- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Last Gasp; 1St Edition edition (September 1, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0867196025
- ISBN-13: 978-0867196023
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 71 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #102,872 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Barefoot Gen, Vol. 1: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima Paperback – September 1, 2004
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About the Author
Keiji Nakazawa was six when the atomic bomb dropped on his city. His first published cartoon work appeared in 1963 and he has since has had over fifty book-length serials published. Now retired from cartooning, Nakazawa lives in Tokyo.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
A Note From the Author: The atomic bomb exploded 600 meters above my hometown of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 at 8:15 a.m. I was a little over a kilometer away from the epicenter, standing at the back gate of Kanzaki Primary School, when I was hit by a terrible blast of wind and searing heat. I was six years old. I owe my life to the school's concrete wall. If I hadn't been standing in its shadow, I would have been burned to death instantly by the 5,000degree heat flash. Instead, I found myself in a living hell, the details of which remain etched in my brain as if it happened yesterday.
My mother, Kimiyo, was eight months pregnant. She was on the second floor balcony of our house, had just finished hanging up the wash to dry, and was turning to go back inside when the bomb exploded. The blast blew the entire balcony, with my mother on it, into the alley behind our house. Miraculously, my mother survived without a scratch.
The blast blew our house flat. The second floor collapsed onto the first, trapping my father, my sister Eiko, and my brother Susumu under it. My brother had been sitting in the front doorway, playing with a toy ship. His head was caught under the rafter over the doorway. He frantically kicked his legs and cried out for my mother. My father, trapped inside the house, begged my mother to do something. ...
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The book opens with the orphans devising a plan to get the book published. When all the regular publishers have turned them down because they fear reprisal from the Americans, Ryuta, one of the orphans, suggests asking the prison print shop to print the books. All they need to do is find the money to buy the paper for the printing. Finding the money is a challenge that they solve. Once they have the book published and are distributing it, they are picked up by the local police and taken to a U.S. military base for interrogation.
Meanwhile Gen's mother continues to decline from her bomb-induced radiation sickness, and Gen's older brother Koji, now a depressed alcoholic, returns from the mines. The last section of the book reunites the family as the boys try to make Gen's mother happy in her last days. The subtitle Bones Into Dust refers to the cremation remains of Gen's mother as the family deals with yet another loss.
Book 8, Merchants of Death begins in June of 1950 with the beginning of the Korean War. Hiroshima has been rebuilding from the ruins of the blast and the war brings business to local merchants willing to supply materials for the war. With the war comes a crackdown on Communists and their sympathizers. Many in Hiroshima, remembering the horror of the atomic blast, are strongly pacifist. Anti-war feelings are looked on with suspicion by the occupying Americans and the Japanese government. It is from the war profiteering that the book draws its title.
In the first book Gen's father was constantly in trouble for speaking out against Japanese involvement in World War II. Here we see a similar current of suppression of those who speak out against war and militarism as Japan serves as a home base for American soldiers fighting the Korean War. This is an eloquent plea for cooperative action over militarism in a quest for world peace.