The Vietnam War in American Literature
- Catherine CallowayCatherine CallowayArkansas State University
Vietnam War literature is a prolific canon of literature that consists primarily of works by American authors, but it is global in scope in its inclusion of texts from writers of other nationalities like Australia, France, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. The war’s literature first emerged in the 1950s during the Cold War when Americans were serving as advisors to the French and the Vietnamese in literary works such as Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, a British novel, and William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick’s The Ugly American, an American novel, and gradually evolved as American involvement in the war escalated. In the mid-1960s, Bernard B. Fall, who grew up in France and later moved to the United States, offered well-known nonfiction accounts like Street Without Joy: The French Debacle in Indochina and Hell in a Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu, and numerous other writers, mostly Americans, began to contribute their individual accounts of the war. Thousands of literary works touch on the Vietnam conflict in some way, whether in the form of combat novels, personal narratives and eyewitness accounts, plays, poems, and letters, and by both male and female writers and authors of different ethnicities. These numerous literary works reflect the traits unique to this war as well as conditions endemic to all wars. Many Vietnam War texts share the cultural necessity to bear witness and to tell their writers’ diverse war stories, including accounts from those who served in combat to those who served in the rear to those who served in other roles such as the medical profession, clerical work, and the entertainment industry. Important, too, are the stories of those who were affected by the war on the home front and those of the Vietnamese people, many of whom were forced to leave their homeland and resettle elsewhere after the war during the Vietnamese diaspora. While combat novels are still being written about the Vietnam War decades later, notably Denis Johnson’s award-winning Tree of Smoke and Karl Marlantes’s Matterhorn, bicultural studies that reflect work by North Vietnamese writers and the Viet Kieu are especially pertinent because Vietnam War literature is a continuing influence on the literature emerging from the 21st-century conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Termed the Vietnam War by Americans and the American War by the Vietnamese, America’s longest war, which spanned a twenty-five-year period between the 1950 and 1975, has spawned a prolific body of literature.1 Early bibliographies such as “Vietnam War Literature, 1958–1979: A First Checklist” by Tom Colonnese and Jerry Hogan,2 the three editions of the annotated bibliography Vietnam War Literature by John Newman and others,3 and Writing about Vietnam: A Bibliography of the Literature of the Vietnam Conflict by Sandra M. Wittman4 provide substantial evidence that the subject of Vietnam has inspired hundreds, even thousands, of literary works. Though dated, the works of these early bibliographers clearly show the emerging popularity of the war’s literature beginning in the mid-1960s during the war era and onward, to the point where in the 21st-century Vietnam War literature comprises its own distinctive canon within the much broader canon of contemporary literature. The first bibliography of secondary material on Vietnam War literature, which was published in 1986, contains several hundred sources, a clear indication that scholars considered Vietnam War literature an important body of work as soon as it became the subject of writers.5 The 2016 MLA International Bibliography lists well over a thousand scholarly sources on the war and its literature, and the largest special collection on Vietnam War literature, the “Imaginative Representations of the Vietnam War Collection” at La Salle University, houses more than 20,000 items about the war and its literature.
The war’s literary antecedents are British, beginning with the publication of Graham Greene’s The Quiet American in 1955, a novel that focuses on the way Americans interfered in British and French colonialism in Southeast Asia. Graham’s novel was followed in 1958 by William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick’s American bestseller The Ugly American, which treats the failure of American diplomacy in Southeast Asia. Both works were written during the Cold War while Americans were serving as advisers to the Vietnamese and were not seriously involved in the war’s military effort, yet both accurately predicted that participation in such a war would not bode well either politically or militarily for the Americans and the Vietnamese. Senator J. William Fulbright implied that Lederer and Burdick were traitors for portraying the American government negatively, and the United States Information Service tried to keep the novel from being sold abroad. Such efforts, of course, only made The Ugly American more popular and resulted in the sale of around five million copies. A third novel, Robin Moore’s The Green Berets, a fictional account of the United States Army Special Forces published in 1965, also achieved status as a popular novel and is considered a classic. All three novels were turned into films.6 These early literary responses to the war were followed by such works of fiction as David Halberstam’s One Very Hot Day (1967), Daniel Ford’s Incidents at Muc Wa (1967), William Eastlake’s The Bamboo Bed (1969), James Park Sloan’s War Games (1971), and Joe Haldeman’s War Year (1972), among others. These novels were published while the United States was actively fighting in Vietnam and treated events that occurred on Vietnamese soil. In the early 1980s, less than a decade after America’s withdrawal from Vietnam, Avon books, in a series on Vietnam War novels, published or republished many of the early novels about the war, some had previously suffered from small print runs and were difficult to find, as did other mass market paperback publishers like Warner Books, Pocket Books, and Bantam.
