Despite the reconciliation, the book is a poignant reminder of the war’s sad consequences for both sides.

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WANDERING SOULS

JOURNEYS WITH THE DEAD AND THE LIVING IN VIET NAM

A surprisingly moving account of a Vietnam War veteran who returned to face the family of the man he killed.

Meeting Hoang Ngoc Dam by accident on a jungle trail in 1969, Lt. Homer Steedly shot the Vietnamese soldier from about 30 feet away. Searching his body, Steedly discovered a journal, which he sent home to lay in his mother’s attic for 35 years. Fellow Vietnam vet Karlin (Literature/Univ. of Southern Maryland; Marble Mountain, 2009, etc.) presents a dual biography of the two men, their fatal encounter and the subsequent journey of reconciliation. Readers will likely expect Dam’s impoverished background, but Steedly’s hardscrabble youth in rural South Carolina is a surprise. Using his superb shooting and tracking skills to provide food for his family, he also demonstrated above-average leadership abilities, which allowed him to enter officer candidate school soon after he signed up in 1966. Dam left his village after enlisting in 1963 and never returned, working as a medic, filling his journal with medical drawings and planning to attend medical school. Karlin draws a vivid, gruesome portrait of Steedly’s 1969-70 campaign in the central highlands. The officer killed many men, but Dam was the only one he encountered face-to-face. The image preyed on him and formed part of his post-traumatic stress disorder, which kept him isolated and introverted until middle age when he married and began addressing his memories. In 2008, he returned to retrace his steps, meet the family and participate in the ceremony in which Dam’s remains were brought home.

Despite the reconciliation, the book is a poignant reminder of the war’s sad consequences for both sides.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-56858-405-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Nation Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2009

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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