A beautifully rendered work wrought with enormous care and sense of compassionate dignity.



An intimately detailed look at the agony of a Japanese-American family struggling to maintain American loyalty amid discrimination and war.

Historian and teacher Sakamoto weaves a richly textured narrative history of the Fukuhara family, who moved from Hiroshima to Auburn, Washington, in 1926. However, financial issues after the death of the father forced them to move back in 1933. Somewhat typically at the time, the family was made up of the first-generation immigrants—businessman Katsuji and homemaker Kinu—and their five American-born children. The two eldest, Mary and Victor, were sent back to Hiroshima to help their aunt in her lucrative candy-making business, then subsequently returned to the U.S. as teenagers, culturally confused kibei whose English had been mostly forgotten. Harry, the spirited middle son and the one most thoroughly Americanized, was not happy about the move back to Japan, though his five-year stay allowed him the language immersion that would be invaluable during World War II, when, interned with his sister Mary at the Gila River Relocation Center, Arizona, in the fall of 1942, he was plucked by the Army for intelligence translation in the Pacific theater. The Japanese-speaking author offers fascinating research into the lives of these conflicted immigrants. At the time, Japanese-American youth who served in the Japanese army automatically relinquished their American citizenship, which Harry, by moving back to the U.S. at age 18, refused to do, unlike his other brothers. The specter of the atomic bomb hovers ominously over the narrative, and while most of the Hiroshima family managed to survive, the physical and psychological scarring were gruesome and lasting. American soldier Harry’s resolution to return to Japan in October 1945 to find his family forms a poignant closure to this remarkable tale.

A beautifully rendered work wrought with enormous care and sense of compassionate dignity.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-235193-7

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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