Fifty years after surviving the atomic bombing of Nagasaki as a six-year-old, Sachiko Yasui began to share her story. This moving work of creative nonfiction offers Yasui’s account of life in wartime Japan, the “unspeakable seconds” of the bombing, her family’s struggle to survive, the deaths of her siblings from radiation sickness, her thyroid cancer, and her decades-long struggle to find words as ahibakusha, a survivor of the bombing.
Photographs and short essays on topics that include “Racism and War,” “Little Boy and Fat Man” (code names for the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively), and “Long-Term Effects of Radiation” provide illuminating background. Throughout, Stelson highlights defining moments in Yasui’s life, such as her father’s grief over Gandhi’s death, Helen Keller’s visit to Nagasaki, and Yasui’s awareness of nonviolent protests led by Martin Luther King Jr., which influenced her eventual commitment to speak (“Sachiko knew this: the world must never again see nuclear war”). This powerful narrative account of one person finding her voice after insufferable trauma encapsulates a grim era in global history.