cover image The Broken Country: On Trauma, a Crime and the Continuing Legacy of Vietnam

The Broken Country: On Trauma, a Crime and the Continuing Legacy of Vietnam

Paisley Rekdal. Univ. of Georgia, $24.95 (160p) ISBN 978-0-8203-5117-9

Motivated by a 2012 incident in Salt Lake City in which Kiet Thanh Ly, a 34-year-old homeless man born in Vietnam, stabbed two white males in the parking lot of a supermarket, Rekdal, a professor of English at the University of Utah, sets out to study the cultural and psychological effects of war on communities over time. The victims of the stabbing were ostensibly attacked in revenge for the Vietnam War and Rekdal comes to terms with this brutal act—by a person who had not personally experienced the war—by probing the event as indicative of America’s “continued fascination with the Vietnam War.” A subtle and insightful chronicler, Rekdal draws on a variety of material: reports of the crime; interviews with the victims and witnesses, as well as with Vietnamese-Americans and veterans; and visits to war monuments in the U.S. and Hanoi. The book incorporates a history of the arrival of Vietnamese immigrants to America in the 1970s and includes discussions of the psychological effects of trauma and the ways the Vietnam War is portrayed—and memorialized—in American culture. This contemplative, moving meditation on the ongoing effects of war emphasizes stories of dislocation, transgenerational trauma, and the feelings of shame that permeate “the narratives of both relocation and repatriation.” By drawing attention to the plight of all those harmed by the Vietnam War—not just American soldiers but also “Asian allies and foes, the children we left behind, and the refugees we took in”—Rekdal deepens the understanding of the far-reaching cost of war. [em](Sept.) [/em]