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

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  621 ratings  ·  146 reviews
Warrior. Samurai. Legend.

The life of history’s first foreign-born samurai, and his 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 had ended up a servant and bodyguard to the head of the Jesuits in Asia, with whom he traversed India and
Kindle Edition, 480 pages
Published April 30th 2019 by Hanover Square Press
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Average rating 3.76  · 
Rating details
 ·  621 ratings  ·  146 reviews

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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
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The only scant historical reference to a black retainer or servant in the service of Jesuits is from chronicles written by François Solier of the Society
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
Yasuke was a kidnapped as a child from his home in Africa. Sold as a slave, he ended up working as a servant/bodyguard for the Jesuit missionary in Japan in the late 1500s. He learned Japanese at the Jesuit compound before traveling with the Jesuits to Kyoto. His large statue and black skin caused many Japanese to see him as an embodiment of the black-skinned Buddha. Lord Nobunaga, head of the most powerful clan in Japan, made Yasuke a samurai in his court.

Why I started this book: I was eager t
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
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
Apr 15, 2020 rated it liked it
To say this book is "bad" is unfair, but I have a hard time saying it was "good". The premise was better than the execution. I love the idea of a narrative nonfiction or a historically-accurate novel based on this intriguing historical person, but I wish it had been one or the other...the book tried to be both at once. Thus you end up with something like Netflix's "The Last Czars" with a few scenes of novelization interrupted by scholarly exposition.

There were definitely parts I liked: I liked
Susan Ferguson
Jan 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The author researched this book for 8 years. He went to Japan as a teacher and while there heard stories of a black samurai. The samurai had become something of a legend. So he began to research. He found information in diaries and such that had been locked away in old family archives and a movement had begun in Japan to publish these in an effort to make more history known. He also found information in old Jesuit letters.
Yasuke came to Japan as bodyguard to a Jesuit Visitor, the head of the mi
Jun 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This work follows the life of Yasuke, a sixteenth-century retainer and Samurai of African origin.

This book touches on the presence of Africans employed in Japan and other parts of Asia during the same age. How Africans, in particular, and Black people, in general, have been viewed in Japanese culture is also covered. There has been a resurgence of Yasuke's story in modern Japan, and it can found presented through things like Manga.

This is a fascinating read and another one of my recommendations.
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
Jun 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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
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
Aug 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great History

A Dinka man is kidnapped by slavers in the 16th century. He ends up in Gujarat India where he becomes a warrior slavery to royalty. Sold to Jesuit priests, he ends up in Japan and becomes a Samurai. The story is told very well and exciting. Not your usual academic text. Loved it.
Jul 15, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, 2020
An interesting story.
I didn't like the author's writing style though; he adopts a high, omniscient, third-person perspective much more common to fiction writing. Frequently he offers opinions, feelings, thoughts, sensations, and highly detailed thoughts and actions of Yasuke and at times other characters, things that are clearly speculative, and well beyond the scope of knowledge typical of the type of historical account I would have expected. While at times he does acknowledge his speculations
Nicole Westen
Aug 06, 2019 rated it liked it
I wanted to rate this 4 stars, but there were some things I couldn't let go. The biggest one, and the reason this book lost a star, was the lack of citation. I realize this book is more targeted towards the causal history reader rather than the scholarly historian, but I would have liked some end notes at least, so I could tell what was know for a fact, and what was educated speculation on the part of the author based on what was known at the time. Also, without proper citations, I could not tel ...more
Matthew Russell
Aug 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
A well-researched piece on a character largely unknown due to his non-noble status in Japanese history, yet one who ascended into the upper echelons of the hierarchy. One of the things that I respect about the author's work is that, despite a airport bookstore flavored historically fictionalized account (you'll pick it up while walking through an airport because it looks interesting enough to keep your attention on a flight), it includes endnotes and a selected bibliography to document his work. ...more
Kim Hoag
May 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is one of those books that leave a deep impression upon the reader; it is non-fiction at its best. The depth of learning about cultures, times, and samurai, in particular, was both enlightening and entertaining. The fight scenes were as good as any fiction I've read. From starving slave to soldier to warrior to samurai, it was a journey that required authors to lift the man out of the forgotten dust into the modern consciousness, and it was done with aplomb. Yes, the end was unsatisfying bu ...more
Sep 23, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
1.5 stars
Positive: Fascinating subject.
              Thoroughly  researched. I liked that the writer included some pictures.
Negative: Too much unnecessary detail that made this a lengthy book. (I got bored after a while)
                  Not enough about Yasuke who is the actual person the book  is about.

Overall, I was disappointed by this. In my opinion, this was more a book about that time period in Japan w/a few snippets about Yasuke. Instead,the writer should have done a historical fiction
Jun 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book couldn't decide if it wanted to be a biography or historical fiction and ended up failing at both. At first an easy read and very compelling, but it started to feel like the author's personal musings about what Japan was like. Weird and slightly discomfiting to hear constant toutings of exoticism.
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
DNF. I really wanted to like this book, but it was extremely slow going and is one of the few books I haven't been able to power through despite the sludge. It may be mostly because it promised an exciting adventurous tale of a warrior in a strange land. It didn't live up to those standards in the first six chapters and I couldn't wait around to see if it would ever pick up because of the amount of great books I have to read!
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.
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.
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.
Wise Fool
Feb 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a clever book. As much as it recounts a version of the African Samurai, it is written as a story. This makes it an easy read.
Yet Yasuke is a foreigner, thus culture has to be explained to him. Which means the reader gets to learn of the culture at the time! Really enjoyed that!
The story does digest at times and starts schooling the reader on history and Japanese culture but it's done so well I enjoyed the education.
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
Disclosure: I'm about a quarter into the book but it's difficult to read because it's clearly fiction as opposed to a historical book. Don't get me wrong, I think that this take on the story would make for a tremendous movie... but for a book titled "The True Story of..." to clearly be fiction, it's difficult for me to get into.

My wife is Japanese and she had never heard of Yasuke before I mentioned him. In fact, the first time I did mention him, was early into our relationship, and she thought
Mar 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
This amazing book did something many books stumble with: pulling out the underdogs. Underrepresented, under privileged, under explained, and under cherished in OUR history. Those are the people we need to add to our history. As a middle school educator of both ancient world and American history, we tend to focus on the dead white dudes (I have been known to say this to my students on occasion). It’s really frustrating, but that is our curriculum. There are so many other people whose stories need ...more
Jun 14, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Dec 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biographies
I'm a fan of feudal Japan stories and aesthetic, but by no means have I read a ton of books about the subject. So when I came across this novel I was immediately intrigued. I had absolutely no clue there had been an African warrior who attained the rank of Samurai in Japan during the 1500s. Yasuke, the African Samurai was apparently a real person. Evidenced by the various mentions of him in the writings of Jesuit missionaries and others. But this is an historical fiction piece where the authors ...more
Sep 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had started reading this book right when it came out only to run out of time from my library with several holds waiting for the book. I decided to come back and finish it now, a year later, in the wake of Chadwick Boseman's death, since he had been looking to produce a movie on the life of Yasuke based on this book. With his whole career centered around finding roles that elevated and centered strong black characters, I can see why the role appealed to him and why this book was a source of ins ...more
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