Double Victory: A Multicultural History of America in World War II

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9780316831567: Double Victory: A Multicultural History of America in World War II

From a Navajo code talker to a Tuskegee pilot, Takaki examines the many contributions and sacrifices of America's minorities--blacks, Chinese, Native Americans and others--during World War II. Photos.

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Review:

America's entry into World War II made comrades-in-arms of men and women from every region and every walk of life, united in the battle for freedom and against fascism. It is no small irony, historian Ronald Takaki observes, that the armed struggle for democracy abroad "was accompanied by a disregard for our nation's declaration that 'all men are created equal'" in the form of institutional racism of many kinds, from the segregation of African American units to the imprisonment of Japanese Americans and the refusal to grant asylum to Jewish refugees.

In Double Victory, Takaki examines the many contributions of America's minorities to the war effort, celebrating the work of Mexican farm laborers and Anglo women welders, of Navajo code talkers and Filipino foot soldiers, who proclaimed themselves to be "men, not houseboys," of Chinese American combat nurses and Asian Indian gunners. These men and women, Takaki writes, made extraordinary sacrifices in their battle against enemies without and enemies within. Although their efforts were not always appreciated at the time, they helped set in motion the struggle for civil rights that would explode two decades later. Takaki's book is a welcome and much needed entry in the recent literature on the World War II era, and it merits the widest possible audience. --Gregory McNamee

About the Author:

My grandfather emigrated from Japan to work on the cane fields of Hawaii in 1886, and my mother was born on the Hawi Plantation. As a teenager growing up on Oahu, I was not academically inclined but was actually a surfer. During my senior year, I took a religion course taught by Dr. Shunji Nishi, a Japanese American with a Ph.D. I remember going home and asking my mother, who only had an eighth-grade education: "Mom, what's a Ph.D.?" She answered: "I don't know but he must be very smart." Dr. Nishi became a role model for me, and he arranged for me to attend the College of Wooster. There my fellow white students asked me questions like: "How long have you been in this county? Where did you learn to speak English?" They did not see me as a fellow American. I did not look white or European in ancestry. As a scholar, I have been seeking to write a more inclusive and hence more accurate history of Americans, Chicanos, Native Americans as well as certain European immigrant groups like the Irish and Jews. My scholarship seeks not to separate our diverse groups but to show how our experiences were different but they were not disparate. Multicultural history, as I write and present it, leads not to what Schlesinger calls the "disuniting of America" but rather to the re-uniting of America.

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