An absorbing history of a vanished world.

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One woman's life reveals society and culture in 19th-century Japan.

Historian Stanley brings a deep knowledge of Japanese culture to a vibrant portrait of the Asian nation centered on the struggles of one defiant woman. Tsuneno was born into a respected family—her father was head priest in a temple of the True Pure Land sect—in a rural province, two weeks’ walk from the capital, Edo. As Tsuneno grew up, going to school and learning the skills—needlework, especially—that she would need when she married, she heard enticing talk about Edo, which beckoned as a place of “fashion and sophistication.” Though she dreamed of seeing it, her life took a different direction: When she was 12, she was married to a True Land priest in another province, even farther from the capital and far from her home. Although it was customary to wait until a girl was 14 before consummating the marriage, Tsuneno became integrated into her new family and, in time, her role as a wife. Fifteen years later, though, her husband filed for divorce, for reasons that Stanley can only guess at. The marriage was childless, and Tsuneno returned to her family. A year later, her family found her another husband, but that marriage lasted only four years; another match was made for the 34-year-old Tsuneno, but this one endured “four blurry, claustrophobic months.” After three failed marriages, Tsuneno decided to direct her own fate: She would finally leave home and travel, on foot, to Edo. Stanley creates a palpable sense of the Japanese capital: a teeming, highly stratified city where newcomers faced poverty and discrimination, migrants lived in hovels, and the only jobs available to Tsuneno—if she was lucky—were in service to a shogun or samurai. Despite hunger, cold, illness, and betrayal, she persisted, determined to achieve the independence she desperately desired.

An absorbing history of a vanished world.

Pub Date: July 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-8852-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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