Tuesday, August 6, 2013

US bombs Hiroshima: Asia in WWII

On this day in 1945, the US dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. To mark the anniversary, today we look at books about WWII in the Pacific theater.


When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park. When the Japanese occupied Korea, Korean language and culture became illegal. Sun-hee even has to change her name to Keoko, a Japanese name. When WWII starts, the Japanese expect the Koreans to fight on their side. Keoko's older brother volunteers-- but only to protect their uncle, who works for the resistance.

Shanghai Shadows by Lois Ruby. One little known aspect of the Holocaust is that Shanghai was an open port of last resort, taking in many Jews, especially from Vienna. To escape Hitler, Shanghai is where Ilse and her family have ended up. Older readers interested in this issue should check out the adult memoir, Ten Green Bottles: The True Story of One Family's Journey from War-torn Austria to the Ghettos of Shanghai about a Viennese young adult who flees to Shanghai with her family.

The Rape Of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust Of World War II by Iris Chang. This is a hard book to read, but an important one to read. This book documents the atrocities of the Japanese army in China, especially in its WWII capital of Nanjing, where a horrific massacre took place-- one that many Japanese politicians still deny ever happen. (As someone who has studied in Nanjing and who know survivors, it happened, and this book explains a lot about current Chinese/Japanese relations.)


The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer. Teens might get turned off by the fact it's published for adults and nearly 800 pages, but this is one that deserves a second glance. Told by many characters, this covers one campaign for one island in the South Pacific during WWII. It's gripping and action-packed, a fairly quick read, and teens will really like it.

Women of the Silk by Gail Tsukiyama. When Pei is a young teen, she is sent to work in a silk factory. The work is hard, but the camaraderie is good and she eventually dedicates herself to silk work. But as the Japanese take more and more control and China is plunged into civil war as well as WWII, Pei's life changes dramatically as she just tries to survive. Written for adults, this is one teens will love.

Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah. Mah's mother died during childbirth and her father remarries while she's still an infant. Her step-mother is cruel and takes many of her issues out on the young girl. WWII is in the periphery of the memoir, but it's still there in the background. Older readers may wish to go straight to Mah's adult memoir, Falling Leaves: The Memoir of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter.


Left for Dead: A Young Man's Search for Justice for the USS Indianapolis by Pete Nelson and Hunter Scott. When the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by a Japanese sub, she went down in 14 minutes. 800 men died, but several hundred survived, but no one knew where they were, or that they were in trouble. They had to survive in shark-infested open water for days before rescue. The captain was blamed for the disaster, even though the survivors knew he was innocent. 50 years later, Hunter Scott did a history day project on the disaster and started a campaign to clear the captain's name and get the truth out there.

Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac. Ned goes to an Anglo school, where he's forbidden from speaking his native Navajo language. That changes when WWII breaks out and the army realizes that Navajo makes a perfect code. In fact, the Navajo code is the only one that the Japanese never cracked, making the native speakers a vital force in the Pacific war.

Year of Impossible Goodbyes by Sook Nyul Choi. Sookan's father has gone to Manchuria to join the resistance and her brothers are in labor camps. But the danger does not end when the war does-- Sookan and her family live in the northern part of Korea, and the Russian troops that come when the Japanese end have their own ideas about what will happen next.

What are your must-reads about the Asia during WWII?

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