Interview with Rodney Barker
Discussing Hiroshima Maidens
Added: A New Updated Afterword 2016
by Rodney Barker
Available for the first time as an E-BOOK exclusively on Amazon!
Including a New Afterword in honor of the 70th Anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima
Forty years ago, the detonation of the first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima ushered in the Nuclear Age. It was a moment full of horror, in which the eyes of the whole world were opened to the unimaginable possibility of nuclear holocaust – but it was also a moment that gave birth to a remarkable collective act of courage, compassion, and redemptive hope, symbolized by the young women who made it happen: the Hiroshima Maidens.
Here is an entirely new story about Hiroshima: the story of how twenty-five young Japanese women, crippled and disfigured by the effects of the atomic blast, banded together to fight against their despair. They were brought to the United States in 1955 for plastic surgery – lodged in American homes and operated on at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital – in a remarkable humanitarian effort that is itself an epic. There are elements here, too of the comedy of manners, in the story of these twenty-five girls acclimatizing themselves to new places and new ways; and in the chronicle of how they did so a portrait of a now-vanished America – the America of the mid-1950s – emerges.
But the heart of this remarkable book is the story of how these twenty-five young women, schoolgirls when the bomb destroyed their lives and their futures, remade those lives and re-created themselves. Rodney Barker was in a unique position to observe how they did so. The son of one of the host families, he was nine years old when two Maidens came to live in his house; he was like a little brother to them, and when, nearly thirty years later, he resolved to make their story better known to the world, he was able to inspire the kind of trust and candor in his sources that could only come from a sense of shared experience and intimacy. Focusing on three of the Maidens, but drawing on and relating the experiences of all of them, he follows them from the terrifying moments of the bomb blast, through their years of pain and shame in their own country, to their not always idyllic stay in America; and he traces their lives since – some marked by tragedy, some by heroism, some by an affecting and hard-won ordinariness.
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A young Rodney Barker (in kimono)
with two Hiroshima Maidens, 1955
Barker as Festival Honoree in Japan, 1983