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 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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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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