In a thoughtful and generally nonpolemical contribution to the extensive literature on the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Takaki (Ethnic Studies/Berkeley; Democracy and Race, 1994, etc.) focuses on the complexities of the personalities of the American decision-makers, particularly that of Harry Truman. Takaki shows that the atomic bombings grew out of a psychology of mass destruction, fueled by a loathing for Japan tinged with racism; this led to massive firebombings of Tokyo and Yokohama that claimed tens of thousands of Japanese lives. After Japan's decisive defeat at Okinawa in June 1945, Takaki reveals, both Japanese and American war planners recognized that the war was over; American leaders, already preparing for the collapse of Japan, were planning the occupation months before the atomic bombs, and Truman and his generals recognized that the long-promised entry of the Soviet Union into it would end the war against Japan. Takaki argues that Japanese leaders, concerned about the retention of the imperial institution and rejecting the American demand of ``unconditional surrender,'' delayed surrender in order to seek a negotiated peace through the Soviet Union. Once the Soviets declared war, in early August 1945, the Japanese surrender (negotiated and conditional, after all, in that the emperor was permitted to survive) was rapidly forthcoming. Meanwhile, Takaki asserts that Truman, who claimed to be at peace with his decision for the rest of his career, was driven to use the bomb out of a deeply ingrained sense of insecurity; in fact, based on Truman's diaries, Takaki shows that he was a sensitive man, deeply troubled about his decision to use the bomb. An eloquent perspective on the atomic bombings, unusual for its simple focus on getting the facts right instead of blaming or exonerating those responsible for the decision.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 1995

ISBN: 0-316-83122-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 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...


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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