Studying Nuclear Weapons Through An Artist’s Lens

Throughout my time at the Hiroshima-ICAN Academy, I couldn’t help but connect certain lectures and lessons with the many texts, films, and performances I studied as I was writing my graduate thesis at Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Below you will find a compiled list of some resources from my bibliography that I hope encourage your further exploration into the topic of the atomic bomb, nuclear weapons and waste, Japanese/Korean studies, and more. Keep in mind that this is an incomplete list, as there are many more resources I could have included. But I hope as you explore the links, you discover a new fact, a new perspective, or a new direction for your peace work. Please do write in the comments if something in this list resonates with you. And of course, if you come across a title that is not on this list, let me know!

 

Texts: 

Black Rain by Masuji Ibuse

Children of Hiroshima, edited by Dr. Arata Osada

“Hiroshima, City of Doom” by Yōko Ōta

Poems of the Atomic Bomb by Sankichi Tōge

Hiroshima by John Hersey

Trinity by Louisa Hall

A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

The Emissary by Yoko Tawada

Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

Full Body Burden by Kristen Iversen

Dictée by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr

Contemporary Japanese Literature: An Anthology of Fiction, Film, and Other Writing Since 1945, edited by Howard Hibbett

Hiroshima: A Tragedy Never to be Repeated by Masamoto Nasu

Hiroshima in the Morning by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto

Hiroshima Notes by Kenzaburō Ōe

 

Films: 

In This Corner of the World

“Anointed” (a poem by Marshallese poet, Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner)

Day of the Western Sunrise

Hiroshima Mon Amour

“Navel and A-Bomb” (a short avant-garde film by Eikoh Hosoe)

“General Paul Tibbets – Reflections on Hiroshima” (an interview with the pilot of the Enola Gay)

 

Performance Art:

A Body in Fukushima by Eiko Otake (here are two clips from the full film: one and two)

Eiko Dances with the Hiroshima Panels

 

Let’s Talk about Nuclear Weapons: A Beginner’s Guide to the Nuclear Vocabulary

When it comes to talking about nuclear issues, experts tend to throw around many acronyms and hyper-specific terms that, from an outside point of view, can appear to be quite exclusive. In order to include a broader audience into the conversation, I’ve put together a beginner’s guide to some of the key words we should all know when discussing nuclear weapons:

Deterrence: The theory that nuclear weapons are intended to deter other states from attacking with their nuclear weapons, so as not to induce mutual destruction.

Disarmament: Most often refers to the total elimination of not just nuclear weapons, but of all weapons of mass destruction.

Hibakusha: A Japanese term to describe the survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; historically and globally, ‘hibakusha’ means “irradiated people” (this includes people affected by nuclear test sites, nuclear waste disasters, etc, such as in Kazakhstan, Chernobyl, The Marshall Islands, Southwest United States, etc.)

IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency): An international organization that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons.

ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons): A coalition of non-governmental organizations in 100 countries promoting adherence to and implementation of the United Nations’ nuclear weapon ban treaty.

INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) Treaty: This treaty between the US and Soviet Union was adopted in 1987 in order to eliminate all short and intermediate-range missiles from their nuclear stockpiles. On August 2, 2019, the treaty expired as the US and Russia both refused to resume their compliance to the treaty, causing many around the world to wonder if we’ve just entered the beginning of a second Cold War.

NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty): Signed on July 1, 1968 and still in force today, this landmark treaty’s objective is to help curb the spread of nuclear weapons and to prevent countries from increasing their nuclear arsenals. While the treaty has effectively encouraged a great reduction in nuclear weapons worldwide, the treaty itself does not directly advocate for total disarmament.

PTBT (Partial Test Ban Treaty): Signed in 1963, this treaty bans all test detonations of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, underwater, and in outer space. The CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty), adopted in 1996, endeavors to include underground explosions among other nuclear detonations in the total ban. As of this date, the CTBT has yet to enter into force.

Sustainable Development Goals: collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 to be reached by 2030. Included in the list are goals such as no poverty, gender equality, zero hunger, clean water and energy, climate action, and more.

TPNW (Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons): Passed on July 7, 2017, this treaty is the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons, with the goal of leading toward their total elimination. In order to enter into force, 50 countries must ratify their signatures. As of today, there are 70 signatories and 25 ratifications. 

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For a more comprehensive list of terms and information, check out Learn WMD and the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

 

ICAN, You Can, We Can Abolish Nuclear Weapons

Two weeks ago, I returned from a truly unparalleled experience in Hiroshima, Japan. It was my second trip to Japan this year (I had embarked on a solo adventure to Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Tokyo in January), but this particular time was a trip unlike any I have ever had before and probably ever will.

