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Hiroshima in the Morning Paperback – September 14, 2010
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"This searing and redemptive memoir is an explosive account of motherhood reconstructed." Ayelet Waldman, author of Red Hook Road
"This book is an important contribution to the growing understanding that we are all part of history, and we all make history. A moving account of a contemporary voyage, which is also a voyage back in time, reckoning with and bearing witness to one of the great tragedies of the last century." Susan Griffin, author of A Chorus of Stones
"If remembering lies at the heart of all memoir, the best memoir goes far deeper, asking questions about the propulsive nature of time, the consequences of forgetting, and the treacherous liberations of solitude. Hiroshima in the Morning is a memoir of the most sophisticated kind, a lyric, a quest, a universal poem." Beth Kephart, author of A Slant of Sun
"Rahna Reiko Rizzuto's new book is intimate and global, lyrical and clear-eyed, a compelling personal narrative, and an important social document. Here past and present, Hiroshima and 9/11, interweave to tell a story of unendurable loss and tragedy but also of tenacity, survival, and rebirth" Lauren Kessler, author of Stubborn Twig: Three Generations in the Life of a Japanese American Family
"This searing and redemptive memoir is an explosive account of motherhood reconstructed." ―Ayelet Waldman, author of Red Hook Road
"This book is an important contribution to the growing understanding that we are all part of history, and we all make history. A moving account of a contemporary voyage, which is also a voyage back in time, reckoning with and bearing witness to one of the great tragedies of the last century." ―Susan Griffin, author of A Chorus of Stones
"If remembering lies at the heart of all memoir, the best memoir goes far deeper, asking questions about the propulsive nature of time, the consequences of forgetting, and the treacherous liberations of solitude. Hiroshima in the Morning is a memoir of the most sophisticated kind, a lyric, a quest, a universal poem." ―Beth Kephart, author of A Slant of Sun
"Rahna Reiko Rizzuto's new book is intimate and global, lyrical and clear-eyed, a compelling personal narrative, and an important social document. Here past and present, Hiroshima and 9/11, interweave to tell a story of unendurable loss and tragedy but also of tenacity, survival, and rebirth" ―Lauren Kessler, author of Stubborn Twig: Three Generations in the Life of a Japanese American Family
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A common criticism has much more to do with the author than the book, namely that she is a bad mother, a bad wife for "abandoning" her children. Now all I have to go on is what I read in the book, where it seems to me she clarified the situation in the very beginning at the second page of the Prologue. She notes that her husband Brian asked her "Why are you going to Japan?" She goes on at the very next page to say, "He was the one who urged me to apply" for the grant to spend six months in Japan. Furthermore, on the next page she recalls, "Brian had plenty of help with the children. And, he himself pointed this out, he had always promised to be their primary caretaker, so he owed me a chunk of time."
It appears Rahna took him at his word, that he could handle the situation for the six months and that he would support her. It also appears, as we read on, that when reality set in, and did so very soon, the promises were without meaning.
No, for those who claim this mother abandoned her children, there is a serious disconnect with reality on their part. Rahna went to Japan to fulfill her commitment upon receiving a grant/fellowship, which Brian had urged her to seek. She had put her children in the caring hands of her husband, the children's father.
Yes, the usual deal is that it is the husband/father who takes off days, weeks, months at a time to do research, follow up on company business, etc. In those cases, there is no issue at all. The wife/mother is expected to fulfill the dutiful role. In this case, however, in the eyes of some Rahna is perceived as selfish and borderline evil.
Some have protested that the author provides absolutely no information of the nature or source of the grant/fellowship. Well all one has to do is read the author's "Acknowledgments" at page 334 where she says very clearly, "My deep gratitude to...the National Endowment for the Arts for the fellowship that became a life-changing opportunity." In addition, a bit later she notes her gratitude to "Christopher Blasdel" who at p. 52 is quoted and listed as "grant administrator."