As the writers of Vietnam War literature indicate, Vietnam was not only America’s longest war, fought largely between 1961 and 1975, but it was also our most diverse war, due in part to the fact that it was not just one war, but many wars, and one with inconsistencies in military tactics, morals, and politics. The soldier who fought on the front lines faced a different experience from the bored soldier who spent his days shuffling paper in relatively secure areas, and the soldier who served in the late 1950s to the mid-1960s fought a different war from that of the soldier who served after the TET Offensive in 1968. As many have noted, Vietnam was an absurd war that was fought guerilla-style in a jungle far from the United States. Furthermore, the average age of the soldier was nineteen, the enemy could not be definitely identified, children were sometimes used as weapons, the typical soldier served a one-year rotation of only 365 days, some unpopular or incompetent officers were “fragged” or killed by their own men, and the image of Russian roulette became a recurring motif. Bringing order to the experience of a war so lengthy, so diverse, and so complex has not been an easy task for writers. As Edward Frederick Palm states, “[t]he central paradox, and perhaps the frustration, of Vietnam literature has been the attempt to write well-constructed novels about what many perceive to have been an essentially formless and fragmented experience.”7 In the first seminal study of the war’s literature, Philip Beidler identified a main focus of many of the literary works as sense making, “that what sense was to be made of it [the war] at all would lie in the self-conscious exploration of relationships between experiential and aesthetic . . . possibilities of truth-telling.”8 Indeed, the relative nature of truth, the inability to pin down what truth-telling is, has been an overriding concern of the war’s literature. Tim O’Brien in his award-winning The Things They Carried, for instance, constantly questions the contradictory nature of truth and thus the reality of the stories the characters tell. In the chapter “Good Form,” O’Brien’s narrator, also metafictively named Tim O’Brien, tells several versions of an event involving the killing of a Vietnamese soldier, an event first mentioned in an early chapter, “Spin,” and then narrated more fully in “The Man I Killed” and “Ambush.” But the narrator constantly changes the details and finally admits, “Even that story is made up.”9 “Story-truth” and “happening-truth” continually shift, replacing each other and leading the reader to question whether or not any version is believable.10
Complicating the issue of truth is that the Vietnam War was fought differently from previous wars in the sense that it was not a territorial war with clearly defined lines. Paul Berlin, the protagonist in Tim O’Brien’s Going After Cacciato, points out that the war was undefinable and disorderly—in actuality, the average soldier knew very little about it: “They did not know even the simple things: a sense of victory, or satisfaction, or necessary sacrifice. They did not know the feeling of taking a place and keeping it, securing a village and then raising a flag and calling it a victory . . . They did not have targets. They did not have a cause.”11 When land was captured in Vietnam, it was not always retained, but sometimes abandoned, an absurdity frequently commented on by authors. William Turner Huggett’s Body Count relates the story of a company that goes through hell to capture a hill, only to be ordered to abandon it at once. The protagonists are called “heroes” for taking the land, but under such circumstances, the word holds little meaning—the men’s actions seem of little consequence when they are forced to relinquish their recent gain. Instead of measuring progress through conquered territory, the government counted the bodies of dead enemy soldiers. Body counts became an obsession that dominated the war to a point that made any notion of individual human worth seem ridiculous.
A common misconception about the Vietnam War is that it contained more atrocities than did other wars. Unfortunately, atrocity, cruelty, violence, brutality, and horror are endemic to all wars, from the Greek–Trojan War onward, and the literature from war eras in general reflects barbaric actions. The butchery of World War I is described in Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front and the anguish of gas warfare in Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce Et Decorum Est.” The wounded and dying are center front in Ernest Hemingway’s World War II novel Across the River and Into the Trees, and the characters measure their manhood through violence in James Jones’s From Here to Eternity. Perhaps the difference between the atrocities of other wars and those of Vietnam, if there is indeed a difference, is that in Vietnam America created some of its own atrocity by engaging in unnecessary violent acts, such as the deliberate slaughtering of innocent civilians at My Lai. As Edward Tabor Linenthal states, My Lai “presented an image alien to our mythology, an atrocity of our own making . . . We possessed no categories of interpretation to make sense of it.”12 Although civilians are collateral damage in all wars and the North Vietnamese engaged in atrocities, particularly during the horrific February 1968 Battle of Hue, such shocking and unnecessary slayings are reported throughout American literary works that have emerged from the war, including Tim O’Brien’s In the Lake of the Woods in which John Wade, the protagonist, tries to hide his participation in the My Lai massacre while running for political office, only to find his political career in ruins due to his war crimes. Author Kate Wilhelm reacted to the horrors of My Lai by writing a short story “The Village,” which challenges the reader to consider what it would be like to be a civilian under attack in My Lai. It took Wilhelm four years to get her story published because of her controversial subject matter; she sets the story in America, not Vietnam, and the unthinkable violence happens to average American people, not to the Vietnamese, and by their own American military, not by an outside enemy.13
Many early Vietnam War novels were modeled on the long, sweeping canonical novels of the World War I and II variety where, as Malcolm Cowley states, “The hero enlists, has adventures, and at last comes home; or he goes into action, suffers, and is killed; or again there may be a collective hero, or platoon or a ship’s company that is brought together, becomes a living unity, and then is dissolved at the end of a campaign.”14 From this type of novel came the melting-pot platoon, where soldiers of different nationalities and backgrounds had a sense of camaraderie and fellowship and worked together for a common cause. Examples of Vietnam War novels that follow this pattern include William Pelfrey’s The Big V, Winston Groom’s Better Times Than These, Robert Roth’s Sand in the Wind, John Del Vecchio’s The 13th Valley, and James Webb’s Fields of Fire. Webb’s novel, for instance, is considered realistic in character, dialogue, and action and has been viewed as being in the tradition of the World War II novels of Norman Mailer and James Jones. In Fields of Fire, a typical initiation novel, the status of the war is not as important as the individual soldier’s reaction to that war. One of its main characters, Lieutenant Robert E. Lee Hodges, has been inspired by memories of his own father who was killed in World War II and Saturday afternoon John Wayne movies. For Hodges, continuing the family war tradition is so important that “had there been no Vietnam, he would have had to invent one.”15 Fields of Fire not only contains the melting-pot platoon that includes a variety of characters, for instance, Snake, a ghetto toughie, Dan, a Vietnamese scout, Senator, a Harvard student, Cannonball, a black grunt, and Phony, a grenade specialist; it also emphasizes the camaraderie of the soldiers in combat. In fact, Webb incorporates a standard combat theme: “Man’s noblest moment is the one spent on the fields of fire.”16
Other combat novels are less traditional and more innovative, focusing less fully on a realistic format. According to Philip Beidler, such novels are more experimental than conventional because in their mad “logic” they have more in common with the “new” war novels by authors such as Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Pynchon, and Joseph Heller than with traditional war literature.17 Such works reflect the absence of purpose inherent in the Vietnam experience and its very absurdity. In David Halberstam’s One Very Hot Day, Captain Beaupre’s war activities consist of much walking in circles without ever reaching a particular goal, and Cacciato, the title character of Tim O’Brien’s Going After Cacciato, spends his days in Vietnam chewing gum and fishing fruitlessly in water-filled bomb craters. Similarly, when Private First Class Jamie Hawkins, the protagonist of Charles Durden’s No Bugles, No Drums arrives in Vietnam, he finds that the main responsibility of his company is to guard a pig farm. Hawkins does not even consider taking the war seriously until he has to save his own life and that of a friend by killing a small child who toddles toward them, a grenade strapped to her tiny body.
