TITLE INFORMATION–KIRKUS REVIEWS
The True Story of Tokyo Rose
Luminare Press (303 pp.)
A debut historical work focuses on the woman who was turned into World War II’s legendary Tokyo Rose.
The name Tokyo Rose conjures up images of a powerfully seductive Japanese woman demoralizing homesick American
soldiers through radio propaganda during the brutal years of World War II in the Pacific. How that label was affixed to
Iva Toguri, a Japanese American, is a tragic and complicated story recounted by Weedall in this book. Toguri may have
been guilty of naiveté and misplaced faith in the American judicial system, but she was primarily a victim of consistently
being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In July 1941, as a 25-year-old aspiring medical student, she dutifully obeyed
her parents and went to Japan to bring greetings and gifts from her prosperous family to her aunt’s poor one. Her stay
there was a disaster, and for several months, Toguri tried to return to the United States, but there were obstacles. When
the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, she could not return home and became an enemy alien. Abandoned by her relatives,
she refused to renounce her American citizenship. She was coerced into working for Radio Tokyo as one of the many
Japanese American women who introduced songs and read copy on frequent broadcasts. She tried covertly to sabotage
all propaganda efforts and was under constant pressure from her Japanese bosses. At the war’s end, she became a hapless
victim of intense anti-Japanese sentiment, spearheaded by the powerful tabloid columnist Walter Winchell, and, through
perjured testimony and FBI misconduct, was tried and convicted of treason in a biased court proceeding. Toguri served
time in prison and was paroled in 1956. She was finally granted a presidential pardon in 1977. The story is gripping, and
Weedall recounts Toguri’s years of isolation, prison, and particularly her Kafkaesque trial with excellent pacing and a
keen eye for drama. The prosecutor told the jury: “This is one of the most despicable cases of treason against our country
at a time of national emergency.” The singular focus on Toguri omits some historical context: The Hiroshima and
Nagasaki bombings are only mentioned in one sentence. Undated chapters often leave readers unclear of the precise
chronology. But while the mostly fictionalized dialogue is sometimes strained, the court proceedings and testimony are
well documented, providing rich and evocative details.
An armchair historian delivers a remarkably compelling story of justice denied
IVA – THE TRUE STORY OF TOKYO ROSE BY MIKE WEEDALL (BOOK REVIEW #755 of Review Tales)
Posted on October 12, 2020 by Jeyran Main
Iva is a historical novel written about Iva Toguri at a time where World War II was in action. It is 1941, and Iva really wishes to pursue medicine. For this, she has to go to Japan and see her sick aunt, and as the war begins while she is there, she is trapped and refused to give up her American citizenship. As life in Japan increasingly becomes unbearable for her, Iva is evicted by her family and forced to work at Radio Tokyo in an environment filled with propaganda and politics.
Racism, injustice, and discrimination dominate against Japanese-Americans, and Iva is mistakenly charged with treason and identified as Tokyo Rose at the end of the war, causing her to go on trial and fight for her life.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
The author thoroughly writes an unbiased notion of a story where your heart wanders deep into the discovery of such a world as injustice, extreme politics and war can literally demolish life and destroy the potential for anyone, especially for Iva.
The reader cannot simply look away and ignore the reality behind the story written. The literature and the skilful writing described the emotions of Iva very well. However, it did not stop there. It made you think further and compare life with what is now and how the world has or has not changed in 2020.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to read World War II stories and enjoy Asian American history.
Written by Jeyran Main
Iva: The True Story of Tokyo Rose by Mid-West Book Review
9781643882918, $14.95, PB, 308pp
Synopsis: The year is 1941 and Word War II is underway. Wishing only to pursue her dreams of attending medical school at UCLA, Iva Toguri reluctantly visits her sick aunt in Japan. The start of the war traps her there.
When she refuses to renounce her American citizenship, the Japanese government denies her a food ration card. Soon her mother’s family evicts her, and she struggles to survive. Forced to accept a job with Radio Tokyo, she refuses to participate in propaganda broadcasts despite unending pressure by Army management.
Relief comes with the war’s end, but the extreme politics back in the United States and continuing racial prejudice against Japanese-Americans makes Iva a target. Mistakenly identified as Tokyo Rose, she is charged with treason, leading to a trial that grips the nation.
Critique: “Iva: The True Story of Tokyo Rose” is a deftly crafted work of historical fiction in which author Mike Weedall has brought back to contemporary readers the wartime hardships of the 1940s and the kinds of racial justice issues back then that still resonate on the streets of America today. An inherently compelling read from beginning to end, “Iva: The True Story of Tokyo Rose” is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community and college/university library Historical Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that “Iva: The True Story of Tokyo Rose” is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).
For years, the last chapter of World War II was an unfinished portrait of one of its most notorious players. The name is familiar to anyone who participated in or remembers the war—Tokyo Rose. The image is too perfect to fade easily into history, a sultry Japanese voice that cut through the time zones and waters of the Pacific Ocean to speak intimately with a single sailor or homesick G.I. waiting to hear anything female on his radio. Few images could compete with her, not Tojo the military leader, not even the Emperor.
If you listen closely while you read this history changing account by Mike Weedall, you might hear the scratchy reception of a shortwave broadcast from more than 70 years ago and come to believe like me, that the woman who was convicted of treason as Tokyo Rose was in fact, innocent. And more than that, she was a patriot who fought to keep her American citizenship and work for the rest of her life to remove the shame that hung over her family from her conviction.
Fortunately, Mike Weedall can fill in the portrait of truth. It will be one of the most remarkable biographies you will ever read.
