Hiroshima Dreams, by Kelly Easton; Dutton
Children’s Books: New York, 2007; $16.99
“I have the gift of vision. It was given to me by my grandma, handed to me in a lotus seed, a pod that felt as big as my five-year-old hand.”
Lin’s unique gift of vision, which she describes in the opening sentences of Hiroshima Dreams, helps her over the years, rescuing others, making her aware of danger, and seeing what no one else can. When Lin’s Japanese grandmother, whom she calls Obaachan, comes to the United States to live with Lin and her family, secrets unravel about the family’s history, and Lin gains a new strength and insight.
Obaachan was fifteen years old when Hiroshima was bombed during World War II. She tells the story to Lin: young Obaachan and some boys were tossing her mother’s dress around and it was flying through the wind. The next moment, Obaachan heard a loud clap of thunder, and all that was left was her and a barren landscape. I can relate to a story like this about the horrors of war and how they can instantly shape an ancestor because, when my great-grandmother, Zoia, was one year old, she lived in Russia at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution. When her parents refused to give up their land to the Communists, their house was set on fire. Five out of Zoia’s six siblings died, as well as her father. She, her mother, and one remaining sister, Nina, had to flee to China. Lin and I have stories that changed our family histories in an instant, but unlike me, Lin didn’t learn her story until her grandmother arrived to share it with her.
When Obaachan arrives, she brings herself, and also stories that have not only changed history but have made her and Lin who they are. Obaachan shares these stories with Lin alone, and together they learn about their past and how to face the challenges that lie ahead. Hiroshima Dreams takes readers through Lin’s childhood, from ages five to sixteen.
Lin’s strange gift of vision develops further from listening to Obaachan’s stories and thinking more deeply about them by meditating. Obaachan teaches Lin how to meditate and they both do so when they have something on their minds. It acts as a way to help them think and consider other thoughts and ideas. This practice helps Lin understand the terrible times of the Hiroshima bombing, and also allows her to see things in a brand new way, making her more perceptive. For example, Lin visits her friend’s house where her friend’s brothers have built a mobile. Lin predicts that it is not sturdy enough and will soon collapse, but everyone else disagrees with her. Sure enough, she is correct!
Stories of all kinds bring mystery and memories, and I think that Hiroshima Dreams is a great one, because it encourages us to remember our own stories. Whether or not Lin’s story connects to your story, it still can help you think differently about yourself or your family.