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Barefoot Gen. [Volume one], A cartoon story of Hiroshima
Nakazawa, Keiji.
Adult Fiction NAKAZAW

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From Publishers' Weekly:

The reissue of this classic manga's first volume has impeccable timing. It recounts the bombing of Hiroshima from the perspective of a young boy, Gen, and his family. But the book's themes (the physical and psychological damage ordinary people suffer from war's realities) ring chillingly true today. Gen and his family have long been struggling without much food, money or medicine, but despite hardships, they try to maintain a semblance of normal life. The adults are exhausted and near despair; the children take air raids and starvation more or less in stride. Nakazawa, a Hiroshima survivor, effectively portrays the strain of living in this environment and shows how efforts to stay upbeat in dire circumstances sometimes manifest as manic, irrational humor. The story offers some optimism: characters perform acts of self-sacrifice for the sake of neighbors and loved ones (e.g., when Gen's pregnant mother becomes ill from malnutrition, he and his brother pose as orphans and perform in the streets, throwing the money over the walls of their home so they won't get caught). Underneath this can-do attitude are the parents' deep guilt and sense of helplessness. When the children clamor ecstatically over a scrap of food, the parents dissolve in shame and grief. The art is sharply drawn and expressive, and the narrative has such a natural rhythm, it's easy to get pulled into the family's life, making the cataclysm readers know awaits them all the more real, intimate and difficult to take. Despite its harrowing nature, this work is invaluable for the lessons it offers in history, humanity and compassion. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

This groundbreaking manga was first published in Japan in the early 1970s and published in the United States first by New Society and then Penguin. Nakazawa survived the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and this is a semiautobiographical account of that terrible time. Young Gen's family, branded as traitors to the emperor because of his father's antiwar statements, suffer humiliation and brutality on top of the deprivation and starvation that they, and many others like them, already experience because of the war effort. But Gen is a high-spirited and determined young boy, and he helps his family eke out a precarious living. By the time the bomb drops, late in this first volume, Nakazawa has created a truly moving and compelling portrait of the suffering not only of Gen's family but of all of the Japanese people at the hands of their militaristic government during the war. The tragedy the bomb brings is almost too terrible to contemplate, but even then, Nakazawa holds out hope for a better time. Future volumes of this series from Last Gasp will be newly translated and will include previously untranslated material. Because of explicit images of violence, suicide, and the melting flesh of the bomb victims, this is not for children or for the squeamish of any age, but it is highly recommended for older readers and for all libraries. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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