In Brief: Choosing Life: My Father’s Journey in Film from Hollywood to Hiroshima

By Leslie A. Sussan. Self-published, 2020. 350 pages. $16.99/paperback; $4.99/eBook.

This is a book with a complicated origin. For the author, writing this book was a way to learn about her father after his passing, in a way she never could during his life. For her father, Herbert Sussan, who was never to know about the book, its origins lay in his wartime assignment to film people in Japan after the atomic bombings in 1945 by the United States. Later, to his unending chagrin, the government classified the footage; this created lifelong pain that her father didn’t talk about to Leslie.

Where do we begin in getting to know our parents during our own adulthood? Leslie Sussan’s constellation of experiences and resources gave her an opportunity to share in a way that would have brought relief to her father, who for 40 years mourned the fact that his work could not be used to show the world the wrongs of nuclear weapons.

Sussan is a very good writer, and this is an interesting read. While working on the book, she traveled to Japan and was able to meet some of the individuals that her father filmed in the aftermath of the atomic blasts. She was changed by the experience, as was her father by his. In telling his story, she also lifts up the stories of the people he filmed in a time now hard to imagine, in a place deeply wounded. May all of their stories become our wisdom.

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