Title: Blossoms and Bayonets: A Story of Love, Faith and Courage under Japanese Occupation written by Jana McBurney-Lin and Hi-Dong Chai
Genre: Historical Fiction; Memoir Based Fiction
Publisher: Redwood Publishing
Page count: 296
Rating: 5/5 – Loved it
Hi-Dong Chai and Jana McBurney-Lin, the award-winning author of My Half of the Sky, turn their hands to a remarkable story of a family and country torn apart by outside forces. The time is 1942, the place, Japanese-occupied Seoul, Korea. Fifteen-year-old He-Seung is full of fire, ready to take on these Japanese…if only he could convince his father, a Christian minister more concerned about saving his flock in a time when Emperor-worship has become mandatory. Since occupation, the Japanese have eradicated the Korean language, names, even the country’s flower. Now they are seeking Korean boys as volunteers for their army. When his father is arrested by the Japanese, however, He-Seung must swallow his hatred of the enemy and volunteer for the military. Even harder, he must leave his mother and baby brother He-Dong to fend for themselves. Based on a true story, Blossoms & Bayonets is suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period. The story lends an eyewitness perspective to events as they unfold. revealing an era of nuance and complexity. The result is a work that speaks volumes about the power of faith.
Happy Monday and welcome to my stop on the Blog Tour for Blossoms and Bayonets: A Story of Love, Faith and Courage under Japanese Occupation. I’d like to send a HUGE thank you to the authors Jana McBurney-Lin and Hi-Dong Chai, as well as TLC Book Tours for giving me the opportunity to review this book in exchange for an honest review!
In Blossoms and Bayonets, we follow the lives and experiences of the Chai family and also get glimpses into the lives of those surrounding them. This delivery of the narrative was interesting to me because we don’t receive the story from just one member of the Chai family but from three of the main characters in the Chai family: Mother(Uhmony), Baby He-Dong and He-Sueng. This is something that I really enjoyed as opposed to just experiencing the story through just one perspective. It made the story more personal for me. Also unique and extremely interesting and at times heartbreaking and shocking are the quotes that begin each “chapter” of the book that are actual quotes taken from things like radio recordings, speeches, and propaganda. But I think one of the truly amazing things about this book is that not only the story of this one family and both their individual as well as shared experiences but it’s also the story of a whole country and it’s experience of oppression.
This was nothing short of an amazing story. Once I picked it up I couldn’t put it down and it proved to be a pretty emotional book for me and I think what really drives it home is knowing that the fears, worries, and situations that the characters in this book encountered were TRULY experienced by the people of Korea. What also serves to impact me greatly is knowing that this is based on someone’s life experiences. Reading this book was a truly humbling and eye opening experience. It was honest, angry, emotional, beautiful, tragic and encouraging all at once for me. I ended up looking both authors up and found their websites…I am so interested in following both of their work from here on out!
The last line of the story was so heartbreaking to me and the sad thing is that the issues that are written about in this book are issues that this world still struggles with to this day. This book makes you remember events of the past, reflect on current events and implications for our future. It is a tribute to all those who suffered during this time and who continue to suffer like the people in this story. Haunting and beautiful…just beautiful.
This book is definitely a must read, especially if you are into reading historical fiction, war fiction, war memoirs or just memoirs in general. You will not be disappointed and stop by to let me know your thoughts! Also, I will be giving away ONE copy of this book. Please comment if interested!
About the Author (s)
Jana lived in Asia for fifteen years. She wrote for media in seven countries, including National Public Radio, Writer’s Digest, Hemispheres (United Airlines), Islands Magazine, Singapore Straits Times, Japan Times and dozens of others. She was an editor at ALC Publishing in Tokyo when she met her husband, a native of southern China. They then lived in Singapore, frequently visiting his family in Fujian province, China.
Jana now lives in the Santa Cruz mountains of California with her husband and four children. She’s a dedicated participant in the Bay Area writing community, having served five years as President of the Peninsula Branch of the California Writer’s Club. She also founded the Writers Camp for Kids and volunteers annually in the local schools to teach creative writing. ( Taken from the Author’s Website)
My name is Hi-Dong Chai. Born in Seoul, Korea, and educated in the U.S. with a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. After working for IBM for 19 years, I went to San Jose State University in San Jose, CA, and taught there for 15 years. During my technical career in IBM, I – as an inventor/coinventor — had 48 inventions, which were either filed for the U.S. patents or published in the IBM Invention Disclosue Bulletin. I authored/coauthored 40 technical papers mostly in the area of incremental motion devices. Also I authored a book, Electromechanical Motion Devices, Prentice Hall, 1998.
Singing has been in my blood since birth. As a child I sang walking the streets of Seoul, often scolded by my mother. I sang in choirs from elementary school on. In America I took vocal lessons under 7 teachers and was a paid bariton soloist at a church in Boston during my graduate years. Two CDs — Sacred Songs and Much Loved Songs – were recorded to be available for the public.
Since retiring as a professor emeritus from the university in 2002, I have devoted my time to share my thoughts, my feelings and my life experiences through writing. My main focus has been to complete a story based on my experience living in Korea during WWII under the Japanese, and during the Korean War under the North Korean Communists. To develop the creative writing skill, I attended writing workshops, writers’ conferences, and monthly meetings of South Bay branch of California Writers Club. In 2006 I met Jana McBurney-lin, author of My Half of the Sky. She mentored me in the art of creative writing.
During our mentor-student relationship, I asked her to be my coauthor. She agreed and turned my story into a historical novel, Blossoms and Bayonets, a story based on my family under Japan during WWII, and it was e-published in October, 2012. Meanwhile, I have continued to expand my original story from which Blossoms and Bayonets was based and completed it in June, 2013. The title of the story is Shattered by the Wars that covers the period from WWII under Japan to the Korean War, and it is available on Kindle and PC. Inspiring Voices Press of Guideposts magazine willl publish the print version and it will be available before the year end, 2013. (Taken from the Author’s Website)