As we reported Sunday, the school board of Matsue, Japan, has restricted students’ access to the manga Barefoot Gen, which is based on author Keiji Nakazawa’s own experiences during and after the bombing of Hiroshima. The book will remain in elementary and junior high school libraries, but only teachers can check it out — not students.
The official reason was the level of violence in the books, although the initial complaint about the book was that it depicted atrocities that the person who filed the complaint alleged had not happened.
This reminded Drama creator Raina Telgemeier of her own experience of being disturbed by the book as a child. As she said on her blog, “If you’ve ever seen me talk, you might know that Barefoot Gen is one of my seminal influences as a cartoonist, and I hold its creator Keiji Nakazawa in the highest regard.” And many years ago, she drew a short comic, Beginnings, about the effect that Barefoot Gen had on her nine-year-old self.
There’s a bit of the comic at right, but what’s cool is what happened after the book was banned: A Japanese father, who was unhappy about the banning, contacted Telgemeier and asked if he could translate Beginnings into Japanese, so his daughter could read it and share it with her friends. Telgemeier assented, and the translated version is now up on her website as well. There’s something wonderfully circular about that.