Episode 30 - Message from Nam

DO NOT FUCK PAXTON ANDREWS.  Avoid accidentally making eye contact with Paxton Andrews.  If you absolutely must enter a room with Paxton Andrews take extreme precautions so you don't die horribly in the Vietnam War.  It's pretty good for her career as a journalist tho.

This one has no sexual assault but it does have a horrible pointless war, an awful murder-suicide, bombings, screaming, howling, and a mammy.  (YES A MAMMY.  Yeah I wasn't expecting that either.)

You got it, we're reading Message from Nam as our second 4 for 40 book for Sara!  I would like to apologize to the Academy...

So I actually did borrow this from my aunt's bookshelf when I was a young person (what, like 10 maybe?) and I expected it to be Well Intentioned Racism About Vietnam.  And don't get me wrong, it is that - but it's also Well Intentioned Racism With Regards to the Civil Rights Movement and urrrrrrgh y'all.  It's also.... I mean I hate to use the word "Mary Sue" when it comes to romances for a variety of reasons, but this woman pays no dues to be a war correspondent.  None!  She's just so awesome and people love her so much!  And like most of the Well Intentioned Media About Vietnam, it isn't really about Vietnam, it's about these few American people.  

Some counterprogramming - Better Books About the War:

The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh

So has it occurred to you that there were people fighting in Vietnam who weren't Americans?  For reals, y'all!  I'm about halfway through this and so far it's very good.  It's definitely the only thing I've ever read by a North Vietnamese person - it may be a facile comparison but it wouldn't be unfair to call this the North Vietnamese The Things They Carried, very much a soldier's eye view of the war and its aftermath.  Banned in Vietnam for years, of course.  If you watch the Ken Burns miniseries, Bao Ninh is the guy with the baller rockabilly bleached haircut.
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
If The Sorrow of War is the North Vietnamese The Things They Carried, then The Things They Carried is the Vietnam War Slaughterhouse-Five.  It's about O'Brien's experience in the war but also about the nature of memory, storytelling, the uses of fiction, and all that other stuff.  Also here's where I can drop that I met Tim O'Brien and he seemed very nice and recommended to me Jo Nesbo's Macbeth which I am sure is a good book that I could not quite get past the first 50 pages of but there were extenuating circumstances so maybe I will try again later.
The Vietnam War by Ken Burns
The Vietnam War: Ken Burns and Lynn Novick FilmAnd both Bao Ninh and Tim O'Brien appear in the Ken Burns documentary, so somebody has already done all the work for me!  I really did find this very impressive - I learned a ton from it and it's definitely the first thing I've seen about the war that so evenhandedly gives voice to Vietnamese speakers.  Ken Burns - it's not just for your dad anymore!
The Sympathizer by Viet Thang Nguyen
Sadly, I haven't read this yet, but it's on my list - it won a slew of awards including the Pulitzer.  It's a double agent espionage immigrant war dark comedy and everybody says it's great.

Bold move - a two colon title!  I also have not read this yet but have heard that it is good - one area I'd like to have seen more coverage of in the Ken Burns documentary is race in the Vietnam War.  Black men were sent to Vietnam in disproportionate numbers and died there for a country that frequently considered them second class citizens (if that.)  This is an oral history of 20 black servicemen allowed space and freedom to tell their personal war stories.

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