Choosing Life: My Father’s Journey in Film from Hollywood to Hiroshima by Leslie A. Sussan is a memoir and biography about the author's father, Herbert Sussan, who was tasked in 1946 by the US military to film the horrible after-effects of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. He would use his expertise as a Hollywood cinematographer to bring the story of death to life. But when he finished filming the devastating aftermath of the atomic bomb, the footage was declared top secret and kept hidden for years, with the official stance being that the public wouldn't be interested in seeing it. The truth was, it was too terrible for anyone to see. The project and the people left to languish in the wake of the bombings haunted the filmmaker for the rest of his life. The shadow of that haunting reached his daughter, Leslie, who took up where her father left off, returning to the areas of destruction with her own daughter, Kendra (then 4 years old), to meet with and interview some of the survivors her father had met 40 years earlier. For those involved, the war never ended.
This biography/memoir, part history/part photo essay will leave a lasting impression on you. The author doesn't try to embellish with excessive descriptions--those graphic incidents speak for themselves. Leslie, a lawyer, also showcases a well-rounded account of her father's early life, his personality, and their relationship, so that this book isn't only about Hiroshima/Nagasaki--it's a story about humanity and how it is fragile yet strong it is at the same time. Whether you approve or disapprove of nuclear war/weapons, this account may cause you to ponder the ramifications; some that last a lifetime and beyond for generations to come. Some readers may come away thinking that if the general public had been allowed to view the footage Sussan captured years ago, nations might be less war-hungry today, and there would be more of an outcry against nuclear arms. At the time of the bombings, most people supported it, though since then, that support has decreased. Choosing Life: My Father’s Journey in Film from Hollywood to Hiroshima by Leslie A. Sussan is a book of substance. Read at your own risk. -- Tammy Ruggles
“The role of a leader is to keep hope alive’” (Jon Gardner founder of the White House Fellows.) You . . . are keeping HOPE ALIVE. . . . always be a messenger of PEACE. . . . thanks for the inspiration.” About the kataribe (witnessing by survivors to their experiences) included in the book: “This is what makes your book stand out. The personal stories by the people who lived it is what moves us.”
“The horrors of war are soon forgotten unless we are reminded of them. Peace has been likened to taking vitamins. They don’t work unless taken daily. We need to create a way to reinforce the memories. Those of us who have visited Hiroshima (I made it a point to take my son and daughter when they were 14 and 15) are often reminded of the images. We wanted to educate our children early on so that they would want to work for peace. It worked they are both peacemakers.”
Beautifully written account of lives connected by horror and courage:
This book was recommended to me, and I started reading it expecting it to be a dry account of post-Hiroshima horrors.
Instead, I was taken on a journey through time. The story is told through the eyes of the author’s father during the aftermath of the bombings, and then the authors during her subsequent visits to Japan on her quest to get to know the ‘real him’ after his death. There is a biographical and autobiographical story here as well as the accounts of the people who perished or survived.
Her telling of the gruesome aftermath of the bombs was such that I could visualize and empathize but not be so repulsed as to not read it, and bringing actual survivors to life on the page and learn of their strength is inspiring.
The bombing of Hiroshima happened before I was born and I never really thought much about it but this has opened my eyes to an important event in world history which should never be repeated.