To my great surprise, I was selected as one of 15 international participants for the inaugural Hiroshima-ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) Academy on Nuclear Weapons and Global Security, a 10-day intensive for young professionals ages 25 and under. The Academy ran from July 30 through August 8 and included eight participants from nuclear-weapons states (e.g. USA, Russia, China, France, and England) and seven from non-nuclear-weapons states (e.g. Germany, Japan, South Korea, Canada, The Netherlands, Belgium, Australia). Throughout our 10 days in Hiroshima City, we heard testimonies by atom bomb survivors; learned about global trends on nuclear weapons and global security through exchanges with UN officials, diplomats, and NGO members (including members of ICAN and Peace Boat); and brainstormed concrete plans on how to engage young people in the realization toward a more peaceful world. Most humbling of all, we had the opportunity to participate in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony on August 6th and honor the victims of the 1945 atomic bombing.

How did this all come about? It all started back in May when the Academy’s application came across my Twitter feed. I had been following the ICAN organization for several months as I worked on my thesis, so when ICAN shared this opportunity online, I knew that I had to apply—not only to research for my novel, but to become the global citizen I want to be. And there’s really no greater opportunity than to engage in nuclear disarmament and peace education in one of the two cities to ever experience nuclear warfare. For the application, I wrote a 700-word essay which assessed the current situation on nuclear disarmament, the priority agenda for action, as well as my personal involvement and interest in nuclear issues. I’m quite proud of that essay, and still, I never expected to be selected.

The majority of the other participants—my brilliant new friends—were hardcore students in the nuclear policy field. In contrast, I came to the Academy as “the artist” whose goal was to learn as much as she could about the technical elements of nuclear policy and international law, and translate that information into meaningful articles and texts for the masses. As someone who is usually a vocal presence in the classroom, it was at first difficult for me to take a step back and realize that I was not an expert on this topic and THAT’S OKAY! I quickly learned that one of the greatest tasks I could do at the academy was to listen, record, and absorb.

Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned at the Hiroshima-ICAN Academy was that when it comes to the abolition of nuclear weapons, we need everyone to put the specific skills that they have to good use. I remembered what Sasamori-san told the audience at the University of Vermont Hibakusha Stories event in 2018. She said that we must do whatever we could to ensure that no one suffers as the people did—as she did—on August 6, 1945 and August 9, 1945. Education is the first step: We must tell the stories of how nuclear weapons have affected people since 1945, provide information on the dangerous health effects of nuclear weapons, and explain why we should be extremely concerned that the Doomsday Clock is once again at two minutes before midnight. The humanitarian aspect of nuclear weapons is a key part of bringing awareness to the masses. In many ways, this humanitarian education is synonymous with storytelling.

I’ve already begun that work with my thesis, which attempts to reignite empathy and remembrance for the nuclear tragedies of the past. My hope is that, through my fiction, the curious will be inspired to read the personal accounts of the hibakusha and explore how you too can join in the movement for a peaceful world.

Be on the lookout for more blog posts coming soon, including specific highlights of the Hiroshima-ICAN Academy, a guide to the vocabulary of nuclear weapons, and supplemental books and films for continued education on the nuclear issue!

 

 

Book Scavenger Hunt #6: New Directions

Here’s a biblio challenge for your Summer Solstice! Today, we’re celebrating the scrumptious covers published by New Directions. Can you recognize all 12 covers hiding in plain sight? Leave your guesses in the comments!

Craving more beautiful books? Check out my previous Book Scavenger Hunts featuring covers from Riverhead Books, Graywolf PressArchipelago Books, Tin House Books, and Soft Skull Press!

Summer is for Reading

In some ways, summer is the time when I get my best education because I have my eyes glued inside books at all times (or at least, in between the FIFA Women’s World Cup games). I am able to read freely and widely; I can linger over phrases; I can sing the words out loud; I can take the time to really study how a piece is put together; I can laugh and cry and feel the emotions rising from the page like aromatic toast; I can be fully entertained as I immerse my mind in the mind of another. Ahh, that sacred intimacy of reading.

This summer, I’ve been working my way through a stack of slim novels, novellas, and collections of poems and stories. I find that I’m more drawn to these smaller tomes, perhaps because I know my time with them is limited to begin with. So I find ways to test that limit by drawing out the experience with them as much as I can. Like stretching out a piece of gum farther and farther until it snaps and breaks in two.

Below, you’ll find a quote from each of the books I’ve read in the past month as well as a link in case you want to own a copy for your own bookshelf! And don’t forget to tell me in the comments what you’ve been reading lately and what is in your queue. Happy reading!

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Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett – “There were times I’d thought I knew people. Brynn, who I’d loved more than anything. The other half of me. My father, a man I’d adored, someone I’d considered to be the strongest person on the planet. We spent so much time looking for pieces of ourselves in other people that we never realized they were busy searching for the same things in us.” (You can read my interview with Kristen Arnett here at Michigan Quarterly Review!) 

 

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros – “In English my name means hope. In Spanish it means too many letters. It means sadness, it means waiting. It is like the number nine. A muddy color. It is the Mexican records my father plays on Sunday mornings when he is shaving, songs like sobbing.”

