Exploration in great human depth of a pivotal American and Japanese event, by Clarke (Equator, 1988; By Blood and Fire, 1981, etc.). Innocence and the ever-present Japanese are Clarke's themes in this meticulously researched meditation on FDR's ``day that will live in infamy.'' Clarke's images of Hawaiian colonial torpor and American military ineptitude, based on eyewitness reports and interviews, are unforgettable. Between the carefully crafted lines is the pre-WW II America that felt itself invulnerable: ``General Short did not understand [radar] nor think it was necessary''; fighter aircraft were ``disarmed and rolled into a tight anti-sabotage formation on the tarmac, making it impossible to arm and launch them all in under four hours.'' Meanwhile, in Washington, the final act of a deadly drama is playing out as last-minute information is fumbled by both US and Japanese bureaucracies. Above Hawaii in a small plane, Ensign Tadeo Yoshikawa, a.k.a. Vice Consul Yaeishi Morimura, is finishing his work as ``the most effective and important spy in the world with many contenders for that title.'' (He also washes dishes to eavesdrop on blue-collar help, observes from a glass- bottomed boat, and swims in the harbor mouth looking for submarine nets.) Clarke is masterful in the personal realities- -the shell-shock and heroism; the ripping apart of close, Japanese-American relationships; the still-inadmissable division of Nisei loyalties; and the hysterical reactions. (An officer loses it and is carried away on a stretcher; a woman imagines herself dead, and her husband with another woman; observers write detailed descriptions of nonexistent German planes and pilots.) Woven into the dreamlike tapestry are sharp, provocative bits on contemporary Japanese-US realities, several connected with insensitive Japanese tourists at the Arizona memorial in Pearl Harbor, and angry American reactions—including the author's. Powerful, compelling prose lays this ghost to rest with dignity and painstaking honesty. (Thirty-two b&w photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 1991

ISBN: 0-688-08301-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1991

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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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