Not without its flaws, but a good choice for fans of David Halberstam’s The Amateurs (1985), Daniel Boyne’s The Red Rose...




A brightly told story of the triumph of underdogs.

In 1937, Soichi Sakamoto formed the Three-Year Swim Club, whose members were children of workers living on a Hawaiian sugar plantation. Sakamoto, a teacher who could hardly swim, had seen them frolicking in a dirty, shallow ditch and made a proposition: “Three years of discipline. Three years of sacrifice. Three years of nothing except swimming” would yield great results. If they worked hard and cared enough, he was certain they could become members of the United States men’s swim team at the 1940 Olympic Games, to be held in Tokyo. Filmmaker, journalist, and nonfiction writer Checkoway (Little Sister: Searching for the Shadow World of Chinese Women, 1996, etc.) fashions the story of the tireless Sakamoto and his eager swimmers into an exuberant, well-researched, if sometimes overly detailed celebration of unlikely champions. As a coach, Sakamoto combined encouragement—he learned the power of positive thinking from Norman Vincent Peale—with intense attention to stroke technique and training regimens. With the help of former Olympians and enthusiastic sportswriters, he publicized his team and raised money to send them around the world to compete, and they performed astoundingly well. His star, Keo Nakama, for example, swam against 1,100 competitors in Sydney, Australia, coming in first in every race. Not surprisingly, where money and fame were at stake, rivals emerged. One in particular tried to wrest control of the team from Sakamoto, criticizing his methods and manipulating himself into a position of power. But Sakamoto persisted, even when the 1940 Olympics were cancelled after Japan invaded China and subsequent games were scratched because of war. Not until 1948 did members of the team—men as well as women—compete in the Olympics, proving themselves champions. Details about training, swim times, and the team’s travels occasionally overwhelm Checkoway’s tense, vivid, and inspiring narrative.

Not without its flaws, but a good choice for fans of David Halberstam’s The Amateurs (1985), Daniel Boyne’s The Red Rose Crew (2000), and similar books.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4555-2344-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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...


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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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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