An evenhanded, compassionate portrayal of the two deeply wounded sides to this story.




A poignant chronicle of the deeply complicated emotions surrounding the American-Japanese hostility stoked by World War II.

Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Obmascik (Halfway to Heaven: My White-knuckled—and Knuckleheaded—Quest for the Rocky Mountain High, 2009, etc.) narrates the multilayered tale of an aged American veteran of the ferocious battle of Attu Island who, decades later, visited the daughter of a Japanese surgeon he killed during that horrendous episode. This began a confluence of truth-seeking and reconciliation, a remarkable story that the author ably pieces together. He begins with the recovered diary that the Japanese surgeon, Paul Tatsuguchi, had left in his effects after his death. Tatsuguchi was raised by Japanese parents in California and became a devoted Seventh Day Adventist; as an adult, he returned to Japan with his new bride just before the war in 1939. The timing, of course, was terrible. Tatsuguchi was inducted into the Imperial Army as a physician, but due to the intense suspicion about his American background, he was not given the suitable rank of an officer. After the Pearl Harbor attack, Tatsuguchi was deployed overseas, ending up on the remote, forbidding Aleutian island outpost (and American possession) of Attu, which was seized by the Japanese in 1942. During the harsh winter he was stationed there, Tatsuguchi wrote his war diary, delineating the brutal conditions of his surgical duties amid the chaos of battle. Meanwhile, on the American side, Charles “Dick” Laird, a scrappy GI from Ohio, became part of the waves of invading U.S. troops determined to extract the Japanese from the island, but they were thwarted by their entrenched positions in foxholes and caves and mystified by their refusal to surrender. Obmascik has carefully and fairly sifted through the layers to this complex story, offering a tightly focused examination of the different, misleading translations of Tatsuguchi’s diary as well as Laird’s efforts to get the diary back to his family.

An evenhanded, compassionate portrayal of the two deeply wounded sides to this story.

Pub Date: April 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-7837-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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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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