Grandmothers, Our Grandmothers: Remembering the “Comfort Women” of World War II by Han Seong-won

When looking for a nonfiction book to read, I typically look for a topic of which I know very little. My latest nonfiction read was the graphic nonfiction, Grandmothers, Our Grandmothers: Remembering the “Comfort Women” of World War II by Han Seong-won. This book tells the story of the “comfort women” of the Japanese Imperial Army. I’ll admit here that I didn’t know anything about “comfort women” and based on the cover, I thought that these women were positive comforters. How incredibly and devastatingly wrong I was.

Between 1932 to 1945, the Japanese Imperial Army set up “comfort stations” wherever there was a war zone. The people that worked these “comfort stations” were women and girls they either kidnapped or lured under false promises of actual work. These women and girls were forced into sexual slavery in occupied countries and territories before and during World War II. This is government-sponsored sexual slavery and human trafficking that Japan did not even acknowledge occurred until 1991.

This book tells the story of the grandmothers who have chosen to speak about their lives as “comfort women”. It shares their stories, speaks their testimonies, and pays respect to the many others who will never come forward to talk about what happened to them. Also present in this book are members of younger generations who advocate alongside the grandmothers, protesting every Wednesday for years demanding justice. These women are victims of war whose human rights were violated. Han Seong-won shines light on their stories and helps advocate for honesty about what happened to them only eighty years ago.

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