A nonrevisionist, reflective, opinionated, intensely researched WWII history.



A detailed, almost day-by-day account of political debates that preceded Japan’s surrender in World War II.

In his first book, Colorado-based military historian Barrett emphasizes that by 1943, once it became clear that matters were going badly, Japanese leaders never doubted that they could salvage matters by convincing the United States that every Japanese would fight to the death. They believed the U.S. lacked the fortitude for this crushing task and would seek a compromise peace. As the war journal of Imperial Headquarters wrote in July 1944, “the only course left is for Japan’s…people to sacrifice their lives by charging the enemy to make them lose their will to fight.” By that time, American military leaders also suspected that to win, American forces would be forced to kill every single enemy. The result was massive firebombing of cities and use of the atomic bomb. Barrett reminds readers that at first, the atomic bomb played no part in America’s strategy because no one knew if it would work. Planners envisioned a massive invasion of the home islands for November 1945. Everything changed after the bomb’s successful test on July 16. Several important American figures objected to such a terrible weapon, but they did not make a big fuss, and Barrett expresses little sympathy. According to the author, there was never doubt that we would use it. The Aug. 6 bombing of Hiroshima shocked Japan’s leaders, strengthened “peace” advocates, and persuaded the emperor that the war might be lost, but military chiefs exercised their veto, convinced that America would invade and suffer a crushing defeat. The Soviet Union’s declaration of war on Aug. 8 did not tip the balance, but the Nagasaki bomb on Aug. 9 was another matter. Military leaders realized that the invasion they yearned for might not happen and that the U.S. might simply continue to drop atom bombs. As a result, when the emperor announced that he favored surrender, they went along.

A nonrevisionist, reflective, opinionated, intensely researched WWII history.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63576-581-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Diversion Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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