Quaker activist Borton (Fat Chance, 1993, etc.), in a vivid and eloquent memoir of her life in three Vietnamese communities...


AFTER SORROW: An American Among the Vietnamese

Quaker activist Borton (Fat Chance, 1993, etc.), in a vivid and eloquent memoir of her life in three Vietnamese communities from 1987 to 1993, allows Vietnamese peasants, mostly women, to talk about their roles in the ""American War"" of 1965-73. ""After war,"" Borton quotes Nguyen Trai, a 15th-century Vietnamese poet, ""the people you meet differ so much from former times."" Borton, who worked in a Quaker hospital in North Vietnam form 1969 to 1971, shows the truth of this old adage in her interviews with friendly peasants who played ferocious, sometimes heroic, roles as guerrillas in Vietnam's wars. Borton stayed in three very different communities: Ban Long, a former Viet Cong base in the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam; Khanh Phu, a village of rice farmers in the less fertile Red River Delta of northern Vietnam; and Hanoi, ""Vietnam's largest village."" In all three, Borton meets women with lovely names like Beautiful, Autumn, Second Harvest, and Flower who fought for the Viet Cong and the army of North Vietnam against French and then American troops. Now these women are trying to rebuild their lives in towns that still bear many scars: Bomb craters have been transformed into fish ponds, while peasants tilling fields are still often injured by long-dormant ""baby bombs,"" American anti-personnel weapons. Borton collects chilling stories of the devastation and terror wrought on tiny farming villages by American bombings and defoliants, and the horrifying long-term effects of Agent Orange. She reminds American readers that, like them, Vietnamese families mourn for ""wandering souls,"" persons missing in action from the war -- except that in Vietnam, the missing number in the hundreds of thousands. Amid the plethora of literature about the Vietnam war, Borton's book is rare for its honest, straightforward look at the ordinary people we fought and their accomplishments and sufferings, and for its avoidance of overt polemic, moralizing, or recrimination.

Pub Date: May 1, 1995


Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995