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OU art professor publishes book on WWII atomic bombings in Japan

Alison Fields

Alison Fields, associate director of the OU School of Visual Arts and professor of art of the American West.

An OU professor recently wrote a book analyzing artwork about the World War II atomic bombs in Japan.

Alison Fields, associate director of the OU School of Visual Arts and professor of art of the American West, wrote “Discordant Memories: Atomic Age Narratives and Visual Culture,” published in 2020 by the University of Oklahoma Press. 

The book is about varying and divergent memories about the nuclear legacies after the atomic bombings of Japanese cities Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945. The 75th anniversary of the bombings will be in 2020.

“I wanted to look at the way the bombs had been remembered differently by different cultures and to think about how the bombs are going to be remembered in the future,” Fields said.

The idea for the book was discovered after Fields took a course in graduate school on the atomic bombs about 15 years ago, and the idea just grew, she said.

Fields has visited the Bradbury Science Museum in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in Japan. She said that in New Mexico, the bombs were remembered as “celebratory” and as a “scientific achievement,” whereas in Japan, the memorial was more focused on victims and survivors, emphasizing anti-nuclearism and world peace.

Some of the artwork Fields used includes the atomic photography of Carole Gallagher and Patrick Nagatani and artworks and experimental films by Will Wilson and Nanobah Becker, according to the OU Press website.

Fields said she hopes the book pushes readers to question their own remembrances of the bombings.

“I hope that it encourages them to question, if they’ve had this fixed idea on what the bombings meant to people, that it encourages them to just open up their understanding and to think about what this legacy means to us now and how we can carry forward at this point in our history,” Fields said. 

Fields also co-wrote “Picher, Oklahoma: Catastrophe, Memory, and Trauma” with photographer Todd Stewart in 2016, and her book “Chickasaw Women Artisans” won the Independent Book Publishers' Independent Spirit Award in 2017, according to the School of Visual Arts website.   

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