Friday, January 3, 2020

Review of "A Boy At War: A Novel of Pearl Harbor," by Harry Mazer

Review of

A Boy At War: A Novel of Pearl Harbor, by Harry Mazer ISBN 0689841612

Five out of five stars

 Adam is the son of a lifer in the American Navy and as a consequence he has attended many schools. His father’s most recent deployment was to Pearl Harbor and it is early in the month of December 1941. His father is often at sea, but his household is always run as if it was a ship and the father is the commander. There are many comments about always acting so that the navy would be proud of you. At this time the father is stationed on the battleship Arizona. 

 Since he is in a new school, Adam is in the process of making new friends, in this case it is a bit difficult as most of the boys his age are not white. They also use slang expressions where Adam has no idea what they mean. The other boys also often engage in insult contests, an alien environment for the son of a man that runs a tight ship.

When Adam starts making friends with a Japanese boy, his father objects, even though they employ a Japanese governess. His father basically says that it is all right to hire them as help, but you do not fraternize with them.

 The Japanese attack Pearl Harbor and Adam and the two boys with him narrowly avoid being killed, one of the boys is seriously wounded and Adam is grazed by a bullet. During the battle, a soldier organizes Adam and some other boys/men into a unit that is issued rifles and shoots back. Once the planes are gone, he assists in doing what they can to help the injured.   

 This is a story of having to grow up very quickly when circumstance get very nasty very quickly. It also points out the bias against the Japanese before the attack and how quickly it got much worse, even though there was no evidence that the Japanese on the Hawaiian islands ever did anything to aid the attack. That is a historical fact that should receive more emphasis in the education of young people. This is even more significant given the growing anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States.

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