomers with veteran parents will relate, as will some vets. Look for solid sales.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Clearing out the family's storage locker after her father's death, Steinman discovered a rusted metal ammo box with hundreds of letters spanning the years 1941-45 that he had written to her mother and a manila envelope with a Japanese soldier's flag. Intrigued by these "souvenirs" of a time and an experience in her father's life that she had never really understood, Steinman, cultural programs director of the Los Angeles Public Library, set out on a quest to return the flag to the family of Yoshio Shimizu, the Japanese soldier. This book is the story of the entwined "gifts" resulting from that personal journey Steinman's discovery of a side of her father that she had never expected to share ("I never knew my father to cry") and the "softly uttered" words of the fallen soldier's mother: "You have given us back Yoshio. The government only sent sand in a box." Steinman comments that from the letters she wanted to "unravel the connection between my father's silence about the war and our family's home life." For many, her account could provide an understanding of how that war changed one generation and shaped the next. Recommended for all public libraries. Robert C. Jones, Central Missouri State Univ., Warrensburg
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1570 KB
  • Print Length: 241 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B004JZWVYK
  • Publisher: North Atlantic Books; 2nd edition (May 7, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #839,240 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The tragedy of war. July 28, 2002
A very good emotional book about World War II. Steinman's father served in the Tropic Lightning Division of the U.S. Army fighting in northern Luzon (P.I.). Even though her father is not a casualty, he suffers the rest of his life from the effects of the war. He is hard and somewhat bitter. After his passing, Louise finds the souvenir of the war---a personal flag from a Japanese soldier. She examines the brutality of the war from both the American and Japanese perspective (Hiroshima, Nanking, P. I, Bataan). She finds the family of the soldier and returns the flag. She finds that the Japanese soldier has a human face after all.
This is a good emotional read of the effects of war, even if the war was the good war.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AN EXCELLENT READ AND A WORK VERY WELL DONE! June 5, 2007
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Like so many in my generation, the author, like the rest of us, really had no clue as to what made her father tick. These men, and women, of the "Greatest Generation" were a different breed. I had to blink twice when the author described her father, his attitudes, work ethic, treatment of his family and on and on. She could have well been describing my own father.

The author, after her father's death, discovers a box of letters written to his wife (the author's mother) during the war. Her father fought in the Pacific, taking part in some of its most brutal of battles. Amongst the letters, in an envelope, was a Japanese Flag, a "souvenir flag" which her father had sent home. The flag was of the type carried by many Japanese soldiers, which was a sort of good luck piece. The story is basically Ms. Steinman's search for the family of the soldier whose body it was taken from and a story of Ms. Steinman's search for her father, i.e. who really was her father, and how had the war changed him?

Now I will be honest, there were parts of the book that disturbed me. I am not all that certain if the author ever did have a clue as to what made her father the man he was and how the war truly affected him. The author never actually says it, but after reading her description of her father, which gave us some idea of the kind of man he was, there is really no doubt where he got the flag, and how he got it. He did not seem the type of man who would simply pick up a flag off any old dead body and keep it. While this falls into the realm of speculation, I think it probably would have been better if the author had faced reality. Be that as it may, the author did quite a good job with her research and I certainly admire her objectives.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading April 24, 2002
I couldn't put this book down. As a veteran of the Viet Nam era, I don't like stories of war that glorify nationalism. This book artfully humanizes the overly simplistic categorization of "good" and "evil." This book should be required reading for every high school student, especially of history or political science. If you have a son or daughter, you owe it to them to buy this book for their education that isn't taught in school. It is a graduation present that could help them change the world.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If You Believe in it, You Win August 7, 2005
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Louise Steinman weaves war, family and an unsolved mystery into a fine story about how a daughter trys to uncover the meaning of the deep, inconsolable silence her father brings home from one the worst battles of World War II: MacArthur's famous "return" to Luzon, the Philippines.

She retraces history with the help of more than 700 letters her father wrote to her mother during his time away, and with her friends, family and a handful of old infantry vets she is able to puzzle together what was the most momentous time in her father's life. Her journey forges a new understanding of her father and, most importantly, her relationship to him, even many years after his death.

The story tantalizes with descriptions of jungle warfare, imperialism and young men in the throes of battle, especially from the vantage point of Japan, where like their American counterparts, families were torn asunder by the conflict. They too carry the remnants of pain and sorrow sixty years later. Here, at least, Steinman could have spent more time illustrating the cultural differences-and similarities-that propel leaders and their societies to sacrifice their young men for nationalistic fervor.

