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Embracing Defeat | [John W. Dower]

Embracing Defeat

This illuminating study 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. The author 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.
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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.

What the Critics Say

  • 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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.7 (152 )
5 star
 (44)
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2 star
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1 star
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Overall
3.9 (72 )
5 star
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Story
3.7 (69 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Scott Scarborough, ON, Canada 05-14-15
    Scott Scarborough, ON, Canada 05-14-15 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting but not enthralling"
    Any additional comments?

    This scholarly book reviews the transition of post WWII Japanese society following their surrender and the first five or so years of occupation by American armed forces. This is less a blow by blow account of events than an analysis of the impact on Japanese culture, society and institutions. In this, it reads more like a textbook than a linear narrative. Still, I give the author credit for doing his research and there seem to be few stones left unturned. He delves into areas such as art, music and literature, for example, that more conventional pieces would probably ignore. Overall, it is an insightful critique of what the occupying forces did right and wrong, as well as the competing forces at play in Japanese society that helped transform the defeated nation. Overall, I enjoyed it but wouldn’t exactly call it enthralling. Still, as a reader, I found myself drifting to the post-war occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and wondering what lessons had been applied and perhaps more importantly ignored.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Daniel North Potomac, MD, United States 03-29-15
    Daniel North Potomac, MD, United States 03-29-15 Member Since 2009
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    "Lots of info but stilted reading"

    The book has a lot of excellent information on the occupation. The reading was a bit difficult to follow however.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carroll Alexandria, VA, United States 11-03-14
    Carroll Alexandria, VA, United States 11-03-14 Member Since 2011
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    "A unique view of Japan's reaction"

    A very unusual saga of the days, months & years of Japan's change from losing the world war to establish their empire.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Noah New York, New York 08-06-13
    Noah New York, New York 08-06-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Reader cannot pronounce Japanese names!!"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    Find a reader who can pronounce Japanese names!!


    Would you recommend Embracing Defeat to your friends? Why or why not?

    Yes...in paper form!


    What didn’t you like about Edward Lewis’s performance?

    HE CANNOT PRONOUNCE JAPANESE NAMES. It's just painful to listen to. It's like someone reading Lolita and pronouncing her name "LAHL-it-uh".


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rodney Florida 01-23-12
    Rodney Florida 01-23-12 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting history that is unknown to most"

    This book is interesting is that it covers a part of history unknown to most in the West. How exactly did Japan and the US go from being battle to the death enemies to allies in such a short period of time after the war? How was Japan able to rebuild itself into an economic world superpower so quickly after facing nearly completely destruction?

    This book provides an insight into the period of American occupation in Japan that I had not heard before. The author does a good job I believe of mostly staying neutral but there are certainly times when it slants towards the Japanese perspective -- however that is from the point of view of now when we know the outcome of the occupation. Overall if there is a bias it wasn't strong enough to really bother me.

    The book gives a great feel for how live was in the days / months / years after the war, how people lived, etc -- and from that standpoint it's very interesting. On the downside it sometimes get lost or seems to loose the big picture. The book seems to be more in sections of life or events as opposed to being more along a timeline. This can cause at times issues to overlap or for the author to giver conflicting points of view on the same event -- for example saying censorship pretty much cut off all voices of decent while later spending a chapter talking about something that happened because it was published and wasn't censored. This isn't a huge issue and maybe it was done on purpose -- not really sure.

    Anyways if you have even the remotest interest in this period of time this book is a very good read. I only knock off a star overall because I think the book needed more structure to carry you through the event as they happened.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. Stambler LOS ANGELES 01-19-11
    S. Stambler LOS ANGELES 01-19-11 Member Since 2013

    A professor at Dodge College, I teach Film Music. I spent 33 years in the movie business before teaching. I LOVE books and my girls. Ta-Da!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Drier than a text book buried in 30 years of dust"

    I know. It won the pulitzer or was nominated. I have a feeling this would read much better than audio format as I'd like to take Edward Lewis to bed every night to help me fall asleep. I bought this based on some glowing reviews. I haven't finished, but will try to do so... I just wanted to warn the potential buyer that their credit might be better spent. Perhaps this review is unfair, but I can't get past the sleepy narration. The subject fascinates me. I wanted to love this book.

    3 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William Seaford, NY, United States 12-13-11
    William Seaford, NY, United States 12-13-11 Member Since 2013
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    "A long, scholarly work"

    When I purchased this book I was expecting to read a rather light tale of how the US and its deadly enemy Japan had come to know and like each other over the long US occupation. I thought that I would read how the US had generously provided food to the decimated country while working with the Japanese to rebuild it. Soldiers handing out candy to children, the Japanese falling in love with the baseball that we introduced there.

    Well, I was 100% wrong. This is a long, dry, scholarly work that doesn't show that the US was so generous to Japan. Chapters devoted to the formation of brothels by the Japanese to serve the Americans when they arrived, wide starvation in the country through the first three or so years of occupation, the flourishing of the black market where all the necessities of living could be found at five to ten times what they were worth, the writing of the new constituion....

    Only get this book if you are a scholar interested in this slice of history. Entertaining it is not.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bill Cook 04-30-08
    Bill Cook 04-30-08 Listener Since 2007
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    "barren"

    Way too much like a Japanese language lesson rather than a story

    0 of 8 people found this review helpful

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