“A brilliant and moving book“
The title of Leslie Sussan’s book is “Choose Life: My Father’s Journey in Film from Hollywood to Hiroshima” but it’s also the story of her intense emotional journey from a rebellious teen who resented her father to an adult who found deep emotional meaning in her father’s work documenting the horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It’s also a story about how the U.S. Military buried the brutal color films of the aftermath of the atomic bombs for thirty years.
Herbert Sussan was an Air Force officer in World War II and, in 1945, was assigned to take film crews and shoot color film of the cities that had been demolished by the two atomic bombs that had been dropped only months before. A veteran of Hollywood, Sussan had the material shot in color and soon began to concentrate on the effect that the nuclear fireballs had on the survivors—a chronicle of the suffering, horror, and a deep determination to teach future generations the reality of our nuclear age. When the thousands of feet of film landed in the Pentagon, they classified it all Top Secret and Sussan wasn’t even able to view his own work, much less present this precious reality to the American people.
The book, which is a revealing emotional chronicle of the decades it took for Leslie Sussan to peel back the pain and impotent rage that had made her father so withdrawn and angry, eventually to visit and live in Japan, and attempt to pass along his testimony just as the survivors, known as kataribe, bear witness by speaking to young and old every day. [The author explains:]
I feel that this book is in part a fulfillment of a duty as a daughter to try to make of his death a blessing and a message for peace for us all. This is my kataribe. This is my kaddish for my father. Therefore, choose life . . .
— Terry Irving, Emmy Award-winning journalist and best-selling author