Mary Lynn Bracht Meet the Author


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Mary Lynn Bracht

James Naughtie talks with Mary Lynn Bracht about her new book White Chrysanthemum.


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happen.

That is one thing that has

been shown.

Yes, indeed.

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Now its time for Meet the Author.

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Mary Lynn Bracht's first novel is a

journey into her career and

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heritage. Two sisters separated in a

country that has for their whole

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lives been occupied by Japan. White

Chrysanthemum takes its name from

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the traditional flow of warning in

Korea. The book is an evocative

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version of loss and an account of

how one of the deepest human bonds

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can survive almost anything.

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For your first venture into fiction,

you choose to go back to the country

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of your mother's birth to a period

long before you were born. To what

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extent was it for you personally a

voyage of discovery?

It was very

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much a voyage of discovery, I had to

do a lot of research into history I

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had never heard of. I grew up in

America so history of Korea is very

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minimal. I started with stories my

mother had told me, my grandmother

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had mentioned and I went from there.

Many people picking up the book in

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this country will be startled to

realise that anybody going into the

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Second World War as a Korean had

been living under what we might call

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Japanese occupation for 25 years.

Definitely. My grandfather was a boy

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during the Japanese occupation so he

grew up speaking Japanese and had a

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Japanese name. This is he couldn't

express anything in Korean and had

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to hide that.

The two sisters at the

centre of this book who live by the

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sea and do all the things you do to

keep yourself going, to find things

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that can be sold and make a living,

they are in a sense holding onto a

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culture which they feel inside

themselves as permanently under

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threat.

It actually was. They are

really the only divers on the island

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and the Japanese prise them, so they

would take a lot of them to Japan to

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dive, so to stay in that small area

they were lucky and to be able to do

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it themselves.

Lucky but we have to

see what happens to them on this

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story cannot be described as lucky,

they undergo appalling deprivation

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and are taken effectively to a

brothel for Japanese soldiers. We

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see what happens to one of them

there and it is a very seeding

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expedients for a young girl. Your

call theme is the relationship

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between these two can triumph over

even disaster.

I feel like the bonds

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between the two, one taken to a

brothel, keeps her going and gives

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her hope, whereas for her sister,

being left behind and having to go

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through the Korean War without her

sister, give said a lot of survivors

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guilt, so that wine is the story

together.

And we should see that the

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sister you speak of, we meet in the

21st-century looking back on this

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experience, and thinking about it

and reflecting on it, although a

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tragic story with elements of hope.

I hope so. I am glad you say that,

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because the comfort women's story is

very dark. A lot of these women

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didn't survive, 200,000 I think were

sent away to these brothels.

Which

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is a story most evil here want now.

You didn't even know.

I didn't, I

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was in my 20s by the time I heard

this. I was very confused and spoke

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to my mother.

Effectively a couple

of hundred thousand women who were

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used as sex slaves.

And didn't make

it back home. There were only around

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250 registered voter at large

number.

It is curious timing that

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this because a at the moment when

people are trying to find out more

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about the Korean Peninsula for

obvious reasons to do with

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contemporary politics. It is a

curious accident of timing. Korea is

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on more people's let's than it has

for a long time.

Which for me is

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great because I grew up in a small

suburb of Texas and people saw me

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and thought Japanese, Chinese. This

I always thought one day I will

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write about Korea and people will

know where it is and who looks

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Korean! It is a story of truth that

occurs that there is still some

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question about. For me, it is very

important to remember these women

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who are now in their 80s.

A

forgotten tribe, almost.

And they

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are not in the history books. Before

the last one passes away it would be

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wonderful if all these books have

that in there.

You talk about your

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mother being born just at the end of

the Korean War in the 1950s. How

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much did she know and when did she

know it about what happened to match

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this I don't think she's ever talked

about it.

When I found out I asked

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and she said well everybody knows

about that, it is not news.

It was

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known but not spoken of?

Yes. Under

the dictatorships, they were not

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allowed to speak about the

atrocities of the past whether the

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Second World War of the Korean War.

It was frowned upon, you could get

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into trouble and sent to jail and it

wasn't until the 1980s when you had

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democracy and freedom that it

started coming out and you had one

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in's groups coming forward.

The

families must have known and they

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must have had to imagine, a very

cruel thing to imagine, they must

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have had to picture what happened to

their children for example but

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without really knowing.

A lot of

them also had to ignore it. They

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couldn't think about it, so taboo.

What sort of Germany was it for you

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yourself, we talked about the

exploration into Korean history.

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What about the emotional feeling,

when you had written this story and

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try to imagine how Emi felt, looking

back to innocent days with her

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sister and then what had happened,

emotionally what to do you?

It was a

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bit course, at Lansdowne, because

customer happy moments. Also just

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the melancholy and sadness. As a

writer I have to pretend like I am

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looking through it in order to get

backbone.

-- but down. That is also

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the potential of guilt and feeling I

have never had to experience

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anything like this. How can I

presume to picture the emotional

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state of people who have gone

through something I cannot even

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imagine, it is quite a tricky thing

to do, doing it for the first time.

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Very much so. This I was a unique

situation. I got to listen to them

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tell their stories and see how they

reacted and how they felt and the

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emotion they went through.

That's my

entire childhood. We should see the

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title of the book, White

Chrysanthemum, is a reference to the

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traditional flower of morning in

Korea. If you see any funerals they

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have a picture of the deceased,

chrysanthemums left next to the

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picture.

Mary Lynn Bracht, thank you very

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much.

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