The typical unconventional Vietnam War novel is not, of course, a literal part of the Theatre of the Absurd’s anti-literary movement of the 1950s and 1960s; instead, it involves the use of absurdist elements for the purpose of grotesquely portraying a world of war, where madness and illogic are integral features of life. The protagonists in Vietnam War literature must try to make sense out of a world that is fragmented, disjointed, and seemingly incoherent. Stephen Wright in his novel Meditations in Green describes the war as “incredible boredom punctuated by exclamation marks or orgiastic horror,” as “a joke without a punch line.”18 As Ward Just remarked of Vietnam, “the war seemed to rock along without plot, rhyme or reason, and perhaps had most in common with an ‘East Asian theatre of the absurd.’”19 The Vietnam War novel blends its absurdist elements with black humor, a mechanism that soldiers used to cope with the horrors of war, where, for instance, any burn victim may be referred to as a crispy critter or a burned child as a crunchy munchy. Grotesque scenes are described ironically, perhaps with the use of understatement, and a special terminology or argot (that requires many books to include a glossary) is created to help the protagonists cope with the dehumanizing reality of warfare. The war is frequently portrayed as a huge joke, a grotesque parody, from which there is no real escape. As Philip Beidler states, Vietnam War novels “do not include among their number a single one that does not get down in one way or another to a similar vision of a war operating at some absolute human bottom line. When it is not pure insane atrocity, it is a dismal black joke or . . . some creepy unhinged combination of both,”20 which is perhaps why some writers like Joe Haldeman turn to science fiction. Haldeman’s 1968 not only provides a running commentary on the main historical events that occurred in that seminal year in Vietnam, such as the TET Offensive, My Lai, and Khe Sanh, but also on what was taking place in the United States, including the Civil Rights Movement, the riots in Washington, D.C., the 1960s counterculture, and the assassinations of major figures like Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. By blending science fiction with actual historical events, Haldeman reminds us of the insanity inherent in these atrocities, of a nation’s difficulty with processing actual events that seem surreal.
Vietnam War literature consists of a number of important nonfiction works as well, memoirs like Ron Kovic’s 1976 Born on the Fourth of July, Philip Caputo’s 1977 A Rumor of War, and W. D. Ehrhart’s 1983 Vietnam-Perkasie. One of the best-known personal narratives is Tim O’Brien’s If I Die in a Combat Zone/Box Me Up and Ship Me Home, which details the year that he served in Vietnam in the late 1960s, first as a “grunt” or foot soldier, then as a Battalion clerk at LZ Gator. O’Brien began publishing in forums such as Playboy, the Minneapolis Tribune, and the Washington Post while serving in Vietnam and assembled these sketches into book form upon his return home from the war. His memoir treats themes common to many of the works of the war: the concept of courage, the idea of desertion, the war’s aimlessness, and good versus evil. More recently, Karl Marlantes has followed up his 2010 epic novel Matterhorn with a personal narrative about his Vietnam experiences. In his 2011 What It Is Like to Go to War, Marlantes recounts his four-decade quest for reconciliation with the war. Arranged topically and treating such subjects as killing, violence, lying, heroism, guilt, and home, his memoir goes beyond both Vietnam and the average treatment of a personal narrative to consider conventional masculinity and the role that society should play in preparing soldiers of any war for combat and in dealing with the after effects of their tours of duty.
According to Jacqueline E. Lawson, “The animating presence” in such memoirs “is the ‘old kid,’ who tells the story of this war, his war, in a voice alternately brash, stricken, elegiac, and polemical, but always with the pervasive power of truthtelling that only the eyewitness can claim.”21 Journalists like Michael Herr, who volunteered to traverse the landscape of Vietnam, flying into warzones on helicopters and spending time in the boonies with soldiers, also offer eyewitness accounts. Dispatches, which is postmodernist in its fragmented style and well-known for its inclusion of the enigmatic short-short story—“Patrol went up the mountain. One man came back. He died before he could tell us what happened—”22 asserts that for this war’s generation, “Vietnam was what we had instead of happy childhoods.” 23 Maria S. Bonn terms Herr’s book “a tour-de-force of the imagination, an energized transformation of experience into art . . . constructed out of sources as diverse as William Blake and Jimi Hendrix.”24
Vietnam War literature has evolved considerably since its inception, and today it reflects a plethora of genres, including fiction, poetry, drama, personal narratives, memoirs, science fiction, detective fiction, New Journalism, scrapbooks, letters, and oral histories and by writers who span the globe. While the majority of works about the war are by Americans, a considerable body of literature has been published by Australians who fought in Vietnam as well as the Vietnamese people. Attention has also been called to the South Korean and Japanese experience in Southeast Asia.
