Susan Southard brought a piece of history to Tippecanoe High School in a presentation and discussion with students of her award-winning work, “Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War.”
The work focuses on the experiences of five Japanese teenagers whose lives were changed tremendously Dec. 9, 1945, when an atomic bomb was detonated over their city.
Southard discussed the Pacific War and those lives in a presentation on her research and her 2016 Dayton Literacy Peace Prize award winning book in a virtual program Sept. 16 with high school students who began reading her work over the summer.
“Today, I would like to talk about memory and forgetting – what we remember and what we choose to forget,” said Southard.
Her interest in Japan was traced to a year she spent in the country as a high school exchange student.
Among facts lost in many discussions of the atomic bomb and its use was that most of the tens of thousands who died were civilians, Southard said. Among facts emphasized are that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki helped bring the brutal war in the Pacific to an end, she said, adding, however, that for those affected, “the war never ended.”
Among the stories shared were of disfiguring injuries and life-long health issues caused to many who survived. “My goal was to really bring them to life, as I knew them,” Southard said of the five featured in the book.
It may be easier to forget the painful history of the bombings and the people they killed and scarred, Southard said. “It is our responsibility to know and to remember this history,” she added.
The Southard program was sponsored in part by the Tipp City Foundation. “Creating a more worldly generation is the goal of this partnership between the library, schools and Dayton Literary Peace Prize,” said Heather Bailey of the foundation. Drew Witchterman, adult services librarian, was instrumental in arranging the program.
In addition to the virtual program and brief question and answer with students and Southard, the day included a breakout session of history students discussing the work with the author and a virtual podcast interview with WYSO, Southard and some THS students.
Among students involved in the THS program was Carli Federle, a junior who was among students who interviewed Southard.
“I really enjoyed her interview because it gave us a more insider look into the book and her process of writing it,” Federle said. “Previous to the book, I really did not know much about Nagasaki other than it was the second place the United States dropped an atomic bomb, I knew more about Hiroshima’s experience because it was more publicized (which I learned during the presentation).”
Luke Hoover, also a junior, also read a portion of the book as part of a summer reading assignment.
He said he would highly recommend the book.
“Mrs. Southard’s writing style is very precise; she is extremely thorough not leaving a single detail out of her writings. Overall, the knowledge obtained has changed my viewpoint on how I approach history.,” Hoover said. “The story establishes a more personal connection between you, the reader, and the accounts of people who experienced such life changing experiences firsthand.”
This was the second year for the Dayton Literary Peace Price, Tipp City Library, Tipp City Exempted Village School, Tipp City Foundation and WYSO radio to collaborate on a program to bring a deeper level of learning to high school students.
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