Sachiko is the story of Sashiko Yasui, who was a five-year old living in Nagasaki in 1945 when the atomic bomb exploded only three-quarters of a mile from her house.That one moment became the defining event of her life, as the blast took her family from her–either immediately, in the blast, or over the coming years, from radiation sickness and cancer.
But Sachiko has lived to the present day, after a successful operation to remove her cancerous thyroid gland in the 1960s. At the 50th anniversary of the explosion of the atomic bomb in Nagasaki, she began speaking to local school groups about her experiences, and has since toured all over Japan and North America.
She is also an admirer of Helen Keller, Mohandas Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr., and has worked for a peace and anti-nuclear organization in Nagasaki for several years. It is her hope that by telling her story widely future generations will not have to go through what she did.
The author of this book is Caren Stelson, an American woman who saw Sachiko speak in Minneapolis in 2005 and thought there needed to be an English-language version of her story in print. I have labeled this as a memoir, however, because my impression is that this is more of a translation of Sachiko Yasui’s own words than the collection and interpretation of multiple sources that would be correctly labeled a biography.
Though aimed at middle-grade level readers, it is quite an intense book, with accurate and detailed descriptions of the atomic bomb blast in Nagasaki and its aftermath. It might be hard to read for more sensitive readers. For those interested in the topic, though, it would be tough to find a more immediate first-hand account than Sachiko.