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An NBCC award winner and expert in the modern history of Japan, Dower (Massachusetts Inst. of Technology; Japan in War and Peace, 1994; War Without Mercy, 1986) absorbingly explains how American forces imposed a revolution from above in six years of occupation that transformed imperial Japan into a democracy. As WWII ended, Japan had lost three million dead, with many more wounded, starving, homeless, and demoralized. Dower has drawn effectively on Japanese academic, archival, and popular sources to capture the atmosphere of flux and uncertainty that followed surrender, including suicidal despair, gratitude toward generous GIs, black-market entrepreneurship, prostitution, and the unleashing of creative energy. The most important change, of course, occurred in politics. In a root-and-branch attempt to destroy Japan’s militaristic culture, the Americans created a constitution that limited the emperor to a symbolic head of state, renounced war as an instrument of settling international disputes, and established such reforms as sexual equality, greater freedom of speech and press, an end to the Shinto state religion, and a free labor movement. Written in six days, the constitution set the stage for unprecedented Japanese freedom, equality, and prosperity. For all their idealism, however, the American forces also acted with little knowledge of Japanese history, censored criticism of the occupation, and treated the losers with condescension. In the Far East counterpart to the Nuremberg trials, American prosecutors excluded testimony about Emperor Hirohito’s responsibility for war crimes and fed the nation’s sense of its victimization without forcing a realization of its culpability for atrocities committed against other Asians. In the greatest irony, by promoting such bureaucratic structures as the Ministry of Trade and Industry, MacArthur merely replaced his own mandarinate with a Japanese version. A turning point in Japanese history, illuminated through diligent research and piercing insight. (80 b&w photos)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-393-04686-9

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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