Published: New York, 1999 (paperback: 2000)
More than a decade after it was hailed as an instant classic upon publication, John W. Dower’s Embracing Defeat remains an enduring masterpiece. There are countless reasons for this, but perhaps the most immediately striking is that the book is as succinct as it is exhaustive. An analysis of a devastated Japan in the aftermath of World War II, the book gives a rich and nuanced account of both victor and vanquished in under 700 pages.
Utilizing an enormous array of Japanese sources, Dower illuminates the effects of the six-year American occupation from all levels of Japanese society. He pays particular attention to the political and social upheaval experienced by Japan during what he calls “an overwhelmingly humiliating epoch when genuinely free choice was repressed and alien models were imposed.”
Dower, the Ford International Professor of History at MIT, is a pioneer of image-driven scholarship and a founder and co-director of the Visualizing Cultures project, established in 2002. Not surprisingly, the book is filled with astonishing documentary photos and contemporaneous graphic art.
Embracing Defeat won numerous prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize in Letters for General Nonfiction, and the National Book Award in Nonfiction. The hardcover version was first published in 1999, and the paperback, shown here, followed in 2000.