MOURNING HEADBAND FOR HUE

AN ACCOUNT OF THE BATTLE FOR HUE, VIETNAM 1968

A visceral reminder of war’s intimate slaughter.

Anguished eyewitness account of the devastation visited upon the civilian Vietnamese population just a month before the massacre of My Lai.

The author was a well-known South Vietnamese poet and novelist then living with her husband and children in Saigon. She was caught in the middle of the Vietcong’s Tet Offensive in early 1968 when she received news that her father had just died and promptly traveled to her native town of Hue, in central Vietnam, for the burial service. The next day, the Communists shelled the Buddhist town, terrorizing the population and waging horrific battles with the combined South Vietnamese Nationalist and American forces over many weeks. The author’s narrative burns with firsthand accounts, her own and those of others who shared their stories, as they all were trapped in blasted houses, churches and makeshift shelters, wounded, starving, sick and overrun by the Communists and their squads of vengeful executioners. In an extensive introduction, the translator of this important work, first published in 1969, just over a year after the horrific events it chronicles, sets up the significance of the large-scale Tet Offensive for the Vietcong, who hoped the South Vietnamese would rise up and support them; the Communists were eventually driven back by the Nationalists and the Americans, leaving thousands dead and unaccounted for. Yet the author’s work speaks for itself; it’s a searing first-person account of the misery of war visited upon her family, neighbors and countrymen, caught in senseless, chaotic horror. The author does not portray the Americans as saviors; rather, in her narrative, they are young, clueless and, in many instances, scornful of this “small yellow-skinned nation” they know little about and so calloused to the sanctity of life that they amuse themselves by shooting at dogs.

A visceral reminder of war’s intimate slaughter.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-253-01417-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Indiana Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

Close Quickview