William Gross (or Grose) was a 19th-century African-American pioneer and hotelier in Seattle that caught the attention of author Amy Sommers. She bases her novel Rumors from Shanghai on a fictional grandson, Tolt Gross, a young lawyer who moves to Shanghai and soon after learns of Japan’s plans to bomb Pearl Harbor.
For nearly seventy years, Kazuo Odachi, a respected police officer, insurance investigator, and Kendo-sensei in Japan, kept secret that during the last months of World War II he was a young kamikaze pilot who flew eight suicide missions but miraculously survived. Odachi’s memoir was published in Japanese in 2016, and has now been translated into English. It is a remarkable story of youth, comradeship, courage, honor, despair, recovery, introspection, and closure.
A hero in Japan, Beate Sirota is hardly a household name in her home country of the United States. Jeff Gottesfeld’s No Steps Behind: Beate Sirota Gordon’s Battle for Women’s Rights in Japan is a new picture book illustrated by Sheilla Witanto that tells Beate’s story and how she brought change to Japan after World War II.
Endō Shūsaku has the rare distinction of having one of his novels, Silence, adapted for the silver screen by none other than Martin Scorsese. Those who aren’t familiar with his opus may be surprised to find that Endō wrote from the perspective of a Roman Catholic. Sachiko, originally published in 1982 and only just now appearing in English translation, fits squarely into this tradition.
Some years back, graphic novelist Keum Suk Gendry-Kim interviewed an elderly Korean woman named Lee Ok-sun. Gendry-Kim hoped to learn about social class and gender disparity during World War II and write a book about this subject. But after several interviews, Gendry-Kim realized Lee’s personal story warranted a book of its own. The result is Grass, a graphic novel now out in an English translation by Janet Hong.
This year’s 75th anniversary of the end of WW2 and, in particular, the end of the War in the Pacific, has coincided with a number of books, some broad, some focusing on individuals. But few perhaps look at what is—at first glance—as unlikely a corner as Kelly A Hammond’s China’s Muslims & Japan’s Empire.
When Australian Hugh Rand sailed to New Guinea in 1943 to serve as a coast watcher for the Allied Forces, he knew he would be killed. Rand’s job was to alert the Allies of Japanese activity on the island. He befriended local villagers, but never knew whom he could trust. And as predicted, he was beheaded by the Japanese not long after he arrived. In Death of Coast Watcher by Anthony English, Hugh Rand went on to terrorize generations after him.