Monday, May 21, 2007

A Letter to John Hersey Regarding Hiroshima (Sarah Moser)

(Note: In Jennifer Semple Siegel's Introduction to Literature class, students are offered the option of writing a letter to an author, dead or alive, to ask questions and comment on their works. Sarah Moser chose to write her letter to John Hersey, author of Hiroshima, a non-fiction/journalistic account of six people who survived the a-bomb in Hiroshima.)


Dear Mr. Hersey,

What made you decide to turn [The New Yorker] article into a book? How did you even come about writing the article in the first place? Was it your idea? How did putting a face on the [Hiroshima] victims make you feel? Were you proud to be able to do this or did you just feel sad and ashamed? (You had to talk to the very people that we knowingly dropped a bomb on and tried to kill.) How did it feel to have everyone in the country talking about the book and the accounts within it? Why was distribution discouraged in Japan? Were they against the book being made, or was it just to be sensitive to their feelings about the past? Was the American occupation government trying to protect their feelings and not make them relive the event? Did you form a bond with the six people in the book or was it merely a professional interviewing relationship? I don’t know that I could hear these stories and not become attached. How did you feel about the bomb being dropped? Did this change at all while you were writing the article? After meeting these six people and getting to know them, did you keep in touch? How did they feel about you personally? I just can’t imagine being friendly to someone from the country that tried to kill me.

I know I’m asking a lot of questions, but history intrigues me, and I want to understand what the feelings at the time were like for both parties.

How do you think the Cold War affected the release of your book? Do you think that it was positive or negative? Did you hope that your book might cause people to learn from their mistakes and be more wary of similar situations in the future? With the climate of the world during the Gulf War/Desert Storm, did your opinions on nuclear weapons change at all? Do you think that the world view, or at least the American view, on nuclear weapons has changed at all because of Hiroshima? Will there ever be a day that this devastation is unleashed again?

I think you did a wonderful job on this book. Following these individuals from beginning to end humanized what happened. It now serves to make younger generations understand the situation. I feel that this book was written just at the right time—long enough from the event that people could read it in a different perspective.

Thank you for doing such a good job!


Sarah Moser


LIT160 Introduction to Literature, Spring 2007

Published with permission.

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