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VIETNAMERICA by Thomas A. Bass


The War Comes Home

by Thomas A. Bass

Pub Date: April 30th, 1996
ISBN: 1-56947-050-2
Publisher: Soho

A sympathetic, anecdotal look at the sad stories of a dozen or so Amerasian children of the Vietnam war, by a writer who feels the need to include himself in his narrative. The tens of thousands of children born to American servicemen and Vietnamese women during the war in Vietnam are a tragic legacy of that conflict. The children—known in Vietnam as bui doi, ``the dust of life''—face vicious political and social discrimination in the land of their birth. The situation is not much better for many of the 20,000 Amerasians who have emigrated to this country in the last decade and have found it extremely difficult to meld into American society. Only a tiny fraction of them have bee reunited with their fathers. ``Rejected by their Vietnamese motherland, they feel equally unwelcome in the land of their fathers,'' Bass (Camping with the Prince, 1990) notes. He made two trips to Vietnam, in 1991 and 1992, and spent some time at Amerasian refugee center in Utica, N.Y., to tell the stories of about a dozen Amerasians, most of whom emigrated to this country. In writing these compelling stories, Bass relies on information from his subjects—information, he admits, that is often unreliable: ``Many of the stories in this book may be untrue.'' Even more disconcerting are Bass's breezily written background sections, which are sketchy at best, largely undocumented, and marred by several errors (one example: 2.8 million Americans served in Vietnam, not 9 million, as Bass writes). Worse, the author injects himself into his story, with travelogue details about his adventures in Vietnam and accounts of his interactions with Amerasians and advocates for the refugees. In one grievous example, Bass describes his one-man campaign to help some Amerasians in Vietnam, noting this his hastily arranged actions backfired and may have gotten at least one young woman ``in trouble'' with the Vietnamese authorities. The Amerasian story deserves to be told in a better- researched, less personalized manner.