by Elizabeth Partridge
Viking, 2018, 213 pages, Young Adult Non-Fiction
An exploration of the Vietnam War from many different perspectives including American soldiers, a nurse, and a Vietnamese refugee.
This young adult nonfiction book does a great job of shedding light on a really complex topic without dumbing the topic down. Each chapter tells the story of the Vietnam War from the perspective of one person, based mostly on interviews conducted by the author. Those covered in the book cover the gamut of experiences, from soldiers on the ground in Vietnam, to politicians in Washington D.C., to protesters at Woodstock, and to refugees fleeing Vietnam for their lives. By telling the story this way, readers get insights into many different aspects of the war, and the author doesn’t take sides on the divisive topic of whether the U.S. should have fought the war or not. Instead, the focus of this story is on the dignity and experiences of all of the people involved.
Most touching to me was the last chapter of the book, which covers the building of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., and discusses what a healing experience building this memorial was for the nation at large.
This book helped clarify a topic that was always a bit fuzzy to me, and I think anyone, old or young, will benefit from reading it. A great companion piece to this book is Ken Burns’ ten-part documentary on the Vietnam War.