ABOUT-FACE

HOW I STUMBLED ONTO JAPAN'S SOCIAL REVOLUTION

A decidedly schizophrenic examination of changing attitudes towards work, family, and the status of women in modern Japan. Naff, an American journalist (formerly with NPR and UPI) married to a Japanese woman, offers two separate explorations of Japanese society under one cover. The first is a lighthearted, personal, at times whimsical memoir of his experiences as a copy editor for a Japanese newspaper and as a husband struggling with the many complications of living in a foreign culture. Here Naff reveals his most penetrating observation of modern Japanese society—the younger generation has learned to have fun. A capacity crowd at Tokyo Disney on the eve of the traditional Japanese New Year serves as a strange symbol of a newly emerging trend in which duty is replaced by leisure. The second component of the book, interwoven with the first, is a crisp, almost forensic critique of the Japanese ``salaryman'' culture. Naff dismisses the notion that it is some simplistic cultural quality such as yarikata (the notion that there is one correct way of doing each task) that has produced a society in which men literally work themselves to death. His analysis focuses on the power imbalance between managers and unions that arose as a response to the Cold War, when the American occupation rubbed against a fierce nationalistic pride. The average Japanese man works such long hours because he is forced to—not because he is some strange economic drone. In the younger generation, Naff sees hope for change: Young women are waiting longer to marry and are choosing their own partners; young employees are switching companies in droves; men are spending more time with their families; and women are beginning to sue successfully over sexual harassment in the workplace. Despite abrupt, sometimes jarring, transitions between formats, Naff delivers a credible, readable account of the ``social revolution'' sweeping Japan.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1994

ISBN: 1-56836-041-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Kodansha

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1994

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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