cover image American Reckoning: The Vietnam War and Our National Identity

American Reckoning: The Vietnam War and Our National Identity

Christian G. Appy. Viking, $28.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-670-02539-8

Appy (Patriots), a University of Massachusetts historian who specializes in the Vietnam War, offers his assessment of that conflict’s multifaceted legacy in the United States. In a wide-ranging, insightful book-length essay, Appy writes confidently and convincingly to support his main theory: that the way the war was fought and its outcome put an indelible dent in the idea of American exceptionalism. The war, he argues, “shattered the central tenet of American national identity—the broad faith that the United States is a unique force for good in the world, superior not only in its military and economic power, but in the quality of its government and institutions, the character and morality of its people, and its way of life.” Appy examines how the U.S. fought the war and interprets the main cultural and political events since the war’s end through the lens of its failure. He scrutinizes and interprets political machinations, as well as reportage, literature, film, and television. Appy successfully conveys the shameful, difficult, and traumatic homecoming given to the nation’s 2.8 million Vietnam veterans in a book that poses a distinct challenge to those who still believe in American exceptionalism. [em](Feb.) [/em]