Many of the early authors who wrote about the Vietnam War seem to have done so for catharsis, as a means of coming to terms with their war experience. They frequently published only one book and then disappeared from the literary scene. However, a contingent of writers have continued to publish well beyond the war era, including but not limited to fiction writers such as Philip Caputo, James Webb, and Larry Heinemann, poets like W. D. Ehrhart, John Balaban, Bruce Weigl, and Walter McDonald, and the dramatist David Rabe. Perhaps best known for fiction is Tim O’Brien, who, while he does not consider himself a war writer per se, has included Vietnam in some way in each of the eight books that he has published since 1973. Well-known poets such as Ehrhart, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Balaban have also published numerous volumes of works, not necessarily all in the genre of poetry. Ehrhart, for instance, is well known for poetry, fiction, and memoir and Balaban for poetry and nonfiction. While Gustav Hasford only lived long enough to publish three novels, his first work The Short-Timers was the basis for the popular film Full Metal Jacket. Novels such as George Davis’s 1971 Coming Home, Ron Kovic’s 1976 Born on the Fourth of July, and Winston Groom’s Forrest Gump were also attractive to film-makers.
Anthologies of Vietnam War literature began to be published in the 1980s, starting with the Theatre Communications Group’s Coming to Terms: American Plays and the Vietnam War in 1985, introduced by James Reston Jr., and W. D. Ehrhart’s two 1989 poetry collections, Unaccustomed Mercy: Soldier-Poets of the Vietnam War and Carrying the Darkness: The Poetry of the Vietnam War, and they demonstrate how difficult it would be to pigeonhole Vietnam War literature into any one style, genre, gender, or ethnicity. In 1991, Lynda Van Devanter and Joan A. Furey broke new ground by publishing an anthology of poetry by women who had served in Vietnam, Visions of War, Dreams of Peace: Writings of Women in the Vietnam War. This diversity continued with Wayne Karlin, Le Minh Khue, and Truong Vu editing a short story collection The Other Side of Heaven: Post-War Fiction by Vietnamese and American Writers, in 1995, and Phillip Mahoney publishing the first bicultural poetry collection from the war, From Both Sides Now: The Poetry of the Vietnam War and Its Aftermath, in 1998. The often-overlooked Hispanic experience has been emphasized by George Mariscal in 1999 in a collection of Chicano/Chicana writing by primarily little-known writers, Aztlán and Vietnam: Chicano and Chicana Experiences of the War. Other volumes, such as H. Bruce Franklin’s 1996 The Vietnam War in American Stories, Songs, and Poems and Stewart O’Nan’s 1998 The Vietnam Reader: The Definitive Collection of Fiction and Nonfiction on the War provide a wide variety of literature of different genres that focus on various aspects of the Vietnam War experience.
Writers of Vietnam War literature have received some of the nation’s highest literary accolades. Robert Stone received the National Book Award as early as 1974 for his novel Dog Soldiers, Gloria Emerson in 1978 for her nonfiction Winners and Losers: Battles, Retreats, Gains, Losses, and Ruins from the Vietnam War, Tim O’Brien in 1979 for his 1978 novel Going After Cacciato, and Larry Heinemann in 1986 for his novel Paco’s Story. Robert Olen Butler received the Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for his short story collection, A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, one of the first works to deal with the immigration of the Vietnamese to the United States. Works about the war continue to receive praise in the 21st century, with Denis Johnson’s Tree of Smoke receiving the National Book Award in 2007 and Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2016. In addition, Tim O’Brien was honored with the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation’s Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award in 2012 and The Pritzker Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing in 2013. O’Brien has the distinction of being the first fiction writer to receive The Pritzker Literature Award.
Vietnam War Poetry and Drama
As Vince Gotera observes, “there has been an unprecedented outpouring of poetry from the Vietnam War: from civilian war resisters as well as from veterans. In the context of the war, poetry became a cogent political instrument to awaken the American people to horrors occurring in the name of American credibility and solipsism.”25 Poets who have written about the war have traditionally fallen into two groups, mainstream American writers who did not serve in Vietnam, but who wrote about the war during the war era and then Vietnam veterans or “soldier-poets,” who have chosen to relate their war experiences through the genre of poetry. A third category has been provided in recent years by the Vietnamese people, who have offered an alternate dimension to the war.
Canonical poets of the 1960s and 1970s were highly interested in the war and often wrote protest poetry. Robert Bly’s The Light Around the Body, for instance, has been viewed by scholars as lacking unity, but as Edward Lense has pointed out, Bly has unified his collection through his prophesies against America’s participation in Vietnam.26 Along with Bly, a number of other poets protested the war through their writing, including but not limited to Robert Duncan, Denise Levertov, Allen Ginsberg, and Adrianne Rich. Levertov and Rich were among the first to take as their subject the “Other,” the Vietnamese people, who they portray as humans who also suffer from the horrors of war and not merely as an enemy. In a poem such as “What Were They Like,” for instance, Levertov structures her poem in a question-and-answer format, demonstrating an interest in the true nature of the Vietnamese people, whose lives were in reality quite ordinary.
