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Humankind: An emotional journey    by Yoshio Komatsu & Eiko Komatsu order for
by Yoshio Komatsu
Order:  USA  Can
Gibbs Smith, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The authors - husband and wife Yoshio and Eiko Komatsu - tell us in their Introduction that they have been taking pictures of people in their own environments for over thirty-five years, seeking the answer to the question 'What is humankind?' They learned that people, no matter where they live, how they look, or what age they are 'all touch, feel, love, hope, laugh, hurt, fear, believe, try, play, rest, and need.' And so, they share their journey with us, portraying people around the world experiencing each of these emotions.

Each aspect of being human is introduced, followed by pictures showing a diverse cross-section of people sharing the same experience. Relevant quotes are interspersed amongst the photographs. The Komatsus tell us, for example, that positive touch is 'a language that expresses love more powerfully than words.' One picture in this section that struck me was of a content Spanish shepherd on a hillside, his dog clinging to one leg. Images of bridges accompany the anonymous quote: 'If a profound gulf separates my neighbor's belief from mine, there is always the golden bridge of tolerance.'

The Laugh section made me smile, and want to reach out and touch these joyful people. Under Hurt, the authors say that 'Our character is molded by how we experience and react to hurt.' A picture of a Bhutanese boy, eyes liquid with tears, touches the heart. Of Fear we are told 'it can turn positive if it is used as a mechanism for change and growth.' Like Laugh, Play is a delight, full of kids of all ages rediscovering fun - and I've always appreciated the Benjamin Franklin quote included here: 'We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.'

The Komatsus' emotional journey will take you all over the world, again and again, examining each of the many feelings shared by humanity, and celebrating their universality. This lovely book, Humankind, reminds us of the similarities that underlie the surface differences between us and our neighbors. It would make a welcome gift for the holidays.

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