Then, there are those comments to the effect that "If you are looking for a book about the historical and human impacts of the bombing..." then this is not the book that is to come. No, it is true that this is not a historical treatise, but there is much history within the pages. There is certainly MUCH that relates the human impact of the bombing. Note the 27 pages of direct testimony concerning the horrific impact the bomb had on individuals, families, and acquaintances; not to mention the pages and pages of the author's take off from those testimonies.
Beyond doubt, the worse comment leveled against this fine author and brave woman is that fired off by a so-called "counselor" on October 25, 2011. This "counselor" concludes: "Make no mistake, she is a bad human being. It is pretty clear she is a bad wife, a bad mother, a bad daughter and a bad judge of history (and) a horrific woman..." No "counselor" worthy of the title has any right to diagnose (judge) a person on such a short body of "evidence" (one book of 336 pages).
Finally, there are those who have charged that Rizzuto has offered no insights regarding her declared topics. I would beg to differ and would offer here just one example out of many why I believe Rahna Reiko Rizzuto is one extremely insightful human being:
"How we tell our stories makes all the difference. They are where we store our tears, where the eventual healing lies. If `we' are talking, then we are safe in our group perspective; we do not have to own our experience alone, nor do we have to feel it. What September 11 gave to the hibakusha, and what they gave in turn to me, is a way to re-enter memory. As scary, and painful, as it is to claim our pronouns, `we' cannot inhabit our own lives until `I' begins to speak."(p. 239)
It seems that many "readers" did not "hear" the stories told either by the hibakushas, or by the author.
Rizzuto goes on to add near the end of her gripping juxtaposition of Hibakusha stories, her own stories, and her mother's story that:
"If I have learned anything in Japan, about memory, about identity, it is that our narrative is what we are looking for. A way to explain ourselves to ourselves. A way to go forward. When we look back at those moments when life changed forever, we are looking for protection against life changing again -- as it does, as it is doing at this moment. It is not the witness, the writer, who creates the character, but the character who creates the witness. The function of memory is not to record history, but to tell stories. It is never fact we want. It is understanding, fiddling with the books."(p. 325)
The fact that Hiroshima in the Morning was named a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, an Asian American Literary Award Finalist, a Dayton Literary Peace Prize Nominee, and the winner of the Grub Street National Book Award in Nonfiction suggests the biting commentaries posted here at Amazon.com, denigrating both author and book, have little no credibility standing.
For a book that is supposed to be focused on the atomic bombing in Hiroshima and the survivors, there's very little of that in here. Maybe 30%. We do get some survivors stories (which are powerful). But they're chopped down/edited until they run a page or less. Even Lily's story, which the author claims is one of the most important she collected in only a few pages (and is really more about the author's experience listening to the story than the story itself).
Most of this book is the author talking about her trip to Japan (she hates it/is lonely then loves it (possibly more than her family). It details her relationship with her husband (as it falls apart) and her relationship with her children (which I have to say shows her in a terrible light...though I still don't see the point of the potty story (which lasted for three pages)).
There's also a weird, meandering thought process about the author's mother. I don't know what the point of it was or why it was included at all.
And to top it off, there's a ton of words in Japanese in this book (which is great!) except that the author never bothers to actually tell you what most of them mean. It's hard to get into a story about her family enjoying a meal when you have no idea what they're eating or why it's a problem for her kids.
It almost felt like the author went to Japan to research ideas for a novel, couldn't make the plot work but still had to write SOMETHING so she threw this together at the last minute to fulfill a contract.
If you're looking for a book about Hiroshima/the atomic bombing/survivors, SKIP THIS. It isn't worth it. I can't honestly say I think anyone would enjoy it. Sorry if this review is harsh, but the disappointment I feel after shelling out $8 for this (I got it at a used bookstore) is huge.
Most recent customer reviews
You book has just a little about Hiroshima and the survivor's story. We do not really care about your trip or with the relationship with your ex-husband...Read more