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Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Readers' Favorite
Choosing Life: My Father’s Journey in Film from Hollywood to Hiroshima by Leslie A. Sussan is a memoir and biography about the author's father, Herbert Sussan, who was tasked in 1946 by the US military to film the horrible after-effects of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. He would use his expertise as a Hollywood cinematographer to bring the story of death to life. But when he finished filming the devastating aftermath of the atomic bomb, the footage was declared top secret and kept hidden for years, with the official stance being that the public wouldn't be interested in seeing it. The truth was, it was too terrible for anyone to see. The project and the people left to languish in the wake of the bombings haunted the filmmaker for the rest of his life. The shadow of that haunting reached his daughter, Leslie, who took up where her father left off, returning to the areas of destruction with her own daughter, Kendra (then 4 years old), to meet with and interview some of the survivors her father had met 40 years earlier. For those involved, the war never ended.
This biography/memoir, part history/part photo essay will leave a lasting impression on you. The author doesn't try to embellish with excessive descriptions--those graphic incidents speak for themselves. Leslie, a lawyer, also showcases a well-rounded account of her father's early life, his personality, and their relationship, so that this book isn't only about Hiroshima/Nagasaki--it's a story about humanity and how it is fragile yet strong it is at the same time. Whether you approve or disapprove of nuclear war/weapons, this account may cause you to ponder the ramifications; some that last a lifetime and beyond for generations to come. Some readers may come away thinking that if the general public had been allowed to view the footage Sussan captured years ago, nations might be less war-hungry today, and there would be more of an outcry against nuclear arms. At the time of the bombings, most people supported it, though since then, that support has decreased. Choosing Life: My Father’s Journey in Film from Hollywood to Hiroshima by Leslie A. Sussan is a book of substance. Read at your own risk.