Bill Kurtis, National Public Radio
Mike Weedall’s masterful narration tells the ill-fated life story of an American citizen trapped and virtually enslaved in Japan, then maligned upon return to her homeland. While this woman’s public redemption does take place with a Presidential pardon a quarter-century later, her treatment in both Japan and the United States is a nightmare whose lessons have relevance today.
Steve Morgan, PhD
“Iva – The true story of Tokyo Rose” is an impressive and riveting tale about Iva Toguri, a fiercely loyal Japanese American citizen who gets trapped in Japan right before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the breakout of World War II. Being caught between the Japanese demands that she sides with their country against her American homeland, Iva quickly finds herself physically and emotionally isolated and under tremendous psychological pressure, a woman without a country. Through sheer courage and determination, Iva does everything in her power to covertly sabotage the Japanese demands that she aid their war effort. When the war is over, Iva unexpectedly becomes a victim of intense anti-Japanese sentiment at home as her government turns against her, accusing her of treason and imprisoning her for a crime she would never have even dreamed of committing. Mike Weedall’s well-written saga about the mental and physical struggles of this brave, independent and free-thinking woman is an engaging story that takes the reader back to and through this dark time in our country’s history. It is a powerful, psychological study of one woman’s enduring strength in the face of years of intense physical and emotional hardship.
Dr. Alan Goldberg Ed.D
Michael Weedall’s “Iva: The True Story of Tokyo Rose” presents a compelling narrative about the lifetime travails of Iva Toguri, a Japanese American falsely accused of being the mythic “Tokyo Rose,” purveyor of World War II propaganda radio broadcasts to demoralize Allied troops. In fact, Toguri is a very young woman in the wrong place at the wrong time. Despite her demonstrated loyalty to her native-born country, she falls victim to nationalistic forces in the American government and news media. Her story is a sad one. Weedall’s well-drawn characters and finely detailed historical account brings life to Iva, her family, and a wide range of other players in this real-life drama spanning decades. It provides great insight into the life of an expatriate American held against her will in wartime Japan during the world’s most difficult times. To complicate matters, her own family is sent to a U.S. internment camp, an American government policy now considered to be one of the country’s most shameless violations of American civil liberties. Toguri’s exoneration took far took long to occur. Iva’s engaging and inspiring story is about true personal heroism and perseverance in the face of evil on both sides of the Pacific war. Weedall’s account is not only a testament to the courageous life of Iva Toguri but represents a necessary addendum to the history books and the injustices done to Japanese Americans during this dark period of American history.
Bruce H. Kirschner, Ph.D.
HIS DEBUT NOVEL AT AGE 70 BRINGS TOKYO ROSE TO LIFE
Ian Thomsen December 8, 2020
The idea followed him throughout his global travels and the seismic changes in his career. Mike Weedall was a tennis professional who became an energy executive, but he had always maintained a love for history, dating back to his years at Northeastern.
What he really wanted, someday, was to become a writer.
At age 70, Weedall has published his debut novel. Iva: The True Story of Tokyo Rose is a fictional take on the real-life events surrounding Iva Toguri, a 25-year-old American trapped in Japan during World War II who was forced to make pro-Japanese broadcasts for Radio Tokyo, though she steadfastly refused to make anti-American claims over the air. But when she returned home to the U.S. after the war, Toguri, the daughter of Japanese immigrants, was misidentified as a radio propagandist called Tokyo Rose. Toguri was charged with treason in a newsmaking trial steeped in racial prejudice and political jingoism.
“The story is gripping, and Weedall recounts Toguri’s years of isolation, prison, and particularly her Kafkaesque trial with excellent pacing and a keen eye for drama,” wrote Kirkus in its book review. “An armchair historian delivers a remarkably compelling story of justice denied.”
Weedall’s transformation from writing for business to writing fiction wasn’t easy.
“It’s a totally different style of writing to put together a readable historical novel,” says Weedall, who lives in Portland, Oregon. “When you write a technical paper, you’ve got to tell somebody four different times what you want them to know. For this book, I had to figure out how to tell stories—why somebody in Japan decides to do the things she did and the factors that were around her.”
Weedall’s original plan was to turn his 1972 history degree from Northeastern into a career of teaching history. That dream was sidetracked by his interest in tennis. He became the head professional at a tennis club in Tucson, Arizona, and competed on the minor-league circuit until a shoulder injury forced him onto Plan B. After he earned a master’s in environmental administration at the University of Arizona, Weedall became a proponent of environmental programs for Bonneville Power Administration and other utilities over a span of three decades.
Though Weedall retired in 2012, he kept working as a consultant for another four years.
“The one that really burned me out was spending a month in the Kingdom of Jordan writing an energy plan,” Weedall says. “I said, ‘I never want to go to another airport again in my life.’ I came home, played tennis, and then started to think about writing a book.”
Weedall invested three years in drafting a historical novel about nurses who served in the Korean War. Eventually, he set that project aside.
“It was so lousy. I had to put it on the shelf,” Weedall says. He struggled with “the simple stuff, like learning how to write dialogue, how to create emotional peaks and valleys. Then I stumbled across the story of Iva Toguri.”
Weedall immersed himself in the numerous books, historical documents, and academic papers that had been compiled on the myth that Toguri had been Tokyo Rose. Though Toguri found herself repeatedly in the wrong place at the wrong time, she also made a series of regrettable decisions that contributed to her traumatic conviction on a count of treason, resulting in six years of imprisonment. She emerged from her notorious public life with hard-earned wisdom and vindication in the form of a pardon in 1977 from U.S. President Gerald Ford.
“The number one thing was to try and get inside her head,” Weedall says. “The world is made up of people making decisions, good and bad, and we all evolve. The most interesting thing was to study how she did evolve and mature as a person.”
Satisfied with his first effort, Weedall has returned to his original focus—the novel of the Korean War nurses. The writer keeps writing.