SAIGON CALLING by Marcelino Truong
Kirkus Star


London 1963-75
by ; translated by ; illustrated by
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The second volume of the author’s critically acclaimed graphic memoir of the Vietnam War era.

The son of a French mother and a Vietnamese diplomat father, Truong combines powerful visual imagery with deft narrative as he recounts his teenage years in London and France while developing mixed emotions and allegiances about the war tearing his homeland apart. Like the masterful Such a Lovely Little War (2016), the story benefits from the author’s unique perspective, formed by the very different perspectives of his parents (whose marriage seems to be disintegrating), by seeing the war from afar while surrounded by those of different nationalities, and by maturing from childhood through adolescence during a turbulent era. As a teenager, Truong saw the war escalate on TV while experiencing the foment of Beatlemania, psychedelia, and the protest movement as the culture swirled through waves of upheaval. “Blimey! The VC don’t mess around,” he responded to a letter from home that reported of Viet Cong activity. Military uniforms mixed with those of Sgt. Pepper in his imagination, while playing soldier got confused with the real thing as filtered through the media. The author couldn’t resist the influence of the peace movement, the vitriol directed toward the United States and their South Vietnamese puppet regime, or the romanticizing of the Viet Cong as guerrilla freedom fighters. Yet he understood the implications a vindictive totalitarian government would have in South Vietnam, and he feared for the safety of family and friends. (He didn’t know until later that some of his cousins had joined the National Liberation Front and were killed in the warfare.) The young man who would become the author felt confused by the cultural barrage from different sides, and both the war and his responses to it are more complex than those who would simplify it into good-and-evil, hawk-and-dove can recognize.

An excellent combination of personal insight and historical sweep.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-55152-689-8
Page count: 280pp
Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2017


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