By David Lamb
Review by Allison Martin
Vietnam, Now is the culmination of experienced reporter David Lamb's impressions of the people and society of present day Vietnam in the aftermath of the Vietnam-American War. This is a fascinating and informative book for anyone who is interested in Vietnam. Lamb has considerable expertise in this area, having lived in Vietnam for ten years as the reporter for the Los Angeles Times. He served as a war time reporter in Vietnam for six years in the 1970's, leaving Vietnam in 1975 when Saigon fell. In 1997, he returned to Vietnam for four years. As many people do, he found himself caught up by the people and the country of Vietnam; Vietnam, Now reflects this deep interest.
Lamb's expertise as a seasoned reporter shines through in this book. Each chapter delves into a facet of present day Vietnamese life, complete with interviews, descriptions, his personal reaction and a detailed analysis. Vietnam, Now is told from the perspective of an American wondering about the impact of the war and curious to learn more about Vietnam's present way of life. Those who are interested in Vietnamese society, and the impact of the past, will find this book to be a treasure trove. Topics include Reflections on the Fall of Saigon; Who Runs Vietnam?; The Making of Vietnam; and The Painful Art of Reconciliation. Lamb's focus is primarily political and social, concentrating on the two time periods in which he was in Vietnam. He investigates a wide-ranging multitude of topics, including the importance of family and children, the tragic search by Vietnamese families for the bodies of their relatives lost in the war, the far reaching impact of corruption, reconciliation with American veterans, increased migration into the cities, and the attitudes of the Vietnamese to visiting Vietnamese immigrants (Viet Kieu),
Lamb makes excellent use of personal stories and well thought out interviews to illustrate his cultural analysis. Interviews cover the span of society - from military officials on both sides of the war to the businessman on the street. One of the Viet Kieu he interviews describes his reaction to Vietnam as nostalgic, sad and inspiring, and you will find all these emotions and more in the book. Travelers to Vietnam will enjoy the background descriptions he provides, such as riding the Vietnam railway, the intensity of personal questions, and attitudes of the people of Vietnam toward Americans. If you are interested in a glimpse at how Vietnam works, then I highly recommend Vietnam, Now.
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