BookDragon Books for the Multi-Culti Reader

Inheriting the War: Poetry & Prose by Descendants of Vietnam Veterans and Refugees edited by Laren McClung [in Booklist]

“The language of war turns the other into an object – the language of literature humanizes,” writes Laren McClung in her introduction to a collection featuring 61 contributors (and five translators) – 62 counting Yusef Komunyakaa’s resonating preface – each intimately affected by the Vietnam War. Composing in English, Vietnamese, French, even Hebrew, these diasporic voices emanate forth from the children of U.S. veterans, from survivors-made-refugees, from one writer who is both – Pulitzer-nominated poet Bruce Weigl’s adopted Vietnamese daughter, Hanh Nguyen Willbond, who shares her transformative experience “performing” her father’s iconic poem, “Song of Napalm.”

Dense with confrontation, desperation, and suffering, this volume also resonates with agency, empathy, even forgiveness. Alas, the collection is uneven, with a gaping divide between the famous (MacArthur fellows Viet Thanh Nguyen, Suzan-Lori Parks, Governor-General’s Award winner Kim Thúy) and some of the lesser known. Standout surprises, however, provide balance, including T. K. Lê’s “Part of Memory Is Forgetting,” Phong Nguyen’s “The Wheel of Memory,” and Brian Schwartz’s “Invasion.” An impelling message does emerge: “Through the narrative of others we can more clearly see the world, and in them, we see ourselves.”

Review: “Nonfiction,” Booklist, November 1, 2017″

Readers: Adult

Published: 2017