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Chronology . . . xi
Somewhere at Sea . . . 1
Part i: Stateside
The Pharmacist . . . 11
The Flag . . . 19
Into the Deep . . . 41
A Melancholy Slav . . . 49
Speculation . . . 63
The Gift . . . 75
Questions . . . 81
Part ii: Japan
Bombs under Tokyo . . . 93
Shrine of the Peaceful Country . . . 105
Shadows . . . 119
Amazing Grace . . . 129
Part 111: The Philippines
The American Cemetery . . . 143
Journey to Balete Pass . . . 155
Promised Land . . . 181
Part iv: Suibara
Swans in the Morning . . . 189
Flyover . . . 201
Afterword to the New Edition . . . 203
Book Group Questions . . . 207
Selected Bibliography . . . 211
1. Steinman’s quest began with the discovery of the box of letters and the flag. She also mentions other “souvenirs” in the book–an antique ring and a small silver wine cup. What objects in your daily life contain important memories? Why?
2. Steinman had little knowledge about the Pacific War when she began reading her father’s letters and her quest led her to conduct extensive research. How has “The Souvenir” deepened/changed your understanding of that conflict?
3. What is the difference between reading a history book about WW II in the Pacific and reading a personal story about the war? How does this allow you–the reader–to “enter” into history. Are there veterans in your own family? Have you ever asked them questions about their experiences?
4. Individual countries look at their past conflicts within their own accepted views of history. Steinman explores some of the discrepancies between the Japanese and the U.S. official views about on Hiroshima. Does her examination of the rhetoric from both sides add to your understanding of this pivotal event? What does her friend Shoji Kurokami–a native of Hiroshima— mean when he says, “”Some people may think bomb was good–and maybe that’s OK. But to me, bomb is bomb.”
5. The Smithsonian Museum’s proposed exhibit to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II was fraught with controversy. Steinman repeats the words of a Smithsonian official, “The veterans wanted the exhibit to stop when the doors to the bomb bay opened. And that’s where the Japanese wanted it to begin.” (p. 135) Why is it important for former combatant nations to look at history together?
6. One of the veterans Steinman interviewed said “your father would be rolling over in his grave” at the idea of Steinman attempting to return the flag. Do you agree?
7. Steinman owns to her naiveté about the Pacific War when she first found her father’s letters. How might her naivete been a hindrance to her quest to return the flag? How might it have been a help?
8. Steinman says that she could understand why the WW II veterans she interviewed were still bitter towards the Japanese. Do you think that reconciliation between groups in conflict must wait for later generations? Why?
9. Steinman says she inherited an antipathy to Filipino cuisine because of her father’s experience in the war. How are prejudices transmitted to the next generation? What prejudices and stereotypes of other cultures might you have inherited through your family’s history?
10. The paradox of the actual souvenir flag is that it means different things to different people. What does it mean to Steinman, her father, the Pacific vets she interviewed? What doe sit mean to Yoshio Shimizu and Shimizu’s family?
11. Some authors write whole novels about places they have never visited, only imagined. Do you think it was necessary for Steinman to journey to Balete Pass in northern Luzon, the Philippines to understand her father’s experience in the war? How does her visit to the actual place inform the book?
12. Why do you think Norman and Anne Steinman preserved Norman’s war letters–even though he wouldn’t discuss the war?
13. Steinman writes that she was shocked by some of the language in her father’s letters. How was that language in keeping with the war propaganda towards the Japanese enemy then current in the United States? How was the enemy demonized by both sides in the Pacific War?
14. The villagers in Suibara welcomed Steinman with both warmth and formality. Why does the entire village turn out to meet her? Do you think such a communal reception would be possible in the United States were the roles reversed and a Japanese daughter returned the souvenir of an American soldier to his family?
15. There are several passages of fiction or what Steinman calls “speculation” in “The Souvenir”–the Passover scene and the vision of Yoshio at the end of the book. What do these sections add to your understanding of Steinman’s quest?
16. Steinman’s own journey to understand her father is intercut with her father’s journey to the Pacific and back. How do these two journeys comment on one another? How might the book have been different if Steinman had not included her father’s letters?
17. “So many unknowables in a life, . . .How a name on a piece of cloth could propel you halfway around the world.” How does her encounter with the Shimizu family affect Steinman? How does it affect the Shimizus?
18. Steinman tries to look at the war from the Japanese POV. The “official” Japanese view is to be found in institutions like Yasukuni Shrine and the Hiroshima Peace Museum. What does she learn from talking to the villagers in Suibara that departs from the official view?
19. While visiting the American cemetery in Manila, Steinman writes that her father wanted to bury his memories. “His desires were irreconcilable: He wanted to never forget and he needed to never remember.” What is gained or lost by forgetting? What is gained or lost by remembering?
Posted October 9, 2007
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 3, 2004
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.