Posts Tagged ‘WWII’

When the Emperor Was Divine – Book Review

June 11, 2008

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Oksuta

This was my second time reading “When the Emperor Was Divine,” and I found it just as moving as my first time.

“When the Emperor Was Divine” is the haunting story of a Japanese-American family from Berkeley during World War II. The father is taken from their house shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor for a loyalty hearing. He is then kept in an internment camp in the desert. Not long after, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 and the rest of the family must pack up their house and let themselves be taken to another camp in the desert.

This story is told from five different points of view, although there are only four characters. The first three points of view are all third person limited omniscient, focusing first on the mother, then the daughter, and finally the son. This spans from the time the “Instructions to all persons of Japanese ancestry” are posted through the end of their time in the camps. Once the war is over, we see first person narration from the son, followed by almost first person stream of consciousness from the father.

The switch in narration is beautifully done to reflect the shock and dehumanization felt by the family. The book holds you at just the right distance to witness of the confusion and disbelief experienced by the people taken from their homes, called disloyal, and relocated to camps in the American desert. The father’s narration shocks and shames and contains more feeling than the rest of book put together.

I think this is an extremely well-done book on an important topic, and I highly recommend it.

Buy this book on Amazon

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U.S. History Early Reviewer Morning: The Civil War, FDR

April 21, 2008

My April ER book arrived this morning (actually, our wonderful mailman Irving left it in our mail slot on Saturday, but I got it today).  The book is called “Two Brothers: One North, One South” and is historical fiction about the Civil War, the story is narrated by Walt Whitman by David H. Jones.  It is not actually an ARC, but is a very pretty hardback book that arrived in wonderful condition, personally autographed by the author, with two lovely book marks inside (both with information about the book).  I will have to decide what sort of historical fiction I’m in the mood for next: this, or a story of Juana la Loca.

Funnily enough, this same morning that I received my April U.S. historical fiction ER book, I saw a story in the New York Times about my March bonus batch U.S. history ER book.  This article discusses Joseph Persico’s new book Franklin and Lucy, the research therein, and the Roosevelt’s parallels to the Clintons.  Read my review of the book here.

Franklin and Lucy – Book Review

April 8, 2008

Franklin and Lucy coverLT ER birdJoseph Perico’s latest book is called Franklin and Lucy: “President Roosevelt, Mrs. Rutherford, and the Other Remarkable Women in His Life.” This is an incredibly readable and engaging history of President Roosevelt as seen through the lens of his relationships with women. Unsurprisingly, the book deals primarily Eleanor and Lucy Rutherford.

Overall I thought this book to be fantastic, it read very easily for the most part and had some interesting new research. It is a book I would absolutely recommend to anyone interested in the history of any of these people. Much of the first half of the book was devoted to Eleanor and it was perhaps her psyche that was most deeply explored of any.

The most difficult thing for me in reading this book was finding its true sense of purpose. I was not sure if it was meant to be simply a history of FDR told through his relationships with the variety of women in his life, or if it was supposed to be more about the women and their relationships with FDR, and how those relationships influenced his presidency. My frustration was that I believed the goal to be the latter and, while it was present, the former dominated. I finally achieved peace with this in the last chapter of the book, entitled “A Judgement” which was really Perico’s summation of his work. In this I learned that the purpose of the book tended more towards a different lens through which to write an FDR biography, which just happened to include the psychological effects on Franklin that these relationships had. That being the case, these peeks into FDR’s development were merely a welcome treat. It would not hurt, however, for future editions to have more of a thesis statement in the introduction than is currently there.

The other thing that bothered me while reading the book was a lack of mention of Japanese internment during the war. However, this omission is easily explained if this was not something Roosevelt particularly discussed with the women in his life so, while it bothers me, I do not think it necessarily a failing of the book.

Viewing history through relationships often makes it much more accessible for the casual studier. No matter your degree of knowledge of and familiarity with FDR and his presidency, this book is worth reading.

Buy this book on Amazon: Franklin and Lucy: President Roosevelt, Mrs. Rutherfurd, and the Other Remarkable Women in His Life

The Zookeeper’s Wife – Book Review

March 31, 2008

Zookeeper's Wife coverTwo of my coworkers are reading Diane Ackerman’s The Zookeeper’s Wife for their book club this week and they asked me if I had seen or read it before.  Since I had not, I looked it up and was fairly intrigued.  One of the ladies who was to read it for book club received her copy from the library earlier than she expected she would and let me take it for the weekend, as she was busy reading Three Cups of Tea.

The Zookeeper’s Wife takes place in Warsaw, Poland immediately before and during WWII.  This true story is told from the point of view of, if you could not guess, the wife of the keeper of the Warsaw zoo.  Her husband, Jan, is very involved in the Polish Underground, the resistance against the Nazis, and they hide Jews in their villa at the zoo to smuggle them out of the ghetto and to freedom.  People are hidden in rooms and closets in their house, as well as in some of the deserted animal cages (many animals were taken or killed by the Nazis, and some escaped when cages were damaged in bombings).

The narrative flow of this book strongly reminded me of Devil in the White City: Ackerman jutted off into quite a few side-stories about people, culture, and events surrounding the story just as Larson did.  However, while Larson’s occasionally diverted me from the actual story and had a tendency to get a bit dry, Ackerman used this technique more to explain some of the back story of what was going on in order to enrich the main story.

I felt that this book gave a very full picture of what was happening in and around Warsaw during the Nazi invasion and really helped the reader connect to the events by telling the story through a colorful and heroic family.

Buy this book on Amazon: The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story