Daniel James Brown’s masterly Facing the Mountain...gave me moments of chicken skin. With its gripping battle scenes and finely etched characters, I can’t remember the last time a book jolted my central nervous system in quite this way ... Mr. Brown’s nuanced and sympathetic telling of the story of the 442nd against the backdrop of the wider Japanese-American experience during wartime reveals a vitally important—and timely—episode of American history ... Mr. Brown vividly re-creates the pre-war worlds and lives of a few of the thousands of young men who would join the regiment after the bombing of Pearl Harbor ... With nuance and sensitivity, he describes the feudal nature of old Maui, which was organized around the sugar plantations and owned and operated by a few related families ... Facing the Mountain is a propulsive and gripping read, in part because of Mr. Brown’s ability to make us care deeply about the fates of these individual soldiers. A small quibble is a writing tic that grows wearisome after a few hundred pages—his repeated use of generic cliffhangers at the end of many chapters ... But...it’s a page-turner—a testament to Mr. Brown’s storytelling gifts.
Brown combines history with humanity in a tense, tender and well-researched study of the lives disrupted and disregarded by misperceptions and misinformation ... The four heroic men demonstrate that Facing the Mountain is 'not a story about victims,' as Brown writes. Rather, 'It’s a story of victors, of people striving, resisting, rising up, standing on principle, laying down their lives, enduring and prevailing.'
... excellent ... a fascinating account of some of the bravest Americans who ever lived, and a sobering reminder of a dark chapter in American history — years of anti-Asian racism that, as we're reminded daily, never really went away ... Brown proves to be an adept chronicler of every aspect of the Nisei experience in World War II. He provides ample (and heartbreaking) context around the times, painting a picture of an America choked with hatred, convinced of its own moral superiority while at the same time imprisoning its own citizens because of their heritage ... He tells the stories of the battles fought by the 442nd in vivid detail that never turns lurid or sensational, and relates not only the physical injuries sustained by the soldiers, but the psychological ones as well ... more than just the story of a group of young men whose valor helped save a country that spurned them, it's a fascinating, expertly written look at selfless heroes who emerged from one of the darkest periods of American history — soldiers the likes of which this country may never see again.
This is [Brown's] first stab at military history and for the most part he makes a decent fist of it. He concentrates on the experiences of four young Nisei: three who fought in the 442nd and one who refused to accept relocation. This allows him to personalise and juxtapose both sides of this extraordinary story: the appalling wartime treatment of Japanese-Americans; and the heroism in combat of thousands of young Nisei as they strove to prove they were as patriotic and selfless as their fellow countrymen. The dreadful conditions experienced by 110,000 Japanese-Americans in the hastily-built 'assembly centers' in Washington, Oregon, California and Arizona are graphically portrayed ... Brown has followed in the footsteps of his subjects and writes the combat scenes well, if a little breathlessly ... hyperbole is a shame because the story, plainly told, is compelling enough ... Yet overall, the author is to be congratulated for bringing to life the story of these 'forgotten heroes' of the Second World War, while their families suffered discrimination and humiliation in the US.
Brown tackles this important story with the same impressive narrative talent and research that made his 2013 book, The Boys in the Boat, an enduring bestseller ... The centerpieces of Facing the Mountain are the wrenching, on-the-ground descriptions of battles fought by the 442nd in Europe ... Many readers will feel ashamed of the bigotry these men and their families faced—but every reader will admire the resilience that allowed these soldiers to create communities within the internment camps and to play such a pivotal role in the defeat of the Nazis. Most are gone now, but their stories will live on in this empathetic tribute to their courage.
... deep and richly detailed ... comprehensive ... Brown does an excellent job of illuminating his subjects’ motivations, including their conceptions of family honor and bushido, the samurai code of ethics, as well as their actions and the consequences. The result is a compelling and impressively redefining work on an often over-simplified and always consequential subject.
Drawing from extensive firsthand accounts, Brown interweaves the stories of dozens of Japanese American soldiers with the experiences of their interned families back in the U.S., and tracks legal battles waged by Nisei who refused to sign loyalty oaths or register for the draft because they believed their civil rights had been violated. The result is an illuminating and spirited portrait of courage under fire.
... deft ... definitive ... Few readers will fail to squirm at events following Pearl Harbor ... Although this is familiar ground, the author delivers a superb description of the unit’s training and unparalleled battlefield achievements ... An insightful portrait of exceptional heroism amid deeply embedded racism.