by Leonard Bird (read June 2006)
Very enlightning. I've read several books about what happened in China under the rule of Mao ZeDung and was appalled at his treatment of his own countrymen. Paper Cranes is a foldover story about the personal effects of the atom bomb on U.S. soldiers forced to watch the detenation of several bombs in the Nevada desert and the Hibakusha, survivors of the bomb, in Hiroshima. This is a slim book with a powerful message that every American should read. Bird doesn't dodge punches about the horror administered to him and other soldiers or the devastating effects of the bomb on Hiroshima, but he also helps us understand why Truman may have felt the only answer to end the war was to use the atomic bomb. In addition to his adept writing, Bird also includes a few of his poems that vividly and powerfully add to the overall effect. I rate this book a resounding 5.
While visiting Hiroshima, Bird meets a former captain in the Imperial Army during WWII who lost his wife and children to the atom bomb that fell on Hiroshima. These men discussed their pain, but Tanaka also taught Bird about hope. On one visit Tanaka said, "Your Jesus said we will never know the time until it comes. In the meantime we light our lamps. In Buddism, too, light is necessary. It is important to shed a little light."
As Bird was flying home he had this thought: "Though sometimes inevitable and unconquerable, despair is a slough in which one wallows and ultimately suffocates. Hope is a beacon that, however weakly it may sometimes shine, leads us toward life. That frail beacon encourages us to act in good faith."