In the end, the tale reveals just as much about the author as it does about her father. The care, grace and sensitivity with which she tells her story reflects the same qualities her father had, then lost, then struggled to regain after he returned home from 165 consecutive days of brutal warfare.

-Christopher Thomas Scott
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The gift of The Souvenir January 1, 2002
Powerful, but written with delicacy and grace; a universal theme, revealed through the specifics of one family's life. I was in tears--happily so--three times by the time I got through the first eighteen pages, and jokingly said to myself, "This book should not be sold unless it is accompanied by a trained mental health professional." But the feelings are cleansing, and we are returned over and over to the depth of our humanness, and we can be grateful to the author for being willing to make this journey into her father's heart.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Moving Memoir June 30, 2007
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Louise Steinman has hit it out of the park with this wonderful, moving memoir about her father, Norman Steinman, his war experiences, and the way those experiences shaped his life--and his relationships with his family. It is also about Ms. Steinman's own odyssey in experiencing her father's war, through reading hundreds of her father's war-time letters discovered after her parents' deaths, talking to other Pacific War veterans, and visiting long-forgotten battlefields in the Philippines. Ms. Steinman eventually makes a special journey to Japan to visit the family of a long-dead Japanese soldier. It involves a simple errand: she needs to give something back...

Ms. Steinman shows that the scars of war run deep and the impacts are felt through succeeding generations. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars not a good read
I did not like this book the author's naivete is demonstrated clearly in here philosophy over the atomic bombs that was dropped on japan
Published 4 months ago by Robert Haag
3.0 out of 5 stars A Seizmic Mitzvah
Wow. She did the right thing. Many of us who inherited our father's war souvenirs, specifically Rising Sun or Sun Mark flags from our fathers who served in the Pacific in WWII, are... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Annie Lanzillotto author of L is for Lion
2.0 out of 5 stars The Souvenir: A Daughter Discovers Her Father's War: Purchased at...
I always feel bad giving less than three stars for a review. Honestly, though, I just could not get into this book. The letters from the authors father were great. Read more
Published 7 months ago by dep
4.0 out of 5 stars WWII history on a personal level. Highly recommended
Louise Steinman's fine memoir/biography cum history, THE SOUVENIR, is a carefully researched and lovingly told look into her late father's experiences as a soldier in the South... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Timothy J. Bazzett
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting perspective on history
I thought the premise of the story was interesting, but there seemed to be too much back story of her childhood. Read more
Published 20 months ago by JS
5.0 out of 5 stars A discovery after her father's death starts the author on a journey
Author Louise Steinman's father, Norman Steinman, was a typical WW2 combat veteran who endured unpleasant experiences during the war and then went on with his life. Read more
Published on January 16, 2013 by William S. Grass
5.0 out of 5 stars The Souvenir: A Daughter Discovers Her Father's War
This book was hard to find. I had decided to bring it to Europe for my English reading friends. It is a very moving true story of a woman who found letters from her father to her... Read more
Published on April 25, 2012 by mari31
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
This was a fascinating journey of a daughter's mission to find the owner of a souvenir flag her father aquired in the second World War. Read more
Published on October 25, 2011 by Karen L. Park
5.0 out of 5 stars An insightful and compelling work
Ms. Steinman's tale of finding her father's letters home from World War II, the surprise among them, and her ensuing journey of discovery and hope is inspiring on its own merits. Read more
Published on August 21, 2011 by Bluesky
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gripping Story
I have the hardback (2001) edition. This was an excellent read, especially for all of us that read war history. Read more
Published on October 15, 2008 by Raymond H. Mullen
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More About the Author

Louise Steinman is a writer and literary curator. Her work frequently deals with memory, history and reconciliation. Her book, The Souvenir: A Daughter Discovers Her Father's War, was cited as 'A graceful, understated memoir' that draws its strength from the complexities it explores.' (New York Times Book Review) 'an intimate and powerful story of the effects of war.' James Bradley, author, Flags of Our Fathers). The book won the 2002 Gold Medal in Autobiography/Memoir from ForeWord Magazine and has been the selection of all-city and all-freshman reading programs. The book chronicles her quest to return a war 'souvenir' to its owner and-- in the process-- illuminates how war changed one generation and shaped another. She is also the author of "The Crooked Mirror: A Memoir of Polish-Jewish Reconciliation" (Beacon Press, Nov. 2013).

She has curated the award-winning ALOUD at Central Library series for the Los Angeles Public Library ( for the past two decades and is also co-director of the Los Angeles Institute of the Humanities at USC.

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