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A Tragedy of Democracy: Japanese Confinement in North America First Edition Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0231129220
ISBN-10: 023112922X
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Editorial Reviews

Review

tour de force

(Nichi Bei Times)

Robinson deftly merges the Pacific Rim experience into one coherent magnum opus.

(Wayne Maeda Nichi Bei Times)

A superb history about one of the more shameful chapters in U.S. history.

(Jeff Kingston The Japan Times)

A superb history about one of the more shameful chapters in U.S. history.

(Jonathan Mirsky Times Literary Supplement)

[A] memorable... revealing book.

(Jonathan Mirsky Times Literary Supplement)

Robinson has clearly mastered his subject, and this book provides a clear, comprehensive account, including facts both well known and obscure.... Highly recommended.

(Choice Magazine)

Robinson has clearly mastered his subject, and this book provides a clear, comprehensive account, including facts both well known and obscure.... Highly recommended.

(Choice)

A Tragedy of Democracy serves as a timely reminder of how badly things can get out of control in times of war.

(Rachel Pistol Reviews in History)

In examining the mistreatment of ethnic Japanese Americans and Canadians as a tragedy of democracy, Greg Robinson has produced a triumph of narrative synthesis, one that will stand as the definitive work of its generation.

(Daryl J. Maeda Journal of American Ethnic History)

A Tragedy of Democracy is a remarkably well-written, extensively researched, and innovatively reasoned history of internment… One wishes that this important book would appear on the shelves of every Justice Department and military lawyer.

(Canadian Journal of History)

Review

A magnificent tour de force. This book will achieve the status not only of the best extant study on the topic, but also the one most widely adopted in college classrooms and purchased by the general public.

(Arthur Hansen, director of the Japanese American Evacuation History Project)

This book is outstanding. While the experience of Japanese Americans during World War II is the subject of more publications than any other aspect of Asian American history, this volume is likely to become established, quickly and rightly so, as the definitive account. Other scholars have done excellent work, but Greg Robinson's study is original and comprehensive. He uses archival materials that have never been analyzed before and the scope of his work extends beyond the United States to Canada and Latin America and covers everything from the earliest migrants to arrive from Japan to the successful redress movement. Even readers who are experts will benefit from consulting this book. It is excellent.

(Frank Wu, author of Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; First Edition edition (June 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 023112922X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231129220
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,204,384 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Greg Robinson's latest book, A Tragedy of Democracy, is worthy of being the definitive work on Japanese American/Canadian wartime experience. As a Japanese American who spent World War II in an internment camp, I have over the past fifty years read nearly every book that has been written on the subject and I wondered what could be added to the mountain of information already available.

Robinson's work on the Japanese Canadian experience was almost totally new to me. I had read Joy Kogawa's novel, Obasan, and summary accounts of what Canadian Japanese endured during the war, but I was stunned to learn in detail the depth of the animosity and vindictiveness of the Canadian government and the harsh treatment it meted out to the hapless Japanese. It made me think that compared to our Canadian kin, we Japanese Americans had it easy. Much of what he wrote of the Latin American situation was also new for me.

But I call it a definitive work not simply because it deals with all of North America and much of the Latin American experience. This is the first book that gives coherence to a widely diversified, multi-faceted story. Until now, if someone was seriously interested in the Japanese American wartime experience, I would have recommended several books, some focusing on history, others on politics, law, sociology, psychology and so on. I think I can now say, "Read Greg Robinson's book." Beyond finding an impressive amount of original material, he took full advantage of all that has been written on the subject; he looked down from the mountaintop, so to speak, and provided a broad perspective that has been lacking.
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Format: Hardcover
Greg Robinson takes great pains to justify his decision to add his own entry to the long list of books and documentaries that have addressed the removal and confinement of West Coast Japanese Americans during World War II. He does this out of academic modesty, and the reasons he gives for revisiting a well-trodden path are perfectly valid. But he didn't need to justify himself. A Tragedy of Democracy stands out by itself as an exceptional piece of scholarship. It is a book attuned to our times and circumstances, and it will likely remain the reference on the issue for at least the decade to come.

This being said, I don't want to imply that this is the last possible book on the issue and that it closes the topic from any future enquiry. Another book is possible, always. Just as the author felt compelled to revisit the narrative of Japanese Americans' wartime confinement, other scholars may offer different perspectives on the same issue, or they may use Greg Robinson's research results as a material for their own constructions.

To begin with, the historiography of A Tragedy of Democracy is very American, with its insistence on legal cases and its final plea for constitutional guarantees of democracy. A similar endeavor by a French historian, to take a hypothetical example, would have focussed more on the subjectivity of camp inmates, and would have been more experimental in its writing. The comparison between the United States and Canada's treatment of their West Coast Japanese communities, which forms the hallmark of the book and defines its original contribution, could be extended to the harassment of other minority communities during World War II and to other periods. These would make different books, with different histories to tell.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent book. Such a sorry time in our history that never should have happened.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great book. Arrived as advertiased.
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A number of academically-oriented books on the internment have emerged recently, opening up the subject as far more complex than the view presented in earlier memoirs. I would put this book as among the very best, along with Alice Yang Murry's "Historical Memories of the Japanese AMerican Internment and the Struggle for Redress," for their detailed and sober examinations of the various dynamics of the civil rights and human saga of Japanese Americans in the twentieth century. These are issues that not only continue to reverberate for an ethnic community, but for the American purpose. For the serious reader, this is an important book. For the academic reader it is indispensable.
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