An extraordinary, elegantly told story of the beginning of Japan’s education and emancipation of its women.

DAUGHTERS OF THE SAMURAI

A JOURNEY FROM EAST TO WEST AND BACK

Through her fascinating tapestry of history and biography, New York scholar Nimura weaves the strange, vibrant tale of an insular nation coming to terms with currents of modernism it could no longer keep out.

With the shogunate abolished and the “restoration” of 15-year-old Emperor Mutsuhito to the Meiji throne in 1868, Japan recognized that it would need to embrace Western ideas and technology in order to compete in the civilized world, and that would include a Western education for both men and women. Japan required educated mothers to raise standards, and thus the first batch of girls to be sent to study in America for an allotted period of 10 years was recruited from high-ranking samurai families who had fallen out of favor and could spare some mouths to feed at home. Of these five young women sent across the seas in 1871, the two eldest, at 14, did not fare well and were sent back within a few months. The remaining three experienced transformative home-sharing and education opportunities in America and became fluent speakers of English. Nimura concentrates on the stories of these three singular young women: Sutematsu Yamakawa, at 11, lived with the prominent Bacon family in New Haven and eventually attended Vassar; Shige Nagai, who had arrived at age 10, also attended Vassar and ended up marrying a fellow Japanese who had studied at Annapolis Naval Academy; Ume Tsuda, at barely 7, grew up in Georgetown and graduated from Bryn Mawr. All returned to Japan to marry, yet they carried on teaching and even founded an English school for girls. From clothing to manners to speech to aspirations, Nimura shows how the meeting of East and West transformed these select young women.

An extraordinary, elegantly told story of the beginning of Japan’s education and emancipation of its women.

Pub Date: May 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-393-07799-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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

NIGHT

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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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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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