 

The Collected Poems of Chika Sagawa (translated by Sawako Nakayasu) – “Dreams are severed fruit / Auburn pears have fallen in the field / Parsley blooms on the plate / Sometimes the leghorn appears to have six toes / I crack an egg and the moon comes out”

 

Wheeling Motel: Poems by Franz Wright – “River as verb, that’s the assignment, until the next time I fail / you. / And did you know the snail sometimes sleeps for a year? / And you will survive, that’s an order … ” (Check out these incredible recordings of Franz Wright reading poems from Wheeling Motel. My favorite one is “Intake Interview.”)

 

The Lonesome Bodybuilder: Stories by Yukiko Motoya – “If you genuinely desire not to be alone, I recommend that you take a bicycle saddle as your next partner. You think that’s out of the question? But a saddle is shaped surprisingly like a human face, and once you pull it off the bicycle, you can take each other out anywhere. When you go on vacation, the money you save on the second fare means you can make many more happy memories than if you were with another human. Best of all, a saddle can’t speak.”

 

Something Bright, Then Holes by Maggie Nelson – “It is what / it is. But / what is it? / What it is— / Some soft / tautology / whose terms/ are touch / Time to give, time / to give it up.”

 

Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse by Anne Carson – “Are there many little boys who think they are a Monster? But in my case I am right said Geryon to the Dog they were sitting on the bluffs The dog regarded him Joyfully” (I devoured this book in two days and immediately put it on my favorite of all-time list. Thank you to this Village Voice interview with artist Elle Pérez for introducing me to Anne Carson’s masterpiece.)

 

Gasoline by Gregory Corso – “Four windmills, acquaintanceships, / were spied one morning eating tulips. / Noon / and the entire city flips / screaming: Apocalypse! Apocalypse!”

 

I Am A Season That Does Not Exist in the World by Kim Kyung Ju – “The map of wind that the birds abandoned searched for the labyrinth of birds, but at night it broke quietly into pieces. If, toward a single person, the endodermis of time could forge a connection in the direction of one mind, could my humanity become a cry? Don’t say the inside of every skin has been answered.”

 

An Untouched House by Willem Frederik Hermans – “Back in the house, entering my bedroom, I had to slide the cat out of the way with the door. He had been lying on the floor behind it and I just managed to grab him by the scruff of the neck as he tried to slip past me to get to the locked room. Together we lay down on the bed while I held him tightly in my arms. “Nothing’s allowed to change,” I whispered in his ear, “we’re staying here. Everything’s staying like it is. One day the war will be over. The Germans will withdraw. And we’ll stay here forever.””

 

A page from Frances Cannon’s “Walter Benjamin Reimagined”

Walter Benjamin Reimagined by Frances Cannon – “The street that runs through houses is the track of a ghost through the walls. The dread of doors that won’t close is something everyone knows from dreams. The path we travel through the arcades is fundamentally just a ghost walk, on which doors give way and walls yield.”

 

 

And next up in the summer reading queue:

The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang

Lot: Stories by Bryan Washington

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong – Very excited about this one, especially after reading this interview at The Paris Review.

Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg – Jordy’s book has been on my reading radar ever since we published his story, “A Monster Stands Guard at the Door of the House of Love,” in Hunger Mountain‘s Issue 22: Everyday Chimeras. Plus I’m a sucker for footnotes!

Belladonna by Daša Drndić – I recently read in Merve Emre’s article at The New York Review of Books that the late Croatian novelist’s Belladonna was perhaps the most ambitious novel of the twenty-first century so far…and now I’m obsessed with tracking it down and finding out what said ambition looks like!

Book Scavenger Hunt #5: Soft Skull Press

Here’s an all new Book Cover Scavenger Hunt for my book-loving friends!

Today’s tessellated collage features 8 technicolor covers from Soft Skull Press. Can you name them all? Leave your guesses in the comments below!

If you need to get in better scavenger hunt shape, check out my previous Book Scavenger Hunts featuring covers from Riverhead Books, Graywolf PressArchipelago Books, and Tin House Books!

P.S. What independent publisher should be featured in the next Book Scavenger Hunt?

Book Scavenger Hunt #3: Archipelago Books

I’ve recently fallen in love with the Brooklyn-based nonprofit indie press, Archipelago Books. I love their satisfyingly minimalist book designs. I especially love their mission to publish beautiful translations of classic and contemporary world literature. This includes literature written originally in Arabic, Spanish, Norwegian, Dutch, Tamil, Russian, Slovenian, Greek, and more. According to the press’s website, “less than three percent of new literature published in the United States originates outside the Anglosphere.” This is why Archipelago’s work is so important—to find illuminating international writers that American readers might not otherwise encounter.

So far, I’ve only read Love by Hanne Ørstavik (winner of the PEN Translation Prize and a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award for Translated Literature), which was hauntingly outstanding. Now, I can’t wait to go back and read the entire Archipelago catalogue.

Can you name all 14 Archipelago Books titles featured in these slivers?

Want more challenges? Check out my Book Scavenger Hunt #1 (Riverhead Books) and #2 (Graywolf Press)!