The Souvenir: A Daughter Discovers Her Father's War

The Souvenir: A Daughter Discovers Her Father's War

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by Louise Steinman

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Louise Steinman’s American childhood in the fifties was bound by one unequivocal condition: “Never mention the war to your father.” That silence sustained itself until the fateful day Steinman opened an old ammunition box left behind after her parents’ death. In it she discovered nearly 500 letters her father had written to her mother

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Louise Steinman’s American childhood in the fifties was bound by one unequivocal condition: “Never mention the war to your father.” That silence sustained itself until the fateful day Steinman opened an old ammunition box left behind after her parents’ death. In it she discovered nearly 500 letters her father had written to her mother during his service in the Pacific War and a Japanese flag mysteriously inscribed to Yoshio Shimizu. Setting out to determine the identity of Yoshio Shimizu and the origins of the silken flag, Steinman discovered the unexpected: a hidden side of her father, the green soldier who achingly left his pregnant wife to fight for his life in a brutal 165-day campaign that changed him forever. Her journey to return the “souvenir” to its owner not only takes Steinman on a passage to Japan and the Philippines, but also returns her to the age of her father’s innocence, where she learned of the tender and expressive man she’d never known. Steinman writes with the same poignant immediacy her father did in his letters. Together their stories in The Souvenir create an evocative testament to the ways in which war changes one generation and shapes another.

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Editorial Reviews

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“Exceptional . . . a graceful, understated memoir . . . that draws its strength from the complexities it explores.”—The New York Times Book Review“Ms. Steinman skillfully weaves her father’s emotional letters into the present-day story line, sensitively taking readers through Norman Steinman’s transformation from naïve American soldier to hardened combat veteran. . . . The Souvenir underscores the indescribable way war affects not only veterans but also their families and future generations.”—The Dallas Morning News“The book is the story of entwined ‘gifts’ resulting from [a] personal journey—Steinman’s discovery of a side of her father she never expected to share. For many, her account could provide an understanding of how the war changed one generation and shaped the next.” —Library Journal (starred review)“A moving memoir about reconciliation and honor.”—Publisher’s WeeklyThe Souvenir is a powerful testament that, regardless of time and place, the effect of war on the human spirit remains the same. Steinman’s remarkable discovery shows how war separates our common humanity. It is a journey to repair that broken bond, a journey to know the humanity of those we have made enemies.”—Ishmael Beah, author of A Long Way Gone“Partly a detective story, partly a meditation on the legacy of war . . . this is a bold, unusual, and moving book.”—Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold’s GhostThe Souvenir is an intimate and powerful story of the effects of war.”—James Bradley, author of Flags of Our Father“Luckily for her readers, Ms. Steinman . . . interviewed not only American veterans of the Pacific war, but Japanese veterans as well. In this quest, she discovered more than just her father’s wartime souvenir; she discovered her father’s war and those experiences that shaped the life of her family in the ’50s. . . . The Souvenir is a graceful blend of history, wartime storytelling and investigative reporting that dives deep into the traumatic experiences of war. Military enthusiasts, especially veterans and their families, will find The Souvenir a proactive [and] rewarding read.”—The Jewish Veteran

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Product Details

North Atlantic Books
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6.05(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.71(d)

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From the Prologue: Somewhere at SeaIn January 1944 when my father crossed the Pacific for the first time, he did not know where he was going. He did not know he was headed for New Zealand. He did not know that after a year of training and waiting, first in New Zealand then in New Caledonia, he and his army buddies in the Twenty-fifth Infantry Division would be transported to northern Luzon, the Philippines, where they would sweat out five and a half months of combat.The monotony, the uncertainty of the destination, the hot sun, the loneliness, the roiling sea all took their toll on him. “I’ve never felt so blue. It’s the thought of leaving you. I hope I can get over it soon, because it’s a terrible state of affairs,” he wrote to his wife—my mother—from the confines of a transport ship.As the realization of a long separation sank in—months, possibly years—his mood veered toward panic then settled into depression. Writing letters was his only relief. “Dear Anne,” he wrote home, “I’m sorry that you won’t hear from me for such a long time until you get this letter, but because of the safety precautions and secrecy involved (for our own good), I wasn’t allowed to tell you when I left the States.” To describe his location, he wrote simply “Somewhere at Sea” in the upper right-hand corner of each letter.My father—a graduate of De Witt Clinton High School in the Bronx, with a math degree from New York University—was lacking his usual reference points. No Sunday New York Times, no conversations with his parents, no weekly lectures at the 42nd Street branch of the New York Public Library. And the most grievous lack of all—his wife.It was not like the pragmatic father I knew to daydream, sitting motionless, spinning in his imagination every inch of his wife’s body. Her hair. Her smile. The way she wore hats. He composed letters in his mind, wrote them down when the seasickness abated...

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The Souvenir: A Daughter Discovers Her Father's War 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was a gift, my father was in WW2, he came home, for me it took me back in time, yes I still have thier letters that my Mother would read to us, medels,
Guest More than 1 year ago
In The Souvenir Louise Steinman show us her childhood full of unexplainable rules like, never cry infront of your father, never wear black and do not question these rules. All related to her fathers past memories of the war. Louise discovers letter and souvenirs from the war making her belive there was more to her father than she knew. In this amazing book she is deturmined to find out her fathers secret past. In this book you see that not everything is what it appears to be. It is also shown that the love and support of otheres is need in a time of war to keep moving on. As a high school student it was amazing to go back in a time of war and see what a solider indures. The Souvenir gave me a better understanding of the war today. There is not one moment in this book that I did not enjoy. Steinman keeps you hooked with her mystery. I think vietrans of this war would like this book because they could really relate to the Steinman family as well as teenages who would like to understand the war and the struggles involved with the men. The Souvenir I recieved from this book was understanding of both sides of the war and gave me more respect for all those involved.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Souvenir, written by Louise Steinman, is a must read for any serious student of World War II. Using the many letters written by her father Private Norman Steinman, who was a member of the Twenty-fifth Division, Ms. Steinman takes us on her journey to ¿discover her father¿s war.¿ Along the way, the author, her father, and the family of a Japanese soldier who may have crossed paths with Private Steinman teach us what the not so obvious and longer lasting costs of the war really were for the men who fought in it, and for their families, and how for some, the war never really ended. The book is part Flags of Our Fathers and part Goodbye, Darkness and I guarantee that the reader will not be disappointed.