As a fiction writer, I’ve been asked about the Vietnam War at nearly every reading or panel I’ve ever attended. I am not a historian, nor was I alive during the war. I was born in America two years after the war to refugees who wouldn’t speak of their losses and trauma for years. But people ask because I write about the war, or, rather, its consequences, particularly those experienced by the nearly 2 million Vietnamese people who left the country afterward, among them, my family. The only way I have learned to understand my family’s history is by writing about it. I am not a Vietnam War expert, and the people who approach me after readings know that. But they are desperate to talk to someone, and my face appears familiar. They don’t really want to hear what I think; instead, they want me to affirm their understanding of what happened, to reiterate that same narrative we’ve been hearing for years, the one that Ken Burns’ new 18-hour documentary reconfirms, with little new information, insight or perspective. When Burns and his collaborators announced plans to make a documentary on the Vietnam War, I felt wary. Surely, the nationally […]

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