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EMBRACING DEFEAT

JAPAN IN THE WAKE OF WORLD WAR II

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...

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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