HIROSHIMA IN AMERICA

FIFTY YEARS OF DENIAL

Noted authors Lifton (Protean Self, 1993, etc.) and Mitchell (The Campaign of the Century, 1992) ``explore what happened to America as a consequence of Hiroshimaboth the bomb's existence in the world, and our having used it.'' In a painstaking and painful psycho-historical analysis, the authors are concerned with examining the motivations of those who made the decisions, particularly Truman, and the effects of that decision on Truman and on the development of subsequent US policy. A careful analysis, for instance, of Truman's announcement of the bombing shows his ambivalence about it and his determination to justify the bomb's use as a military necessity. As this ``official story'' continued to develop, early American responses included government suppression of evidence of the radiation effects on residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Lifton and Mitchell also analyze the process that resulted in Truman's fateful decision. He emerges as a fundamentally decent man who, as an inexperienced president newly inducted into the nation's secret weapons program, became caught up in the atomic fervor of scientists and military men. The authors appear to argue that the official Hiroshima narrative was a myth driven by a psychological need on the part of Americans to distance themselves from what they had done. In the end, the authors argue, our need to defend the official narrative and avoid thinking about what happened when we dropped the atomic bombs is dangerous: the existence of the bomb, and the moral consequences of the US having been the first to use it, have had profound moral, psychological, and political effects on Americans as a people, and our failure to recognize this has made it easier for us to decide to use these weapons again. Eloquent, somber, and immensely thought-provoking. (Book-of- the-Month Club/History Book Club featured alternates)

Pub Date: July 18, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14072-7

Page Count: 406

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1995

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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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