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Folding Paper Cranes: An Atomic Memoir Paperback – Audiobook, March 30, 2005
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*Starred Review* Bird was an 18-year-old marine in 1954 when he first visited Hiroshima and the International Park for World Peace. Three years later, he crouched in a small trench dug into Yucca Flat, as Shot Hood, "the largest, dirtiest, and most controversial device ever exploded over North America," was detonated. As he so chillingly describes, a voice over the loudspeaker commanded, "Stand up and face ground zero! Watch the fireball!" Bird and company stood, the mushroom cloud rose to 40,000 feet, and the men, unwitting guinea pigs in a diabolical experiment, were showered with radioactive dust. His body and soul forever etched by this horror, Bird, who contracted a form of bone-blood cancer, felt compelled to return to Hiroshima and its peace park. With humility and empathy, he reflects on how the survivors have "memorialized and transcended their nuclear apocalypse" by creating a "culture of peace." At once direct and poetic, always candid and compelling, Bird speaks to everyone curious about our tragic atomic legacy and the future of nuclear weapons. With his unique perspective and gift for powerful expression, Bird has crafted the perfect book for marking the sixtieth anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
"Bird’s deeply moving and compelling memoir takes an important place in a body of work bearing witness to generations of the terrible reality of nuclear testing and the use of nuclear weapons."—Mary Dickson, director of creative services at KUED Channel 7 and author of the essays "Downwinders All" and "Living and Dying with Fallout"
"With a lovely combination of prose and poetry, Leonard Bird bears witness to the terrible nuclear crimes committed by the United States government against innocent citizens in the name of ‘national security.’ . . . Bird gives us a deeply personal view . . . always with beautiful writing and with a generosity of spirit that lifts the reader’s heart."—Leslie Marmon Silko, author of Almanac of the Dead and Ceremony
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This book was an inspiration for my initial and subsequent trips to Japan, and also a very personal guide to the various monuments in the Peace Park while I was actually visiting it. (To those who may be going to Hiroshima, the Green Hotel is still open but the Sweden Bakery wasn't found.)
Copies of Folding Paper Cranes were donated to the libraries at the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Peace Museums and other copies have been left at the Shoganji Temple and the International Hostel Akari in Kyushu.
Red's book is a powerful and inspiring testimony of one man's wrestling with his own memories, and of humanity's struggles with issues of war and peace, hope and despair.
Rest in Peace, Red!
And after several years I'm just re-reading this important book -- one I think every American ought to read. It's short, a simple memoir. But it's lessons are deep and powerful. My grandmother was born an orphan, left on a tavern doorstep, and raised in Nagasaki, we think. She died when I was one but she held me in her arms. Somehow I feel this deep connection to our atomic legacy.
Like Red, I didn't quite get it, until I read his memoir and realized how deeply my life has been linked to the atomic age. And how peace isn't just a vague dream, but a hope we need to keep alive in our minds and hearts. Especially as Americans.
Mr. Bird's command of and feel for language make the pages fly by. I understand Mr. Bird is a poet, also; it shows in the beauty of his composition style and the poetry of his sentiments.
I believe "Folding Paper Cranes'" hopeful message would be helpful to anyone going through whatever despair they may find debilitating, be it as dramatic as cancer from an atomic bomb or a depression from an unknown source. In that sense, I believe "Folding Paper Cranes" is an important work.
I have had the pleasure of traveling and spending time with Red and amazingly I knew nothing of this book. When it was given to me a sat and read it instantly. The tears flowed down my cheeks as I read it cover to cover.
I hope it will inspire you to think about our nuclear legacy, act to eliminate nuclear warheads from planet earth, and fold some paper cranes for good luck.
It is maddening that our Federal government chose to put men such as Bird at such great risk, using them as laboratory rats. The hope that resides in this engaging little book is how the Japanese people rose out of the nuclear ash and their dedication to peace.
When you read of Bird's encounter with Mr. Tanaka and little Meiko and her family make sure the tissue box is nearby. Leonard Bird knows redemption. He has met it face-to-face, redemption with flesh on it.