The Souvenir: A Daughter Discovers Her Father’s War

What a poignant story of the author’s journey to try to understand her father and to solve the mystery of a silk Japanese flag with an inscription on it. What an incredible way to pass on to the next generations the story of one corner of a world war. The 2002 edition includes an Afterword, as well as her long poem, “The Flag of Yoshio Shimizu,” and a Selected Biography.


Louise Steinman is a writer and literary curator. Her work frequently deals with memory, history and reconciliation. Her book, The Souvenir: A Daughter Discovers Her Father’s War, was cited as ‘A graceful, understated memoir’ that draws its strength from the complexities it explores.’ (New York Times Book Review) ‘an intimate and powerful story of the effects of war.’ James Bradley, author, Flags of Our Fathers).

The book won the 2002 Gold Medal in Autobiography/Memoir from ForeWord Magazine and has been the selection of all-city and all-freshman reading programs. The book chronicles her quest to return a war ‘souvenir’ to its owner and– in the process– illuminates how war changed one generation and shaped another. She is also the author of “The Crooked Mirror: A Memoir of Polish-Jewish Reconciliation” (Beacon Press, Nov. 2013). She has curated the award-winning ALOUD at Central Library series for the Los Angeles Public Library ( for the past two decades and is also co-director of the Los Angeles Institute of the Humanities at USC.

Author’s Note

Louise Steinman’s father never talked about his experiences in the Pacific during WWII-like many men of his generation. All she knew was that a whistling kettle unnerved him, that Asian food was banned from the house, and that she was never to cry in front of him.

After her parents’ deaths, Steinman discovered a box containing some four hundred letters her father had written to her mother during the war. Among the letters, she found a Japanese flag inscribed with elegant calligraphy. The flag said: “To Yoshio Shimizu given to him in the Great East Asian War to be fought to the end. If you believe in it, you win.” Intrigued by her father’s letters and compelled to know how this flag came to be in his possession, Steinman sets out on a quest to learn what happened to her father and the men of his Twenty-fifth Infantry Division.  


Over the course of her exploration, Steinman decides to return the flag to the family of Yoshio Shimizu, the fallen Japanese soldier. She travels to the snow country of Japan and visits the battlefield in the Philippines where her father’s division fought-the place where Yoshio lost his life and his flag. In the end, Steinman discovers a side of her father she never knew, and, astonishingly, she develops a kinship with the surviving family of his enemy.

Weaving together her father’s letters with the story of her own personal journey, Steinman presents a powerful view of how war changed one generation and shaped another.


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