Poets who were Vietnam veterans were often forced to rely on little known small presses to publish their work. However, the publication of the anthology Winning Hearts and Minds: War Poems by Vietnam Veterans by the 1st Casualty Press in 1972, formed by writers Larry Rottmann, Jan Barry, and Basil T. Paquet, who assembled and edited the volume of a little more than a hundred poems, was a groundbreaking event that did much to advance this body of work.27 (1st Casualty Press also published a well-known short story collection, Free Fire Zone.) Eventually, the popular volume was republished in an expanded version by Random House. Two decades after the initial publication of Winning Hearts and Minds, the Journal of American Culture published a special issue on veteran poets, which included not only a dozen essays about the work of these war poets but also a section of twenty-five poems by veterans and other writers.28 According to Lorrie Smith, Vietnam veteran poetry “dismantles the popular myth that we have regained our national innocence [by admitting] that U.S. involvement in Vietnam was a mistake.”29 In Winning Hearts and Minds, Rottmann, Barry, and Paquet state that “What distinguishes the voices” in their collection “is their progression toward an active identification of themselves as agents of pain and war—as ‘agent-victims’ of their own atrocities,” that innocence lost is innocence lost.30 Early veteran poems,” states Subarno Chattarji, “are marked by a sense of alienation and exile, and the poetic project is almost exclusively rooted in individual trauma.”31 This loss of innocence and the ensuing trauma resonates in such well-known lines as those from W. D. Ehrhart’s poem “Hunting”: “The thought occurs / that I have never hunted anything in my whole life / except other men”32; or the lines from Ehrhart’s “Parade” that mention “kids not twenty / years old, and dead in ricefields; / brain-dead, soul-dead, half-dead / in wheelchairs.”33
As many scholars have noted, there is a need for these poets to bear witness. According to Lorrie Goldensohn, it is “as if the unbelief, the extraordinary inhumanity of what is reported needs verification to a world at large, unable either to measure or comprehend its magnitude or extremity,”34 which is why Steve Hassett in a poem like “And what would you do, ma” asks, “And what would you do, ma, / if eight of your sons step / out of the TV and begin / killing chickens and burning / hootches in the living room . . . would you lock up your daughter? . . . would you change channels?”35 or W. D. Ehrhart in “A Relative Thing” acknowledges the destruction by American soldiers who “have been Democracy on Zippo raids, / burning houses to the ground, / driving eager amtracs through new-sown fields.”36 In “Anorexia,” Peter Hollenbeck writes of the disintegration of “civilized restraints,” noting that “something—not age—made us old.”37 Especially troublesome is what happens to children in war. In “Peace with Honor,” for instance, Philip Appleman writes of “the ditches full of screaming children” in Vietnam: “target-practice for our infantry.”38 For Larry Lee Rottmann, a priority on his return journey to Vietnam was to visit with the Vietnamese people: “I want to meet these folks,” he writes, “I want to know they are alive, especially the children. I need to be reassured that we didn’t kill or poison them all.”39
By the late 1960s, before other genres of Vietnam War literature were gaining popularity with the American public, Vietnam War drama was coming into its own. According to Donald Ringnalda, “drama is best suited for grappling with the Vietnam War (or any war) precisely because it is the least suited . . . Theatre is real because it is so blatantly artificial.”40 In 1967 alone, the controversial musical Hair and plays like Barbara Garson’s Macbird and Megan Terry’s Viet Rock entered the scene, followed shortly thereafter by Terrence McNally’s Botticelli, Arthur Kopit’s Indians, Ron Cowen’s Summertree, Michael Weller’s Moonchildren, and John Guare’s Muzeeka, among others. One of the best-known works of drama to emerge from the war, Emily Mann’s 1980 Still Life concerns the violence that became endemic in American life during the war era. “The Vietnam War is the backdrop to the violence at home,” writes Mann, and “[t]he play is dedicated to the casualties of the war—all of them.”41 Vietnam veteran David Rabe is considered the war’s most talented dramatist for such works as The Basic Training of Pablo Hummel, Sticks and Bones, and Streamers, all powerful plays that generate images of Vietnam and its dangers, both to the soldiers who served there and the country who sent them. As N. Bradley Christie writes of Rabe’s third Vietnam drama, “Inasmuch as Streamers is also a play about remembering, it remains a fascinating text with which to explore our culture’s recollection of Vietnam as it evolved from deadly potential [what may happen] to deadly reality [what did happen] to deadly reminder [what must not happen again].”42
Women and Minorities
While women served in Vietnam in a variety of roles, from nurses to entertainers to journalists to clerical workers to Red Cross volunteers, records were not kept by the Pentagon to indicate exactly how many women spent time in the war zone. Sources that attempt to offer a statistic vary considerably. For instance, Kathleen Puhr suggests that around 7,500 women worked in Vietnam; Olga Gruhzit-Hoyt puts the number at more than 10,000; Keith Walker estimates it at around 15,000; and Barthy Byrd even suggests 33,000.43 It was not until 1983 when Lynda Van Devanter published her memoir, Home Before Morning: The Story of an Army Nurse in Vietnam that attention was called to the fact that women served and died in Vietnam despite the fact that the names of eight women who died while serving in Vietnam are included on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and several previous fictional treatments had been published, including three novels entitled Vietnam Nurse and Patricia Walsh’s 1982 Forever Sad the Hearts. Elizabeth Ann Scarborough’s 1988 The Healer’s War, advertised on its cover as being “one of the first novels to explore the life of a military nurse in Vietnam,” offers an account of a nurse in Vietnam through the genre of fantasy, not reality. Van Devanter’s nonfiction account of her patriotic need to serve in Vietnam, the year she spent there beginning in June 1969, and the many years after the war that it took for her to come to terms with the experience and her subsequent post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) opened the door for other women to admit that they had served in Vietnam and to share their own war experiences with others. Aside from Van Devanter’s memoir, the most significant prose works to emerge from the war by women writers have been oral histories. Two years after Van Devanter’s memoir, Keith Walker edited such a volume, A Piece of My Heart: The Stories of Twenty-Six American Women Who Served in Vietnam, although the book did not become popular until it was reprinted in 1997. In the late 1980s, two other oral histories featuring women who served in Vietnam: Dan Freedman and Jacqueline Rhodes’s Nurses in Vietnam: The Forgotten Veterans and Kathryn Marshall’s In the Combat Zone: Vivid Personal Recollections of the Vietnam War from the Women Who Served There. War Torn: Stories of War from the Women Reporters Who Covered Vietnam by Tad Bartimus and eight others also adds another dimension to the female war experience as does Virgnina Elwood-Akers’s Women War Correspondents in the Vietnam War, 1961–1975. Deborah A. Butler’s 1990 American Women Writers on Vietnam: Unheard Voices: A Selected Annotated Bibliography lists almost 800 primary works about women and the war, proof that much more material exists than has been addressed. As Butler notes, these women writers’ “voices have been unheard, their writing largely unread.”44 The one scholarly study, Bettina Hofmann’s 1996 Ahead of Survival: American Women Writers Narrate the Vietnam War, begins with male canonical texts, treats primarily female writers who did not serve in Vietnam, and omits Van Devanter entirely.45
