A touching and thoughtful meditation on war and personal tragedy.




A woman remembers the two years that she lived in Saigon during the Vietnam War and her husband’s death there.

Debut author Merkel Boruff had been married to Jon Christian “Merk” Merkel for less than a year when, in 1968, he was offered a contract as a pilot for Air America, a private airline secretly run by the U.S. government. Originally, he was supposed to be stationed in a small town in northern Thailand, but his orders were changed to Vietnam. Merkel Boruff was terrified at the prospect of relocating to a war zone, but her husband assured her it was safe and largely insulated from the chaos of the region. Nevertheless, the acclimation was slow and painful; she found Saigon’s unfamiliar culture and languages, as well as its unabashed eroticism, dizzying. She also never got used to the sound of exploding mortars. Former Air Force officer Merk was an experienced pilot and adjusted quickly; he lovingly reassured her but was also frequently absent, running missions that the author knew little about. The pay was good, if not commensurate with the danger, and the couple hoped to save up enough to buy a home and start a family. Merkel Boruff made friends and found a job teaching English at the American school. But when Merk was shot down, her worst fears were suddenly realized, and her world collapsed. The author captures this heartache in beautifully sorrowful prose: “I was wrapped in a chrysalis, a world of dreams. Memories. I was a hundred years old.” Throughout the memoir, Merkel Boruff’s recollections are captivating, and they provide an unusual portal not only into the Vietnam War, but also into how PTSD affected those who experienced the event but didn’t serve in the military. Her account is both candidly confessional and literary in tone, drawing wisdom from the likes of William Faulkner and James Joyce as well as from the teachings of Buddhism. (The title, she notes, is an acronym for “zone of silence.”) Overall, this is a fresh contribution to the literature on Vietnam, written from a unique perspective.

A touching and thoughtful meditation on war and personal tragedy.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-944715-30-4

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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