Without sanctifying the women in Vietnam, these interviews open an important window to the difference between how men and...

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WOMEN IN VIETNAM

THE ORAL HISTORY

Women who served in the Vietnam War offer a moving set of reflections.

Steinman (Television’s First War, not reviewed), a television journalist who reported from Vietnam for more than two years, produced a documentary on the women in Vietnam. He has edited for print 16 taped interviews from that show, representative of the thousands of women who were stationed in Vietnam during the decade when the US was militarily involved. Most of them (and most of the interviewees) were nurses, others were civilian employees of the US government, and still others were volunteers who routinely visited frontline detachments to bolster the morale of US troops with coffee, doughnuts, and a willing ear. Most vivid are the experiences of the nurses, who saw American soldiers and Vietnamese civilians decimated by mortars, mines, bullets, and shrapnel. Nurses at the frontline medical units lived under frequent bombardment themselves, scurrying to rat-infested bunkers when the mortar fire started, and seeing some of their own number die. Even the women based in or near Saigon suffered their share of mortar fire, sleepless nights, and vermin. Most of them young and inexperienced (but adventurous and idealistic), the women, testifying from hindsight, recall how they walled off the sorrow, anger, and confusion that would have interfered with their duties, displaying instead empathy and concern, good cheer and professionalism. Returning home, they encountered the same resistance to their Vietnam service as the combat veterans, so they shut up and took up their expected roles as good wives, daughters, mothers, and citizens. Post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological consequences surfaced eventually. Testified one nurse, “It affected me on such a profound level. . . . It took me years to find that out.”

Without sanctifying the women in Vietnam, these interviews open an important window to the difference between how men and women view war. (b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-57500-139-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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

NIGHT

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

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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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