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African Samurai: The True Story of a Legendary Black Warrior in Feudal Japan
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African Samurai: The True Story of a Legendary Black Warrior in Feudal Japan

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  125 ratings  ·  38 reviews
Warrior. Samurai. Legend.

“A readable, compassionate account of an extraordinary life.” —The Washington Post

The remarkable life of history’s first foreign-born samurai, and his astonishing journey from Northeast Africa to the heights of Japanese society.

When Yasuke arrived in Japan in the late 1500s, he had already traveled much of the known world. Kidnapped as a child, he
Kindle Edition, 480 pages
Published April 30th 2019 by Hanover Square Press
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3.83  · 
Rating details
 ·  125 ratings  ·  38 reviews

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Apr 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Many thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Publishers for this fascinating, and impressively researched account of the history, mainly focusing on events in medieval Japan. It includes many interesting facts little known to Westerners. It focuses on vivid descriptions of towns, fortifications and architecture. We learn about important Japanese warlords, Jesuit missionaries and their methods of converting people to Christianity. The book conveys an interesting picture of warfare, politics, mainly the ...more
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
This took me a while to finish, because it was trying to do two different things and ended up doing neither very well. It seems like this book wants to be an exciting historical fiction, about a warrior entering a strange country where his appearance and skills propel him to the heights of power; it also wants to be a serious historical look at Yasuke's life and era. Unfortunately, the historical discussions keep the narrative from building up to much, and the attempts at a colorful narrative ma ...more
an excellent book about the warring states era of Japan and the three warlords that ended it - it covers mostly the last years of Nobunaga as Yasuke - the hero of the (extremely fascinating) story got to be Nobunaga's personal bodyguard and (it is assumed) survived the assassination to help the Christian daimyo of the Nagasaki area win a famous battle - but it has forays in the past, the immediate future of the storyline and the present day

highly recommended
May 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not much one for historical biographies, although I do enjoy historical fiction from time to time. Yasuke, frustratingly, is often both and neither of these things.

I bought the book on hearing the news that a film is being planned about Yasuke's life. I hadn't heard of Yasuke before and am partial to a samurai story, so off I went.

Overall, I think it's a good book. Yasuke's story is interesting, there's a lot of court intrigue (anyone who has read Shogun will find themselves at home here) an
Jun 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I received a copy of this book for free through a Goodreads First Reads Giveaway.

An interesting examination of someone not many may know about. The book is very well researched with many notes which were useful throughout. It's not necessary to read the notes, though, to get the complete picture. While Lockley does drift into 'historical fiction' a little (describing how Yasuke 'feels' at certain points) it's not done excessively, nor does it really distract.

I really didn't know much about feud
Jun 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Compelling "light history" account of Yasuke -- African Samurai. In terms of criticism, I found the last chapter's treatment of contemporary japan's attitudes on race reductive. However, overall the writing and historical treatment are compelling. Recommend.
Apr 30, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: amazon-reviewed
African Samurai by Thomas Lockley is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late April.

Yasuke, the African Samurai, as traveling into China and Japan by way of Portugal as a soldiersailor with the Jesuits in the 1600s. It's more of a journeyman's tale than a historical biography, since it covers Yasuke building his skills, meeting noted mentors, making alliances, and learning weaponry and tactics, but it's ultimately wayyyy too dense to really get involved in and enjoy.
Raymond Goss
May 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book turned out more interesting than I had imagined. Yasuke's life is told by the author, who has weaved a story out of the historical documents (letters, paintings, records, even modern photos) and commenting on evidence and probabilities as well as laying the details on-top of the historical context. I learned a lot about that period of samurai life as well as the political struggles going on at the time from Africa to India to Japan. Yasuke was an impressive individual.
Jun 14, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: june
"This book us about one young man of African origin whom the tides of history washed up in Japan. The central theme is his life, but to understand and analyze that life, it became necessary to illuminate the maritime and migratory lives of Africans and other peoples who had contact with them in the sixteenth century. As such, it covers a wide swathe of the globe illuminating his journey and likely life from Africa to Japan."

"He was a samurai, within the closest entourage of the most powerful man
J. F.
May 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book isn't a "True Story" as bannered. In fact, it's 480 pages of "historical" fiction, barely factual, almost entirely made-up, and, frankly, shallow, boring and pedestrian.

Replete with identity politics, the fabricated tale is agenda driven and loaded with overtones of racism, anti-Catholicism, anti-Japanese, misogyny and LGBTQ advocacy.

The only scant historical reference to a black retainer or servant in the service of Jesuits is from chronicles written by François Solier of the Society
A vivid telling of Japanese culture and history at the time of the Jesuit missionaries residing in Nagasaki at the end of the 1500's. As well as a dramatic insight in the court of Oda Nobunaga and the coup that overthrew his family's attempt to unify Japan.

The center of the story was Yasuke, an African man who kidnapped as a child and ended up as a servant and bodyguard, travelling through India and eventually Japan with his Portuguese Jesuit employers. At that time, the Japanese had never 'seen
Sharif (aka Dances with Books)
Jun 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographies
This is a great read if approached with the right mindset. It is neither purely biographical nor entirely historical fiction, yet it possesses elements of both. Imagine you are reading a docudrama where the historical fiction portion is the dramatization while the details of the politics and customs of feudal Japan are the narration providing the context of the tale. Having said that, it’s a bit slow and dry until the introduction of Oda Nobunaga; the most powerful feudal ruler in Japan during t ...more
Bryan Cebulski
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
I've found that, for me, the more specific history books get, they end up communicating information beyond their immediate subject matter far better than the books that tackle big ideas. Like, I don't absorb most big broad history books well--they go over too much detail, too many events and too many historical figures too quickly for me to actually process them. But when you couch the big broad history into something like this, a biography of one figure in history, then it becomes a lot easier ...more
May 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaways, japan
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this excellent look at a slice of Japan's history through the eyes of a larger-than-life warrior from Africa, Yasuke. I am so grateful to have received a copy through a Goodreads giveaway. I was already attracted to it because I am a fan of Japanese history and culture, but the detailed storytelling made me even more interested in the events and personages of the late sixteenth century.

