By Truong Nhu Dinh and Tran Thi Truong Nga

Reviewed by Joni Bour

The webmaster of this site sent me an email warning me about this book not long ago, saying I might not like it because it wasn’t a “Valiant Warrior” type of book, which he felt was my usual fare. I was miffed and shocked when he said that because of course I thought I was a forward thinking book reviewer who was willing to read almost any book in reference to the Vietnam War, but a strange thing happened as I was flipping through my reviews looking for evidence to prove him wrong. I won’t admit I proved him right, but I did decide to read this book. Nobody wants to be stuck in a rut.

No blood and thunder will spill from these pages and yet the heartache of the death and destruction that were caused by the blood and thunder of the Vietnam War are so real they are palpable. The wake of the war spills across nearly every page, you don’t need to see the napalm, heat of battle or broken hearts, you see what was left behind. I was expecting a book difficult to understand because I knew it was written by a Vietnamese man and wife who traveled to our country not long after the end of the war. They learned English in the school of hard knocks and then they write a book in English, pretty bold if you ask me. I thought maybe it would be one of those books that tell us how bad we Americans have turned out to be and how we are always misguided bullies. But it wasn’t. As a matter of fact, it was nothing like that at all. It was written by a man and woman who have become as much American citizens as they were born Vietnamese.

The authors attempt to share their family history and the struggles they went through in order to at last be free. They speak of the difficulties they encountered even after they came to our country. They also tell of the history of their small country and the many trials itself has endured and how it has come to be that it has suffered so much war and divisiveness. Vietnam has struggled for hundreds of years to be free, something you would think America would understand. In writing this book they have shown that there can be a balance of one’s heritage and one’s new citizenship. They did not have to give up one to have the other. It makes you ponder what the difference really is between the Vietnamese and Americans- that one nation of people just wanted to be free to live their own lives just as the colonists did in actions that led to the American Revolution.

This is a sometimes difficult book to read because the sadness is so real you can feel it touch you, but it is also so incredibly sweet. It makes you wish you were as much an American as these people have become. I know some people may take cause with my saying that, but it is true. The authors came to America with pretty much nothing. They left everything they had ever known behind, looking for freedom. America is nothing if it is not free and yet they struggled against oppression just as they did before. But they did not falter, they worked like there was no tomorrow, they saved, they sacrificed and did what they felt they had to do in order to raise their family, all their children went to college. Their life is very good now and they are proud to be Americans. They are not bitter, they are thankful to be here, not ungrateful by wanting more and more and more. They live a quiet life of respect and honor. That is how we all should be.

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Posted 4/10/06