Revisiting Pearl Harbor on December 7
Reviewed by Jody Passanisi
It is difficult to discern who exactly the intended audience is for My Pearl Harbor Scrapbook: A Nostalgic Collection of Memories written by Bess Taubman and Ernest Arroyo. The book, which contains text, primary source documents, pictures, and other realia, can be read and enjoyed by a multi-generational audience.
One thing is clear: the sheer wealth of information contained within is staggering. For some, it may almost be too staggering; the amount of visual and written information on each page is crowded like a real-life scrapbook, which this book is intended to mirror.
As a collection of primary source documents, it is truly a treasure trove. The primary sources are varied, too: there are newspaper headings and articles from the time period, pictures, memoranda, telegrams, and pictures of artifacts like compasses, medals, or airplane models.
On or next to many of those primary sources, words are circled in red, losses are underlined, and commentary is given– most of which is presented in an “old-timey” sepia tone. This might make it difficult for students to discern between the commentary of the “narrator” or “scrap-booker” and the primary sources themselves. This would likely only be an issue with younger students and could be addressed.
Some things, like telegrams and the original draft of Roosevelt’s “a date that will live in infamy” speech (it is date, not day) with cross-outs and revisions, are incredibly interesting (did you know that the infamous day was going to originally be “a date that will live in world history”?).
There is also a page of primary source posters all with the theme “Remember Pearl Harbor,” and more information and pictures about battleships and aircraft than you may ever have wanted. For any reader, at any level, this book can augment understanding about the events of December 7, 1941.
Appeals to readers who like complex design
This scrapbook seems to cover EVERYTHING about Pearl Harbor; each precious detail chosen and placed; one could read this book over and over and each time discover something new about it. Or conversely, if you are of a more simplistic design bent, reading this text may feel like swimming in details.
The “Nostalgic Collection of Memories” doesn’t have all the personal touches that one might expect from the scrapbook model. The end has some first-person quotations that bring more individual experience into the spread of facts and pictures. Additionally, Taubman seemed to make the choice to limit coverage of the Internment Camps, the addition of which might have added some more complexity to the narrative.
While the narrator of the scrapbook seems largely to be absent – there are no first person comments, musings, or connections made – the reader can infer that the attack on Pearl Harbor, in its infamy, is very important to Taubman and Arroyo. This scrapbook can bring the realia and primary sources of Pearl Harbor to a new generation of students, can deepen the understanding of an event learned already, or can even allow an elderly reader to relive an event already experienced.
Jody Passanisi is an eighth grade U.S. History teacher at an independent school in the Los Angeles area. She earned her teaching credential and an M.S. in education from Mount St. Mary’s College and an M.A. in religious studies from the Graduate Theological Union. She blogs for MiddleWeb at Future of History and tweets with Shara Peters @21centuryteachr.