Monthly Archives: March 2011

Louise Steinman’s Thoughts and Connection to Japan

April 15, 1995 in Suibara, Japan

Sixteen years ago, a series of events and discoveries relating to her father’s past led Louise Steinman, author of The Souvenier: A Daughter Discovers Her Father’s War, to the doorsteps of Suibara, Japan. Steinman traveled to Suibara in 1995 to return a Japanese flag she had found among her father’s belongings inscribed to a young man named Yoshio Shimizu, fifty years after his death on a battlefield in Luzon.

In Steinman’s thoughtful and moving blog post entitled Thoughts Towards Japan, she recalls the day in April when she returned the flag to the Shimizu family and “in the middle of that beautiful ceremony in Suibara, the room began to clatter and shake. . . . An earthquake. When it was over, we cautiously smiled at one another. There. We’d been through something together.” No one expected that sixteen years later, the devastation of an enormous earthquake and tsunami would sweep Japan as it has this past month.

Steinman’s book, The Souvenir, recounts her discovery of the story behind her father’s life during his service in the Pacific War after her parents’ death, and her travels to Japan to determine the identity of Yoshio Shimizu and the origins of the flag. Read Steinman’s blog: crookedmirror.wordpress.com to discover her unlikely connection to Japan and how that has effected her thoughts on the country’s current devastation.

Steinman was a featured speaker at the 2009 First Year Experience Random House Luncheon. Click here to watch Part 1 and Part 2 of her speech on the inspiration and motivation behind her book. The Souvenir was selected as the 2006 Silicon Valley Readings for over 15 cities and also chosen by Penn State for its 2003 Freshman Year Reading Program.

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Montana State U. Students Use The Last Town on Earth to Reach Out to Women in Prison

Author Thomas Mullen’s book, The Last Town on Earth, was adopted last year as common reading for all incoming freshmen at Montana State University – Billings. Mullen had hoped that his book, which deals with important topics such as morality, making difficult choices, overcoming fear of the unknown, and hope for a better future, would relate fittingly to the lives of undergraduate students who face similar challenges – what he hadn’t imagined was that his story would find even more common-ground with the women incarcerated at Passages, a correctional institution just one mile from the MSUB campus.

Two instructors from MSUB offered a course in 2010 that included a Service Learning Project – students of the course would examine The Last Town on Earth in a joint book club with Passages residents. The main theme of “community” within both the novel as well as the book club begged the question from each woman, “what is community?”.

The learning and friendship that developed between the students and the residents of Passages, all stemming from discussion of Mullen’s The Last Town on Earth, was largely captured on camera by a small film crew that was making a documentary for an MSUB communications class – and it’s one that’s worth checking out: http://www.spotlightads.com/Demos/msub_passages.html

The project also included a visit to Passages by Mullen himself, where he met and spoke with the women of the correctional institution back in December of last year. To hear Mullen’s own account of his experience discussing The Last Town on Earth with Passages residents, check out his blog post on “My First Prison Book Club.”

So much chance and inspiration sprung out of what first started as a First Year Experience reading choice in snowy Billings, Montana, and grew into an entirely different and unforeseen community experience in a women’s prison. Just goes to show that the message of one book can cross borders in the most unexpected and terrific ways.

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