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Susumu Higa, Translator: Jocelyne Allen, Andrew Woodrow Butcher, Christopher Butcher


On sale date: August 22, 2023

This heartbreaking manga, by an award-winning cartoonist, examines the history of Okinawa and its military occupation. An essential manga classic presented in English for the first time.

2024 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction - Longlist

American Library Association Best Comics for Adults 2023

Booklist Editors' Choice: Best Graphic Novels 2023

Washington Post Book World Editors' Staff Pick 2023

The Guardian Best Graphic Novels of 2023

A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection

A peaceful, independent kingdom until its annexation by the Japanese Empire in the 19th century, Okinawa was the site of the most destructive land battle of the Pacific War. Today, the archipelago is Japan's poorest prefecture and unwilling host to 75% of all US military bases in Japan.

Okinawa brings together two collections of intertwined stories by the island's pre-eminent mangaka, Susumu Higa, which reflect on this difficult history and pull together traditional Okinawan spirituality, the modern-day realities of the continuing US military occupation, and the senselessness of the War. The first collection, Sword of Sand, is a ground level, unflinching look at the horrors of the Battle of Okinawa. Higa then turns an observant eye to the present-day in Mabui (Okinawan for "spirit"), where he explores how the American occupation has irreversibly changed the island prefecture, through the lens of the archipelago's indigenous spirituality and the central character of the yuta priestess.

Okinawa is a harrowing document of war, but it is also a work which addresses the dreams and the needs of a people as they go forward into an uncertain future, making it essential reading for anyone interested in World War II and its effects on our lives today, as well as anyone with an interest in the people and culture of this fascinating, complicated place. Though the work is thoroughly about one specific locale, the complex relations between Okinawan and Japanese identities and loyalties, between place and history, and between humanity and violence speak beyond borders and across shores.

Please note: This book is a traditional work of manga and reads back to front and right to left.


"There's a lot of potential for this to be taught in high school and university classes as an examination of war, occupation, and tradition. Higa's characters are supremely well-developed for such short vignettes, and their motivations are well-defined for their actions. Higa's monumental work sits firmly among such other notable ruminations on history as Keiji Nakazawa's Barefoot Gen, Shigeru Mizuki's Showa, Art Spiegelman's Maus, and Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis." — Booklist, Starred Review

"Okinawa elegantly explores the painful realities of colonialism... Higa captures quiet moments of human connection, even as he unsparingly documents the ongoing loss of the islands' Indigenous culture and the suffering of their people." — Washington Post

"Okinawa is a beautiful collection of short stories that offer you a glimpse into the life of a masterful talent whose clarity of line illustrates a consciousness that will entice you as much as any collection of literary tales by Hemingway, Borges, or Munroe. Pure artistry." — Hyperallergic

"If you're a fan of Keiji Nakazawa's Barefoot Gen or Shigeru Mizuki's Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, this will add to your splendid collection of manga about World War II." — Gosh! Comics

"Okinawa is a powerful work that asks tough questions without much varnish, making the reader uncomfortable in all the right ways." — Multiversity Comics


Black & white.
5.3" × 7.5"