Sunday, February 21, 2021

Publisher Gift (via NetGalley) | Prisoners of War: What Monuments to World War II Tell Us about Our History and Ourselves


I received a free digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. (In this case, the publisher contacted me by email, and directed me to NetGalley if I was interested.)

Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The importance of this book cannot be overstated. it is a timely look at our relationship with statues dedicated to history. One only has to look at the arguments made against removing confederate statues from public spaces to see the relevance. (Side note: pull all that bullshit down and stick it in a museum, with context, where it belongs. There are no heroes of the confederacy and not a single one of those men should be honored for their actions. They fought to keep slaves and no amount of supposed 'good' they ever did can make up for that fact. Fuck THAT bullshit narrative.)


Addressing this issue of accepting statues at face-value of being accurate representations of a moment in time in our history of war is done quite well within these pages. The author not only looks at how these monuments are written about, talked about, and viewed in the US, but looks at various monuments to the very same war and how they are viewed in countries around the world. In total he discusses 25 different monuments, from the US, to Italy, to Jerusalem, China, and many in between.

The photographs are stunning and for once I was glad to have received the file for my laptop only instead of my Kindle. Even though I hate sitting at my laptop to read, the photos alone were nearly enough to make it worth it. This truly is a book to have a physical copy of to peruse at your leisure. I don't feel it is a book meant to be read quickly or in just a couple of sittings. It will definitely give anyone pause who has visited these sites, and perhaps grapple with how one originally interpreted the monument, compared to its original and intended purpose.

One of the biggest take-aways from this book is the vast difference in how World War II is memorialized. Here in the US, our statues are to honor the heroes and our triumph over true and despicable evil. Yet around the world, monuments are most often dedicated to the victims - such as Italy's Shrine to the Fallen or The A Bomb Dome in Hiroshima. I think this again confirms the fact that the US often equates winning and patriotism - though it must also be remembered that aside from Pearl Harbor, World War II was not fought here. The monuments to the victims and the fallen are most often literally on the site of the atrocities they represent.

Lowe provides much context for the various events being commemorated by each statue. The research is thorough and he writes in an engaging way. He certainly gives the reader a lot to think about - both regarding those he is writing about, and the specific issue in the US regarding confederate monuments still standing.

When we come upon these monuments, either because we've specifically taken a trip to see them or we stumble upon them by accident, we must not stop asking ourselves to look beyond the scenery as it being another pretty picture for photo ops. We have to consider the original intended purpose of the statue, what aspect of history is being told, and whether or not it is actually accurate in its depiction.

Highly recommended.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you! It is not something I thought about until reading this book; the author brought up so many great points. I also think it applies perfectly to tourist type places like southern plantations. People go stay at these cozy B&Bs that were once massive plantations where dozens, if not hundreds, of human beings were kept as slaves. A lot of places still have remnants of slave quarters, or have reconstructed them. What are we honoring by visiting these places without the proper context?

  2. I never thought of that but that does make sense, monuments are most often dedicated to the victims around the world from this time.

    1. Exactly! I think about a place like Auschwitz. it stands as a terrible reminder of the depths of human cruelty. It is a place now repurposed to educate future generations and honor those who died. But confederate statues here? Why are people so hell-bent on honoring traitors who rebelled against their own government for the right to own other people?

    2. Probably because, even after all this time, they don't think of them as rebels or that any present government in DC is 'their' government. Essentially they still haven't gotten over or are still fighting (in their heads at least) the Civil War. To a significant number of people - it seems - they're not traitors but they are (still) heroes. How you change that, especially in today's atmosphere....? I don't know.

      BTW - LOVED your "Fuck THAT bullshit narrative". I laughed - a LOT.

    3. It's just gross. I have had people say to me STILL that the Civil War was fought over states' right. I agree, it WAS fought over states' rights...STATES' RIGHTS TO OWN PEOPLE. It is literally listed in secession documents that slavery was the reason for seceding. It's so alarming that people think history is being erased by removing them, which is such a bullshit argument. No, in fact they are better served in museums and such to be placed in their proper context and it can be explained why that statue was erected at that time. I am so over this confederate bullshit. Fuckers lost the war over 150 years ago and they're STILL waving their loser banner about it. Idiots.


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