On the Vietnam War | History & Literature

Important anniversaries aside, the Vietnam War remains in the news. Witness Ken Burns’s ten-part, 18-hour documentary airing on PBS in September, with Burns and Geoffrey Ward’s The Vietnam War: An Intimate History publishing the same month, and the Vietnam newsletter now being pushed out by the New York Times. Recently announced, Mark Bowden’s Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam (Atlantic Monthly. Jun. 2017. 608p. ISBN 9780802127006. $30) chronicles the biggest and bloodiest battle of the Vietnam War, fought building by building in combat unmatched since World War II. The battle, which took place 50 years ago this coming January, eventually changed America’s attitude toward the war; after Hue, the goal was not to win but to get out. Bowden, author of the No. 1 New York Times best-selling Black Hawk Down, spent four years researching this book, scrupulously talking with Vietnamese participants as well as American veterans, reporters, photographers, and more.

The impact of the Vietnam War has long reverberated through American literature, with the consequences for Vietnamese and Vietnamese Americans now strongly emerging in works exemplified by Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer. Poet Laren McClung captures the voices of descendants of both Vietnam veterans and refugees in a new anthology aptly titled Inheriting the War: Poetry & Prose by Descendants of Vietnam Veterans and Refugees (Norton. Nov. 2017. 400p. ISBN 780393354287. pap. $19.95). At 400 pages, it’s a thoroughgoing compendium that represents intercultural and intergenerational conversation ranging over memory, silence, displacement, and postwar trauma. The authors here include Nguyen, Karen Russell, Terrance Hayes, Suzan-Lori Parks, Nick Flynn, Ocean Vuong, and more, and as Yusef Komunyakaa says in his foreword, it should offer “some daring and passionate truths.”

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (bhoffert@mediasourceinc.com, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.


  1. Karl Helicher says:

    Hi Barbara,
    Like you, Bowden was a Book Chat guest a few years ago. He teaches at the University of Delaware. He mentioned this book at the time; I will look forward to reading it! Thanks for bringing its publication date to my attention.

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