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Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize, General Nonfiction, 2000
National Book Award, Nonfiction, 1999
In this illuminating study, Dower explores the ways in which the shattering defeat of the Japanese in World War II, followed by over six years of American military occupation, affected every level of Japanese society. He describes the countless ways in which the Japanese met the challenge of "starting over", from top-level manipulations concerning the fate of Emperor Hirohito to the hopes, fears, and activities of ordinary men and women in every walk of life. He shows us the intense and turbulent interplay of conqueror and conquered, West and East, in a way no Western historian has done before. This is a fascinating portrait of an extraordinary moment in history, when new values warred with the old, and early ideals of demilitarization and radical reform were soon challenged by the United States' decision to incorporate Japan into the Cold War Pax Americana.
©1999 John W. Dower (P)1999 Blackstone Audio Inc.
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Critic Reviews



Winner of the 1999 National Book Award for Non-Fiction
"A magisterial and beautifully written book....A pleasure to read." (New York Times)
"An extraordinarily illuminating book....Surely the most significant work to date on the postwar era in Japan." (Wall Street Journal)
"The writing of history doesn't get much better than this....[Dower] deftly situates the political story within a rich cultural context....The book is most remarkable, however, for the way Dower judiciously explores the complex moral and political issues....Dazzling." (Publishers Weekly)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By KF on 10-09-07

Pulitzer Prize Winner!

Hey, why doesn't the description of this book even mention that it won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000? This is a great history that dives into all aspects of Japan under the occupation. It goes way beyond the usual touchpoints of MacArthur, the Emperor and the Constitution to look at things like what (and how little) people ate, the black market, popular magazines, intellectual life, and the sudden reversal in American racist attitudes toward the Japanese when the war ended and democratization, rather than extermination, became the goal. I'd give it a five-star review except that the narrator simply cannot pronounce the Japanese terms properly, or even recognizably in a lot of cases, and there are a lot of Japanese terms in the book. So minus one star for the narrator.


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19 of 19 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Roy on 05-06-09

Life in Defeat

John Dower in "Embracing Defeat" tells the story of the occupation of Japan following the war and how the Japanese life was changed. I came to this book as one who wanted to be informed and frankly expected a dry history. I was disappointed. This is a wonderful, englightening, and engaging story.

Dower has done the listener a real service by sheding light on the behavior of American forces and the Japanese alike. The transition made by every strata of Japanese society is here in chronological order. He takes the hands of readers and walks them through daily life during that period. He does not white wash the American side nor the Japanese response.

Dower's description of the stark poverty and starvation among the Japanese is eye opening. As the society was opened, he shares how individuals grew and took advantage of conditions and changes offered them. I was facinated by the ambivalence of the Japanese to their new way of life and how they adapted. Audible listeners will be as well.

Well written and Dower thanks various individuals who helped with the editing in the forward. The reading is fine, but could be a little more animated. The text is peppered with Japanese language followed by English translation. I found that an informative approach.

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11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
2 out of 5 stars
By MR on 07-09-15

Narrator spoils interesting history

Narrator sounds like a robot. His pitch and tone is all over the place. Really struggling to finish.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Nicolas Karonis on 09-22-17

excellent !

Perfect coverage of the most important period in Japanese history. Excellent balance between hard facts and interesting anecdotes

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By Attila on 06-20-18

The Narration.. I could return this...

I remember this was a must read for those at my university who studied Japanese or Japanese history.
The author does a good run of really delving deep into a less written about time in Japanese history. However after reading this one fully understands modern Japanese culture today and how it was shaped from the SCAP years of post WW2 occupation.
Shows how the Japanese were not allowed to come to terms with their role in the war and their processing of war guilt was interrupted or hindered by the American forces, which is a legacy they are forced to live with today.
The only problem is the narration is EXTREMLY BAD!! Really easily the worse I have ever heard. Its almost like a computer program read it.
Please update this with another narrator worthy of this scholarly work.

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