Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Book That Defies the Passage of Time (Women's National Book Association Newsletter)

My note for member news in The Bookwoman, the most recent issue of the Women's National Book Association newsletter:

Captured:  The Forgotten Men of Guam
By Roger Mansell
Naval Institute Press, November 2012

A book is a kind of space capsule arrowing through time. It is a complex thought that may travel from hand to hand, place to place, and speak to its readers, whomever and wherever they may be, long into the future. My dad, Roger Mansell, passed away in late 2010, but it felt like he was saying hello when, last fall, I received my copy of his book, Captured: The Forgotten Men of Guam.

He had been working on his book for over a decade, delving into the archives and interviewing survivors of some of the most horrific suffering imaginable during World War II. An Army veteran, though not of that war, my dad had dedicated his retirement years to maintaining a massive website of data on the Allied POWs of the Japanese in WWII. This data base and his diligent emails helped several families locate the remains of loved ones and connect ex-POWs with fellow survivors. 

When he saw the end of his battle with cancer approaching, my dad asked me to take his manuscript to the post office, to ship it to Linda Goetz Holmesthe first Pacific War historian appointed to advise the government Interagency Working Group declassifying documents on World War II crimes.  As a writer myself with several books published, I had imagined that I would be the one to shepherd his book to publication. But Ms. Holmes, the author of  Unjust Enrichment: American POWs Under the Rising Sun, among other works about the POWs, turned out to be the perfect person for the job, and bless her heart that she took it on. 

Oftentimes, we writers and readers can get caught up in the short-term focus on what’s new; what’s for sale by the cash register in the airport; who won this prize or made the most sales— and it’s all so much smoke and ultimately forgettable sparkle. What a profound thing it is to be able to pick up a book and hear the voice of a person, whether my dad or one of the POWs—anyone for that matter—who is no longer living. A book, after all, and whether in paper or digital format, is a wondrous little package, a vessel for stories; and stories, including such painful ones as my dad’s book recounts, allow us to explore what it means to be human.  

C.M. Mayo

For more about Roger Mansell’s life, work, and book, Captured: The Forgotten Men of Guam, visit