In addition to accounts by women, the texts of African-American and Chicano/a writers have also been slow to appear despite the fact that minorities were especially drafted to the military in higher numbers during the Vietnam War era. Due to Project 100,000, endorsed by former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, men who did not test well on military entrance exams, perhaps due to language barriers, were considered expendable and were allowed to join the military anyway, even if they would not ordinarily qualify for service.46 African-American soldiers were often considered “cannon-fodder,”47 and Chicano soldiers termed “Mexican lawnmowers.”48 As Shirley A. J. Hanshaw points out, black writers published literature about the war as early as 1968 and “have produced at least twenty-five novels, sixteen works of nonfiction, [and] six books of poetry,” certainly enough material for there to exist “a legitimate ‘canon’ of African American representation of the Vietnam War,”49 including such novels as George Davis’s Coming Home, A. R. Flowers’s De Mojo Blues: De Quest of High John De Conquerer, John A. Williams’s Captain Blackman, and Anthony Grooms’s Bombingham and the poetry of Yusef Komunyakaa, among others. Certainly one of the most widely recognized works of African American literature to emerge from the war is Wallace Terry’s Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans, which contains the accounts of twenty black men who served in Vietnam. While Bloods covers topics that move beyond the issue of race, Terry noted that black soldiers, who served in the tumultuous Civil Rights era, faced challenges of their own while serving “a color-blind nation.”50 Overall, African-American works about the war cover a wide variety of topics, from the heroic quest to the strong yet compassionate hero to identification with the Vietnamese “other” or enemy to prisoner-of-war issues.51
The Chicano experience has been marginalized as well; the government lists Chicanos as Caucasians in war records and thus avoids accurate record keeping. According to Charley Trujillo, “Chicano soldiers are often glossed over” in the literature of the war; they “in fact hardly exist,”52 yet there is a growing body of Chicano and Chicana works about the war, enough to comprise a subcanon within the growing canon of the war’s overall literature. In his groundbreaking anthology, Aztlán and Vietnam: Chicano and Chicano Experiences of the War, George Mariscal brings together more than sixty literary texts that were either previously published here and there in unrecognized forums such as Hispanic periodicals or that had remained unpublished. In Vietnam Veteranos: Chicanos Recall the War, Lea Ybarra collects twenty-five oral histories of Chicanos. Individual novels and short fiction have been published by writers such as Alfred Vea, Stella Pope Duarte, Michael W. Rodriguez, and Daniel Cano, and memoirs have been contributed by authors like Juan Ramirez and Manny Garcia. Project 100,000 is echoed in the theme of injustice that resounds throughout many of the Chicano and Chicana works. The fact that the Hispanic barrios were drained during Vietnam is obvious from the comments made by the characters in these texts. Ricky Navarro, a character in Stella Pope Duarte’s Let Their Spirits Dance, states that “Los Chicanos are like ducks in a row in Nam, waiting for the next bullet,”53 and Buzzy Digit, a character in Diego Vasquez Jr.’s Growing Through the Ugly, sardonically notes that “The Tejas border was especially kind to volunteers who were needed to fight in Southeast Asia.”54 This sentiment is echoed by Naomi Helena Quiñonez “America’s Wailing Wall,” a poem that calls attention to the way that “the barrios / became a pond / fat with fish / for military consumption55” and by Carmen Tafolla in “La siembra,” a poem that comments that because American minorities have been exploited in the war, “The land [in Viet Nam] will have been / well watered.”56 An especially effective Chicano protest poem is “Blessed Amerika” by Adrian Vargas, which plays off of Allen Ginsberg’s poem of social injustice, “America,” in its facetious repetition of Ginsberg’s title and the violent events spawned during the Vietnam era.57
Significant contributions to women and minorities and the literature of the war were made by Viet Nam Generation, a journal “founded in 1988 to promote and encourage interdisciplinary study of the Vietnam War era and the Vietnam War generation” and published by the nonprofit corporation Vietnam Generation, Inc., which was overseen by its president Kali Tal and an advisory board. The 1989 issues focused on “Gender and the War: Men, Women and Vietnam” and “A White Man’s War: Race Issues and Vietnam.” While research is still sparse in these areas, efforts were obviously made early on to address these gaps in scholarship.
The Home Front and the War’s Aftermath
Since the end of this war, Vietnam War literature has gradually moved from discussions of those who served in the war to the effects of the war on the home front, including the many family members and friends who were touched by the war as well as the returning veteran. In 1987, reviewer Bill Ott identified a “second generation” of this literature, one that consists of works “most concerned with the legacy of Vietnam: the scarred minds and bodies of veterans, the difficult transition to ‘normal’ life, the gradual awakening of a new generation to what their fathers may have endured.”58 Within this body of literature can be found works that explore the issues of family members and friends who were affected by the war although they never went to Vietnam, novels like Bobbie Ann Mason’s In Country, which deals with a young girl who never knew her father because he was killed in Vietnam shortly before her birth, and Donald Pfarrer’s Neverlight, a novel about a woman who loses her husband in Vietnam after he insists on serving out of a sense of duty to country. In both Jayne Anne Phillips’s Machine Dreams and Sandra Crockett Moore’s Private Woods, the protagonists’ brothers disappear while serving in Southeast Asia. Sarah, the sister of Joe in Private Woods, must cope with not knowing what really happened to her brother in Vietnam and the hole left in her life by his disappearance. She states, “After four or five years, I stopped hoping he was alive . . . in a North Vietnamese prison, or worse—I couldn’t ‘hope’ for that any longer. So in my mind, I killed him,” adding “It’s a terrible thing—not to know.”59.
