U.S. cartoonist champions 'Hadashi no Gen'

August 24, 2013


A popular U.S. cartoonist wants everyone to read “Hadashi no Gen” (Barefoot Gen), a Japanese comic book that depicts the miseries of war centered around the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, a book she says she read as a child.

“I understand that some scenes can be upsetting. But I am very glad I had the opportunity to read ‘Barefoot Gen’ when I was a child. I was only 10 years old at the time,” Raina Telgemeier, 36, said in an e-mail interview with The Asahi Shimbun on Aug. 21.

Telgemeier, who lives in New York, is the author of the hit webcomic “Smile.” Her comments come as the Matsue City Board of Education in Shimane Prefecture has decided to limit access by elementary and junior high school students to the 10-volume “Hadashi no Gen” series in school libraries, starting in December.

The board of education is concerned the depictions of violence are too extreme for young students.

Telgemeier disagrees: “I was lucky to have adults in my life who were willing to discuss the violent subject matter with me, and help me put the story in historical context, and clarify things I might not yet understand.”

She also said, “After I finished volume 1 of ‘Barefoot Gen,’ I was deeply upset. (But) as a child, I believed that if people simply saw what war was all about, they would take care that it wouldn’t happen anymore.”

In her autobiographical work, titled, “Beginnings,” Telgemeier depicted scenes of a girl, the protagonist, reading the English version of “Hadashi no Gen” she received from her father and then asking him, while crying, “Why did America bomb Japan in the first place?”

The girl also told her father, “I’m gonna make everyone in the world read that book, especially the (U.S.) president.”

“Beginnings” is available on Telgemeier’s website at (http://goraina.com).

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Raina Telgemeier (Provided by Raina Telgemeier)

Raina Telgemeier (Provided by Raina Telgemeier)

  • Raina Telgemeier (Provided by Raina Telgemeier)
  • The Japanese version of Telgemeier's cartoon 'Beginnings' (Provided by Raina Telgemeier)
  • The cover of the first volume of "Hadashi no Gen" (Barefoot Gen) (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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