Meticulous, authoritative research informs a vivid narrative.

THE WAR BEAT, PACIFIC

THE AMERICAN MEDIA AT WAR AGAINST JAPAN

A satisfying follow-up to the author’s The War Beat, Europe (2017).

Drawing on a prodigious number of sources, including extensive media, government, and military archives; oral histories; newspapers and magazines; and published histories, memoirs, and biographies, Casey, a professor of international history at the London School of Economics, offers a cleareyed look at the experiences of war correspondents reporting on the Pacific front. Faced with tropical weather, insects, and disease, the correspondents confronted conditions very different from those in the European theater. “The jungle breaks everything down,” complained one reporter after a long stint in New Guinea, “typewriter, camera, papers. My glasses gave way this morning.” Most egregiously, reporters confronted censorship from military authorities, who insisted on vetting stories. Military regulations could be “suffocating, encompassing almost every aspect of the reporters’ daily lives, from what to wear at mealtimes to where to throw their cigarette butts.” Correspondents assigned to the Navy, whose oversight was especially strict, grew rebellious; those assigned to the Army soon realized that they would be rewarded by burnishing the reputation of the self-aggrandizing Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who believed that news of his challenges and triumphs would shift Franklin Roosevelt’s focus from Europe to the Pacific. Casey recounts in detail correspondents’ efforts to publish stories that the government wanted to suppress—of the Bataan Death March, for example, testimonies of atrocities from prisoners of war, and the destruction wrought by kamikaze raids. He creates deft portraits of a burgeoning population of correspondents as well as the editors and publishers who competed for—and helped to shaped—the news. Besides examining military engagements, he recounts reporters’ dangerous exploits as they sailed through treacherous waters, parachuted out of planes, and made their ways across forbidding terrain. Although most of these correspondents are little remembered today, Casey casts a well-deserved light on their commitment to truth and on the hardships they endured to convey the reality of war.

Meticulous, authoritative research informs a vivid narrative.

Pub Date: May 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-19-005363-5

Page Count: 408

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

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ON JUNETEENTH

The Harvard historian and Texas native demonstrates what the holiday means to her and to the rest of the nation.

Initially celebrated primarily by Black Texans, Juneteenth refers to June 19, 1865, when a Union general arrived in Galveston to proclaim the end of slavery with the defeat of the Confederacy. If only history were that simple. In her latest, Gordon-Reed, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and numerous other honors, describes how Whites raged and committed violence against celebratory Blacks as racism in Texas and across the country continued to spread through segregation, Jim Crow laws, and separate-but-equal rationalizations. As Gordon-Reed amply shows in this smooth combination of memoir, essay, and history, such racism is by no means a thing of the past, even as Juneteenth has come to be celebrated by all of Texas and throughout the U.S. The Galveston announcement, notes the author, came well after the Emancipation Proclamation but before the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Though Gordon-Reed writes fondly of her native state, especially the strong familial ties and sense of community, she acknowledges her challenges as a woman of color in a state where “the image of Texas has a gender and a race: “Texas is a White man.” The author astutely explores “what that means for everyone who lives in Texas and is not a White man.” With all of its diversity and geographic expanse, Texas also has a singular history—as part of Mexico, as its own republic from 1836 to 1846, and as a place that “has connections to people of African descent that go back centuries.” All of this provides context for the uniqueness of this historical moment, which Gordon-Reed explores with her characteristic rigor and insight.

A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-883-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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