Winner of the 1999 National Book Award for Non-Fiction
Synopses & Reviews
In 1946, at age twenty-two, Beate Sirota Gordon helped to draft the new postwar Japanese Constitution. The Only Woman in the Room
chronicles how a daughter of Russian Jews became the youngest woman to aid in the rushed, secret drafting of a constitution; how she almost single-handedly ensured that it would establish the rights of Japanese women; and how, as a fluent speaker of Japanese and the only woman in the room, she assisted the American negotiators as they worked to persuade the Japanese to accept the new charter.
Sirota was born in Vienna, but in 1929 her family moved to Japan so that her father, a noted pianist, could teach, and she grew up speaking German, English, and Japanese. Russian, French, Italian, Latin, and Hebrew followed, and at fifteen Sirota was sent to complete her education at Mills College in California. The formal declaration of World War II cut Gordon off from her parents, and she supported herself by working for a CBS listening post in San Francisco that would eventually become part of the FCC. Translating was one of Sirotaand#8217;s many talents, and when the war ended, she was sent to Japan as a language expert to help the American occupation forces. When General MacArthur suddenly created a team that included Sirota to draft the new Japanese Constitution, he gave them just eight days to accomplish the task. Colonel Roest said to Beate Sirota, and#147;Youand#8217;re a woman, why donand#8217;t you write the womenand#8217;s rights section?and#8221;; and she seized the opportunity to write into law guarantees of equality unparalleled in the US Constitution to this day.
But this was only one episode in an extraordinary life, and when Gordon died in December 2012, words of grief and praise poured from artists, humanitarians, and thinkers the world over. Illustrated with forty-seven photographs, The Only Woman in the Room captures two cultures at a critical moment in history and recounts, after a fifty-year silence, a life lived with purpose and courage. This edition contains a new afterword by Nicole A. Gordon and an elegy by Geoffrey Paul Gordon.
"Masterly....A penetrating analysis of Japan in the aftermath of defeat....A profound and moving book, the best history ever written of Japan and its relations to the United States after the Second World War." Akira Iriye, Harvard University, Boston Sunday Globe
Drawing on a vast range of Japanese sources and illustrated with dozens of astonishing documentary photographs, is the fullest and most important history of the more than six years of American occupation, which affected every level of Japanese society, often in ways neither side could anticipate. Dower, whom Stephen E. Ambrose has called "America's foremost historian of the Second World War in the Pacific," gives us the rich and turbulent interplay between West and East, the victor and the vanquished, in a way never before attempted, from top-level manipulations concerning the fate of Emperor Hirohito to the hopes and fears of men and women in every walk of life. Already regarded as the benchmark in its field, is a work of colossal scholarship and history of the very first order. John W. Dower is the Elting E. Morison Professor of History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for .
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the 1999 National Book Award for Nonfiction, finalist for the Lionel Gelber Prize and the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize, is John W. Dower's brilliant examination of Japan in the immediate, shattering aftermath of World War II.
About the Author
John W. Dover is the Elting E. Morison Professor of History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the author of the award-winning War Without Mercy, "the most important study of the Pacific War ever published." [The New Republic]
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Homecoming
Chapter 2. Vienna, My Birthplace
Chapter 3. The House in Nogizaka
Chapter 4. In Wartime America
Chapter 5. The Equal Rights Clause
Chapter 6. Career and Family
Chapter 7. East and West