'Nanjing: The Burning City' by Ethan Young

Graphic novel tells a powerful account of one of the worst war atrocities of the twentieth century.

Writer/illustrator Ethan Young's graphic novel Nanjing: The Burning City is a powerful and moving account of one of the worst war atrocities of the twentieth century. Set during the Second Sino-Japanese War when the Imperial Japanese Army seized the Chinese capital of Nanjing, the story follows two abandoned Chinese soldiers -- trapped and desperately outnumbered inside the walled city -- as they try to escape.

Nanjing, recently published from Dark Horse Comics, unflinchingly delves into one of the most harrowing chapters of the World War II, pulling no punches in its stark, monochrome depiction of the horrors and human cost of conflict, while telling a heart-wrenching tale of bravery, dignity and defiance. It's a remarkable, devastating book that stays with you long after you've finished it.

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This book was a deeply personal project for Ethan Young, who is Chinese American, and felt a cultural duty to inform the world of the tragedy in Nanjing and what happened to the Chinese during World War II, in a way that the story had not been told before. This was no easy feat, and not without its emotional costs.

"Completing the book took its emotional toll," Young writes in an essay for Paste magazine. "That's what happens when you envelop yourself in a tragedy for 18 months: you have plenty of time to reflect on how awful humanity can be. But it was my cultural duty, or so I tell myself. At the very least, I hope readers will walk away a little more informed. It's better than just being a footnote."

More here: Essay: Ethan Young on the Duty of Documenting One of China's Darkest Episodes in Nanjing: The Burning City

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