The Only Woman in the Room: A Memoir of Japan, Human Rights, and the Arts

University of Chicago Press
2
Free sample

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 Sirota’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, “You’re a woman, why don’t you write the women’s rights section?”; 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.
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About the author

Beate Sirota Gordon (1923-2012) was an Austrian-born American performing arts impresario. Following her work on the Japanese Constitution, Gordon devoted her life to bringing the arts of Asia to the United States. She would receive many honorary degrees and awards, including an Obie, an American Dance Guild Award, and the Order of the Sacred Treasure from the Japanese government.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Apr 11, 2014
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Pages
176
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ISBN
9780226132655
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / General
Biography & Autobiography / Historical
Biography & Autobiography / Women
History / Asia / Japan
History / Military / World War II
Social Science / Women's Studies
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Content Protection
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Eligible for Family Library

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A salutary correction to the many caricatures of the kamikaze, this poignant work will be essential to anyone interested in the history of Japan and World War II.
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Marianna Torgovnick argues that we have lived, since the end of World War II, under the power of a war complex—a set of repressed ideas and impulses that stems from our unresolved attitudes toward the technological acceleration of mass death. This complex has led to gaps and hesitations in public discourse about atrocities committed during the war itself. And it remains an enduring wartime consciousness, one most recently animated on September 11.

Showing how different events from World War II became prominent in American cultural memory while others went forgotten or remain hidden in plain sight, The War Complex moves deftly from war films and historical works to television specials and popular magazines to define the image and influence of World War II in our time. Torgovnick also explores the 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann, the emotional legacy of the Holocaust, and the treatment of World War II's missing history by writers such as W. G. Sebald to reveal the unease we feel at our dependence on those who hold the power of total war. Thinking anew, then, about how we account for war to each other and ourselves, Torgovnick ultimately, and movingly, shows how these anxieties and fears have prepared us to think about September 11 and our current war in Iraq.
The classic samurai novel about the real exploits of the most famous swordsman.

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The novel was made into a three-part movie by Director Hiroshi Inagai. For more information, visit the Shopping area
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