An armchair historian delivers a remarkably compelling story of justice denied.

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A debut historical work focuses on the woman who was turned into World War II’s legendary Tokyo Rose.

The name Tokyo Rose conjures up images of a powerfully seductive Japanese woman demoralizing homesick American soldiers through radio propaganda during the brutal years of World War II in the Pacific. How that label was affixed to Iva Toguri, a Japanese American, is a tragic and complicated story recounted by Weedall in this book. Toguri may have been guilty of naiveté and misplaced faith in the American judicial system, but she was primarily a victim of consistently being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In July 1941, as a 25-year-old aspiring medical student, she dutifully obeyed her parents and went to Japan to bring greetings and gifts from her prosperous family to her aunt’s poor one. Her stay there was a disaster, and for several months, Toguri tried to return to the United States, but there were obstacles. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, she could not return home and became an enemy alien. Abandoned by her relatives, she refused to renounce her American citizenship. She was coerced into working for Radio Tokyo as one of the many Japanese American women who introduced songs and read copy on frequent broadcasts. She tried covertly to sabotage all propaganda efforts and was under constant pressure from her Japanese bosses. At the war’s end, she became a hapless victim of intense anti-Japanese sentiment, spearheaded by the powerful tabloid columnist Walter Winchell, and, through perjured testimony and FBI misconduct, was tried and convicted of treason in a biased court proceeding. Toguri served time in prison and was paroled in 1956. She was finally granted a presidential pardon in 1977. The story is gripping, and Weedall recounts Toguri’s years of isolation, prison, and particularly her Kafkaesque trial with excellent pacing and a keen eye for drama. The prosecutor told the jury: “This is one of the most despicable cases of treason against our country at a time of national emergency.” The singular focus on Toguri omits some historical context: The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings are only mentioned in one sentence. Undated chapters often leave readers unclear of the precise chronology. But while the mostly fictionalized dialogue is sometimes strained, the court proceedings and testimony are well documented, providing rich and evocative details.

An armchair historian delivers a remarkably compelling story of justice denied.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1643882918

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Luminare Press

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.


Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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