My Two Grandfathers and the World War II

Today is August 12th, three more days until the 15th. The thought sometimes occurs to me that I would probably not exist in this world if the war did not end on that day in Japan.

Being married to an American, I always have mixed feelings to talk about the war. His side of the story and my side of the story seem to end up hurting each other. We reluctantly conclude that it was the rough time beyond our imaginations. We have watched Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers, but it does not mean that we have experienced the war. The truth is that we have no idea what they have been through. When I think that way, my mind automatically shifts to my two grandfathers in Japan who survived the war when they were teenagers.

My paternal grandfather was 14 years old at that time, volunteered to serve as a Kamikaze pilot, waiting for his order to be sent abroad anytime to accomplish his ultimate mission. My maternal grandfather was 18 and supposed to be drafted two weeks later. Both of them had unquestionable faith in our country and were more than prepared to dedicate and sacrifice their own lives for Japan. Then our emperor announced the end of the war, thus their lives were extended by decades.

I remember I was sitting in the passenger seat and randomly brought the topic up during the long drive from New York to Boston exactly 8 years ago just to kill the boredom and because it was the time the war ended years ago. Then, the driver, who happened to be an American writer and a professor, replied, “It’s your perfect topic of your book to write about,” as if he got some kind of epiphany, but I shamelessly argued, “I don’t want any of my works to be categorized as the minor genre of Asian literature.” Then he added that my background could be the variable strength in my writings that no ordinary Americans could have.

I am still skeptical of his comment although the idea stayed in my head ever since then. My ignorance and lack of the actual experience of the war and the fear to face the reactions of the patriotic Americans kept preventing myself from writing about them. However, I started to think recently that it might actually be interesting to write about them not to sell the Asian-ness in me as a writer but to honor the lives of my grandfathers.

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