The pain and uncertainty of a loved one lost at war is the very subject of Robert Bausch’s novel On the Way Home as well. The protagonist, Michael Sumner, has been declared missing in action and then dead, when in reality he has been a prisoner of war and is still alive. When Michael finally returns home, he cannot adjust to postwar society, and his parents cannot adjust to having a son who is not the prewar son that they remembered, but instead a confused young man dealing with PTSD. These characters fall into what Shad Meshad, a psychiatric social worker, terms the “forgotten wounded,” the many family members and friends stateside who in some way have been affected by war through the deaths or trauma of their loved ones who served.60 Bausch’s novel as well as others like Stephen Wright’s Meditations in Green or Charles Coleman’s Sergeant Back Again deal with the notion of the “sick vet” or the veteran who returns from war with major adjustment issues and who is considered dangerous.61 The movie Rambo especially helped to propagate the cultural stereotype that the Vietnam veteran could not readjust to life in the United States, and this stigma is often included in the literature of the war. As Philip D. Beidler has noted, “back in the world,” the former All-American boy “became the angry anti-war vet; the scorned and spit-on vet; the invisible, used-up and thrown-away vet; the stoned-killer vet; the hero-victim vet; the trauma vet; the tripwire vet; the time-bomb vet.”62
The “Other” and the Vietnamese Diaspora
A frequent topic in Vietnam War literature has been solidarity, with American veterans making return journeys to Vietnam to reconcile their differences with the Vietnamese people. Tim O’Brien, Lynda Van Devanter, Larry Heinemann, William Broyles Jr., Lynn Hampton, Larry Rottmann, Frederick Downs, and Wayne Karlin all write, either through fiction, memoir, or poetry, of the necessity of returning to Southeast Asia to confront their war demons and to reconcile with the “Other,” the Vietnamese people. Downs went for humanitarian reasons, making five journeys to Vietnam at the end of the 1980s, trips that made him see the Vietnamese people as human beings with the same basic needs as himself, humans who deserved compassion and respect. Vietnamese villages began to represent actual homes rather than a mere “cluster of meaningless primitive mud and straw huts.”63 Van Devanter stated that her return journey helped her to find her innocence, her youth: “I know now that I can never get them back, but I’ve touched them, and it’s okay.”64 Heinemann’s memoir Black Virgin Mountain: A Return to Vietnam ends with Heinemann’s joint climb up Nui Ba Den, a mountain near Tay Ninh, with Larry Rottmann and Heinemann’s declaration, “I’m home . . . I have arrived home; this place is home.”65 In Wandering Souls, Wayne Karlin recounts his trip to Vietnam with former First Lieutenant Homer Steedly Jr., who, thirty-five years after his war experience, seeks not only catharsis from the war but also forgiveness for the death of the North Vietnamese soldier-medic he killed in Pleiku Province in 1969. Importantly, Karlin focuses not only on Steedly’s quest but also on the Vietnamese family who lost a son in the war and who also need closure from their own war tragedy.
In the late 20th century, a large group of works by Vietnamese and Vietnamese-American writers added a new, essential dimension to both the conflict in Southeast Asia and the ensuing migration to the United States by many of the Vietnamese people. More than 1.5 million Vietnamese relocated to America after the United States retreated from Saigon in 1975, but bicultural treatments of the war’s literature have been slow to appear.66 Like the Americans who served in Vietnam, many of the Viet Kieu who survived the war and relocated elsewhere made return journeys to Vietnam years later and wrote about their return to their homeland in ethnic memoirs, notably Le Ly Hayslip and Andrew X. Pham. For Hayslip, the author of When Heaven and Earth Changed Places and Child of War, Women of Peace, both which relate her time in the United States as well as her return visits to Vietnam—the return journey is a hereditary obligation. Because she had left her native land, she had not taken care of her elders, as her culture dictates, and she needed to check on her family, to find out what had happened to family members and friends since her departure from Vietnam, and to reconcile their differences. In Catfish and Mandala, Pham seeks to find what is missing in his life, to reconcile with his home country, and to find out why his sister died in Vietnam. His journey to the county he abandoned, though, leads him to the realization that Vietnam will not provide him with the missing link. “In this Vietnamese muck,” he is now “too American. Too refined, too removed from [his] que, [his] birth village. The sight of [his] roots repulses [him].” “And this shames me deeply,” he confesses.67
Assimilation into American culture has been a popular topic for Asian-American writers, many of whom were only small children when their parents left Vietnam and immigrated to the United States. Such accounts frequently touch on the fact that these individuals lack a knowledge of the Vietnamese culture from which they are descended, having been suddenly thrust into a new environment that differs considerably from their indigenous culture or having been born shortly before or after their parents had left Vietnam and therefore being denied an opportunity to know well, if at all, their Southeast Asian heritage. They are exiles who have been displaced. Novels like lê thi diem thúy’s The Gangster We Are All Looking For, Dao Strom’s Grass Roof, Tin Roof, and Lan Cao’s Monkey Bridge contain characters who must leave Vietnam while young children and often with other family members and wealth left behind. In addition to her displacement, Mai Nguyen, the protagonist of Lan Cao’s Monkey Bridge, must also face challenges like the suicide of her mother, who has not told her daughter the truth about the past and who never adjusts to postwar life in the United States, to the realization that her grandfather supported the North Vietnamese, and to the fear that she feels in her new life. She exists in a liminal space, caught between two worlds, the one of privilege that she enjoyed in Vietnam and the more impoverished one that she must live in America. Also, Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer, while