"CHILDREN OF THE ATOMIC BOMB: An American Physician's Memoir of Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and the Marshall Islands" by James N. with Louis B. Fleming Yamazaki

"CHILDREN OF THE ATOMIC BOMB: An American Physician's Memoir of Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and the Marshall Islands"

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A clunky memoir by a Japanese-American doctor recounting his work with survivors of the atomic bomb. Yamazaki (Pediatrics/UCLA) was one of the pioneers in the study of the bomb's medical and genetic effects. When he went to Nagasaki in 1949 as the first physician in charge of the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission, frighteningly little was known about radiation. What were its effects on fetuses in the womb and on leukemia and other cancer rates? What other unsuspected pathological effects did it possess? Nagasaki and Hiroshima were an unfortunate but unprecedented opportunity for a large-scale scientific study. This book, too, with its clinical, fact-ridden tone feels more like a scientific treatise than a memoir. It is actually something of an accomplishment that Yamazaki and former Los Angeles Times correspondent Fleming should have taken material so interesting and moving and made it so bland. Even the survivors' stories recounted here have an almost perfunctory quality to them. Yamazaki also manages to slight the compelling details of his own life. His innumerable encounters with racism--including with the British Occupation forces in post-war Japan--are treated with a strange kind of detachment. A visit to his family in an internment camp in Arkansas merits no more than a couple of pages; so do his experiences as a German POW. The title is also a disingenuous one. While Yamazaki has spent much of his life studying radiation, especially its effects on children, he spent only a few weeks in Hiroshima and, in fact, never even visited the Marshall Islands (site of an infamous thermonuclear test). Perhaps we live in an age overly obsessed with the smallest details of the self, but just too much of this account exists at the surface level of facts, sight substituting for insight.

Pub Date: Aug. 6th, 1995
Page count: 200pp
Publisher: Duke Univ.