Leslie Sussan is the Author of Choosing Life: My Father's Journey in Film from Hollywood to Hiroshima
Today's interview is with Leslie Sussan, who spent a long career in law as an attorney and a judge, and whose book traces the journey of her father, Herb, who was assigned a once in a lifetime military assignment - to document the post-atomic aftermath of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Her book is a multi-generational auto/biographical account of her father's experience, her own experience with her young daughter tracing his footsteps, and their connection to survivors of the bombs, and those attempting to ensure their horrific experiences are not forgotten.
CHOOSING LIFE: MY FATHER'S JOURNEY IN FILM FROM HOLLYWOOD TO HIROSHIMA
In 1946, with the war over and Japan occupied, 2nd Lt. Herbert Sussan received a plum assignment. He would get to use his training as a cinematographer and join a Strategic Bombing Survey crew to record the results of the atomic bombings in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. From his first arrival in Nagasaki, he knew that something completely novel and appalling had happened and that he had to preserve a record of the results, especially the ongoing suffering of those affected by the bomb (known as hibakusha) even months later.
When the U.S. government decided that the gruesome footage would not be "of interest" to the American public and therefore classified it top secret, he spent decades arguing for its release. His last wish was that his ashes be scattered at ground zero in Hiroshima.
The author, his daughter, followed his footsteps in 1987, met survivors he had filmed more than 40 years before. And found that she met there a father she never really knew in life.
This book recounts Herbert Sussan's experiences (drawn directly from an oral history he left behind), his daughter's quest to understand what he saw in Japan, and the stories of some of the survivors with whose lives both father and daughter intersected. This nuclear legacy captures the ripples of the atomic bombing down through decades and generations.
The braided tale brings human scale and understanding to the horrors of nuclear war and the ongoing need for healing and peacemaking.
Listen to her podcast interview here!
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Leslie A. Sussan was born and raised in Manhattan, and now lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with her daughter Kendra and their cat, Neko-chan. She was born and raised in New York City and graduated from Bryn Mawr College and Georgetown Law School. Over a long career as an attorney, she litigated for the U.S. Department of Justice, represented migrant farmworkers and abused children, and has now served for fourteen years as an administrative appellate judge for the federal government.
She attends Quaker Meeting. She loves to learn about different cultures through books, food, and travel, but shecannot carry a tune or follow a recipe. She and her daughter lived in Hiroshima for a year in 1987-88 and have visited Japan many times since.