The authors focus on following Yasuke's life starting from his arrival in Japan i
Jee Hooked On Bookz
Jun 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Honestly I had a hard time getting into this book because of its formatting (which I'm sure has been fixed now that it's published), I find it a little distracting.

Putting that aside I think the authors did an amazing job researching and writing this book. The way it was written made this book accessible to readers, history lovers especially, who are interested in knowing more about the slave trade, warfare and politics, Jessuit missionaries and the effort they made to convert people to Christia
Jun 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
I waffled between giving this a 3 or 4 stars. I ended up giving it 4 stars since I loved the history but the writing style was problematic as it alternated between solid history and historical fiction. I say historical fiction because the author puts words and thoughts into the subjects mouth that can not be cited by a source not that it was made up.

It is a book about Yasuke (Issac) a black body guard for the Jesuits who became a samurai and retainer of probably the most import figure in Japane
May 20, 2019 rated it did not like it
DNF on page 100.

History is so fascinating. I don’t understand how almost every author makes it so boring.

I have read only a few interesting history books. The ones that I like talk about the person, what made them the way they were, who they were. And then talked about the world they lived in. And lastly intertwined all that with the decisions that they made and the actions that they took. It’s all about context.

But without knowing the person and the world they lived in, what they thought and d
May 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, giveaway
My thanks to Harlequin Books for randomly selecting my name in this book giveaway. Receiving a free book did not bias my review.

The authors did an excellent job presenting history in a very readable fashion. That being said, I do feel the title was a grab for readers' attention; I know it did catch my eye. While there was some historical documentation regarding Yasuke, a lot of what was presented was prefaced with maybe, perhaps, could have with compilation and speculation.

While Yasuke's story
Informed  Citizen
Jun 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
I finally gave up - which is uncharacteristic of me-once the relating of historical fact ended-the authors continued for almost 100 pages more (not counting the several hundred pages of endnotes)

I have many books I want to read and not enough time to read them-so discretion suggested stopping.

The African Samurai is an intriguing look at feudal Japan and how an African slave/warrior was assimilated. BUT-the book adopts a confusing style alternating between historical fact and projected fiction. A
Kathleen Gray
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
What a fascinating tale. If you aren't familiar with Yasuke- and I was not- or with feudal Japan- and I am not- this is an incredible learning experience. Written in a smooth style, it takes you inside the world of 16th century samurai. An African in Japan was the subject of curiosity as well as concern but Yasuke triumphed to become a legend. Lockley takes this beyond his legend, however, to provide insight into the art, architecture, politics, and most importantly, samurai training. Thanks to ...more
May 26, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting account of Yasuke, the African Samurai. However, this is as much a "historical fiction," recounting of the fall of Oda Nobunaga, and some conjecture on the possible untold story of Yasuke. The authors are clearly trying to do a lot with a little.

While interesting, it was often hard to sift through historical fiction and actual fact. I would say you can get the brunt of the facts from a Google search, so only read if you are really interested in Japanese history.
May 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-library, history, arc
Full disclosure: I received an advance reading of this book from the publisher through a Goodreads giveaway. The facts of Yasuke's life are sparse, but this book nicely puts together the available information from contemporary accounts and combines them with a vivid picture of the world during the 16th century to support the authors' conjecture about their subject. The result is not so much a biography of one man as a fascinating portrait of the turbulent historical era he participated in.
Steven Silvey
May 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book reads much more like a 16th Century Japanese history book than it does a thrilling tale of an African Samurai kicking ass in feudal Japan. If you’re able to slog through pages and pages of the history of the greater Shogun houses, it’s actually a really interesting story of a slave whose large physique and unusual novelty as an African man les him to a time as one of the top warriors serving the most powerful clan in late 1500s Japan.
Rick  Jackofsky
Apr 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaways
The author collected and assembled pieces of an intriguing puzzle to paint a vivid picture of feudal Japan. "African Samurai" explores the role foreign culture, particularly European Christian traditions, played in influencing Japanese politics, military tactics, religion, and fashion. A well told tale of Yasuke’s rise from slave to samurai and the part he played in the political and military maneuverings of late 16th century Japan.
Natasha Deme
Jun 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: african-history
The story of Yasuke is interesting. Although i wish there was more to his story. But one must understand during the 1500's that many thought less of African slaves and saw them as of no value. The history of Japan and the European journey to sharing their religion, is recorded greatly. I lived the details the author described of the world in Yasuke lived in. A very good book.
May 20, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not very good.
Ambrosia Walker
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
would give it five, but some of the details are misleading. Otherwise, enjoyed the book couldn't put it down.
Jun 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
thoughts coming shortly
Jun 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Really interesting! This is a time and place I knew little about, so I enjoyed reading it and I learned quite a bit. Definitely worthwhile.
Rick Hall
May 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Really cool history that reads like a novel. This is the fascinating tale of an African slave who found himself in Japan, and rose to be a free Samurai, serving the country's greatest warlord.
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