Saturday, July 22, 2017

Legacies Beyond Faces

The final book in the "Real Faces" trilogy, which focuses on documenting the stories of Chamorro World War II survivors is finally here. I am happy to see it come to completion, I've been assisting with this project for several years now and it has been a very heartwarming experience. For so much of the past few decades the recounting and retelling of Guam's World War II story has been focused on the United States, their role in expelling the Japanese and ending the occupation. As a result, even when Chamorros were doing the commemorating, they were often times excluding or minimizing their own stories, their own beliefs, perceptions, and lessons, for the sake of aligning their tales and memories with a more patriotic and American-supremacist narrative. I am thankful to see that shift in recent decades, and thankful if my work, research and writing has played some role in making that happen.

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"Legacies Beyond Faces"
by Michael Lujan Bevacqua
Pacific Daily News
May 19, 2017


Over the past few years, the Guam War Survivors Memorial Foundation has been doing beautiful work in the community to commemorate the experiences of the Chamorros who suffered during the Japanese occupation of Guam in World War II. In the name of giving our elders their due, the foundation has published books, advocated for the passage of war reparations, held musical concerts, and even created a memorial wall with the names of 15,891 people on Guam during the war. I have worked with this foundation for several years, primarily through writing articles for their touching “Real Faces” series.

To date the foundation has published two books, “Real Faces: Guam’s World War II Survivors” and “Families in the Face of Survival,” and their third book, “Legacy Beyond Faces: A Sentimental Journey, Generation to Generation,” is set to be released sometime this summer. Victoria Leon Guerrero, the managing editor of UOG Press, has been a board member for the foundation since its inception and wrote recently in the Pacific Island Times:

[The foundation] was formed to tell the stories of Guam’s World War II generation. Its members felt an urgent need to capture these stories before they were lost. While these books are a collection of short stories, it is the hope and intention of the foundation that these stories will grow beyond the pages of this trilogy. That they will inspire the kinds of epiphanies that open minds, heal wounds, and bring families closer together.

This rationale for the foundation’s work is both beautiful and insightful. What would be the best way to pay tribute to our elders and to document their stories before they are lost? Would it be to simply record them and repeat them verbatim? Or would it be more powerful to put them into historical context and help facilitate the transmission of the stories, and the values or lessons they may offer, to younger generations? For those of us who have worked with Chamorro war survivors and collected their stories, the second option is by far the more powerful one.  

After all, if you were to spend hours with a war survivor, following their journey from the ruined fiesta for Santa Maria Kamalen to jubilation at the discovery of US Marines in Manenggon, these types of details may just be the surface of their experiences. There is most likely so much more that they wish they could say but may not be sure how. Over the more than 200 interviews I’ve conducted with Chamorro war survivors, I’ve seen and heard this in a variety of ways. With the way Chamorro history has largely been framed since the war, it is easy to articulate the lessons of the war as being about patriotism to the United States, but, for war survivors who wanted to offer a different lesson to younger generations, their stories are harder to articulate.

If you look at the way the Chamorro people are traditionally represented in documentaries, books, and other media about the Japanese occupation, they are usually mere footnotes to the exercise of American military might. They suffer, they cry, they die, they hope, and, most importantly, they stay loyal to the US and affirm its best elements, as an avatar for democracy, justice, liberty, and freedom. A nuanced and enriching understanding of the Chamorro experience is lost in such accounts. For even if it is compelling or tragic, it is hollow: it is reduced to a shade of life, meant to give color and texture to American exploits, but not meant to stand alone or mean something on its own. The work of the Guam War Survivors Memorial Foundation is meant to change that. 

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 Final Book in Trilogy of War Survivor Stories Published
by Chloe Babauta
Pacific Daily News
June 19, 2017

The Guam War Survivors Memorial Foundation will release the third book in a trilogy of war stories today, .

"Legacy Beyond Faces: A Sentimental Journey Generation to Generation" features stories of more than 20 Guam World War II survivors, of which many were written by their descendants.

The foundation will host a launch event at 6 p.m. June 19, in the Ocean Sirena Ballroom at the Sheraton Laguna Guam Resort. The event is free and open to the public. 

War survivors, descendants and other book contributors will be present to sign copies of the book and share their stories. 

“'Legacy Beyond Faces' takes a unique focus on an instrumental outcome of the war ... a deep love for music,” foundation treasurer Mary Fejeran stated in a press release. 

The book includes interpretive essays and reflections by local scholars and musicians on Chamorro identity and music, and tributes to musical families descended from war survivors, the news release stated.

“It is a beautiful collection of stories and photos that work together to capture the very distinct musical legacy of the war,” Fejeran said.

The foundation has compiled and published two previous books with stories and essays that show survivors’ strength and resilience.  

The new book will be available for purchase at $70 for a single copy or $55 per copy for purchases of two or more books. Only cash and checks will be accepted. Customers who prepaid for books can pick up their copies at the launch, or at the office of Frank Blas & Associates after the launch.

After the launch, the books can be purchased at the office of Frank Blas & Associates in Barrigada on weekdays, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For information, call 734-7702.

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The Surviving Faces of War
by Victoria Leon Guerrero
May 2, 2017
Pacific Island Times

At the heart of war is conflict. Two forces at odds. The obvious signs of war include weapons, battles, bloodshed, utter destruction. It is the worst of human experiences. But it is never simply something that happens in the present. The pieces of war are put together throughout history. From the moments that led to it, to the lasting memories and trauma that keep it alive for generations. We know this all too well on Guam, where World War II continues to shape so much of who we have become as a people and as a place in the world.

Through a trilogy of books about the war, the Guam War Survivors Memorial Foundation has worked closely with survivors and their families to capture Guam’s wartime legacy. The Foundation has compiled and published stories and essays that offer a glimpse at the strength of those who survived the war, and the enduring resilience of the families who inherited their tribulation.

This summer, the Foundation will launch the third and final book of the trilogy entitled, “Legacy Beyond Faces: A Sentimental Journey Generation to Generation.” This book takes a unique focus on an instrumental outcome of the war that continues to uplift survivors and their descendants – a deep love for music.

Music played an integral role in both raising Chamorro spirits and expressing resistance during the war. Just as the second book of the trilogy entitled, “Families in the Face of Survival” highlighted the role of family, food, and faith in helping Chamorros survive the war, this third book examines how music kept them strong during this difficult time. The book also celebrates the role music continues to play in Chamorro families as part of the wartime legacy, and features reflections from some of the children and grandchildren of survivors, who have become some of Guam's most recognized musicians.

Legacy Beyond Faces shares the stories of more than 20 survivors, many written by their descendants. It also includes interpretive essays and reflections from local scholars and musicians on Chamorro identity and music, and features tributes to musical families, who descended from war survivors. It is a beautiful collection of stories and photos that work together to capture the very distinct musical legacy of the war.

The Guam War Survivors Memorial Foundation was formed to tell the stories of Guam’s World War II generation. Its members felt an urgent need to capture these stories before they were lost. While these books are a collection of short stories, it is the hope and intention of the foundation that these stories will grow beyond the pages of this trilogy. That they will inspire the kinds of epiphanies that open minds, heal wounds, and bring families closer together.

These books teach us that just as war is never simply something that happens in the present, neither is peace. In sharing their stories, one thing most war survivors commonly say is that they do not want their children, or their children's children to ever know the horrors of war. Many of them have died since they shared their stories, and many more died before they ever could. They may not have found the peace they sought, but we can. May their legacy inspire lasting peace in our community for generations to come.

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