written by an Asian American who emigrated to the United States as a child, is told from the perspective of a North Vietnamese Army spy who is serving in the South Vietnamese Army and whose divided loyalty symbolizes the identity crisis faced both by the North and South Vietnamese people and by the Vietnamese who emigrated during and after the fall of Saigon, all of whom were split between different worlds. One American writer who has attempted to portray the immigrant experience is Robert Olen Butler. In the award-winning volume, A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, he relates the awkward experiences of Vietnamese Americans who have settled in the Lake Charles, Louisiana, area, an environment whose terrain resembles that of Southeast Asia, in an effort to assimilate into American culture. Their experiences range from a man who tries to fit in by buying one of John Lennon’s shoes to another who dreams of Ho Chi Minh to a husband who must collect his wife’s father from the airport when he first arrives from Vietnam. These works and others that chart the Vietnamese diaspora provide insight into the emigrant experience and add another rich bicultural dimension to the war and its literature. As Maureen Ryan notes, the stories of the Vietnamese refugees “are a powerful, vital chapter in the cultural history of the aftermath of the war in America and a salient component of the collective American narrative of the Vietnam War.”68
Important as well are works by North Vietnamese writers, another often overlooked aspect of the “Other.” Two North Vietnamese works frequently taught and treated by scholars are Bao Ninh’s The Sorrow of War and Duong Thu Huong’s Novel without a Name, fictional accounts that demonstrate that North Vietnamese soldiers, much like many Americans who fought in the war, were young, weary, frightened, and disillusioned. Both novels help to humanize the “enemy” and to show that even the “Other” suffered from the horrors of war, including survivor’s guilt and PTSD. Unlike the American soldiers who served tours of duty that lasted roughly one year, the Vietnamese soldiers fought in the war for its duration, a fact illustrated by Quan, the narrator of Novel without a Name, who although he is white-headed and seems aged, is in reality only twenty-eight. Interestingly, Bao Ninh’s novel is not titled The Sorrow of War in Vietnam but instead The Destiny of Love, and Duong Thu Huong, a former Communist Youth Brigade leader, who has been labeled a dissident writer in her own country, was at one time imprisoned for publishing Novel without a Name outside of Vietnam and her novels banned.69
Discussion of the Literature
Scholarly treatments of Vietnam War literature are as prolific as the literature itself, and space precludes the inclusion of many of them. Early studies demonstrate how the war and its literature disrupt conventional American myths. John Hellmann’s 1986 American Myth and the Legacy of Vietnam, for instance, points out that the literary works ask us to rethink the American myth of the frontier hero,70 and Tobey Herzog reminds us that the protagonists of many of these works journey into a Conradian heart of darkness in which they confront the darkest aspects of themselves.71 The titles of other volumes, such as Andrew Martin’s 1993 Receptions of War: Vietnam in American Culture,72 Milton J. Bates 1996 The Wars We Took to Vietnam: Cultural Conflict and Storytelling,73 or Philip K. Jason’s 2000 Acts and Shadows: The Vietnam War in American Literary Culture74 indicate an interest in cultural concerns, frequently revealing that the literature of Vietnam War reflects the conflicts in race, class, and gender that occurred during the war era and reminding us that American culture was permanently altered by the war. Jim Neilson’s 1998 Warring Fictions: Cultural Politics and the Vietnam War Narrative sets forth the argument that Vietnam War writers as well as their editors and publishers and the scholars who study them have made popular the notion that Vietnam was not the “genocidal slaughter” that we should view it as, but instead an American tragedy.75 Renny Christopher in The Viet Nam War/The American War: Images and Representations in Euro-American and Vietnamese Exile Narratives76 and Isabelle Thuy Pelaud in This Is All I Choose to Tell: History and Hybridity in Vietnamese American Literature77 make major contributions to bicultural studies. Maureen Ryan in The Other Side of Grief: The Home Front and the Aftermath in American Narratives of the Vietnam War78 offers the seminal study of the war on the home front and its aftermath.
Four important studies treat poetry. The first, James F. Mersmann’s Out of the Vietnam Vortex: A Study of Poets and Poetry Against the War was published in 1974, shortly before the fall of Saigon and is restricted to four canonical protest poets: Allen Ginsberg, Denise Levertov, Robert Bly, and Robert Duncan.79 It was twenty years before another serious study of the war’s poetry appeared. Significantly, Vince Gotera’s 1994 Radical Visions: Poetry by Vietnam Veterans turns to the work of the soldier-poets, writers such as W. D. Erhrhart, Walter McDonald, David Huddle, Michael Casey, Gerald McCarthy, Bill Shields, Lamont B. Steptoe, and Marilyn McMahon, poetry that is frequently “concerned with myth and its incompetence in helping Americans comprehend the Vietnam-war experience.”80 Veteran poets are the focus as well of Subarno Chattarji’s 2001 study, Memories of a Lost War: American Poetic Responses to the Vietnam War, which breaks new ground by including a chapter on the translated poetry of the often overlooked “Other,” the Vietnamese people.81 Also important is Michael Bibby’s 1996 Hearts and Minds: Bodies, Poetry, and Resistance in the Vietnam Era, a study that contends “that the struggles over the meanings of identity and corporeality central to social activism and oppositional politics in the 60s are significantly played out in the poetry published during the Vietnam era.”82
Few book-length studies of drama exist. Nora M. Alter’s 1996 Vietnam Protest Theatre: The Television War on Stage focuses on antiwar plays produced by both American and European writers while the war was taking place,83 and Philip C. Kolin’s 1988 David Rabe: A Stage History and a Primary and Secondary Bibliography lists more than 1,300 sources on works by and about Rabe as well as offers a substantial essay on Rabe’s life and writing.84 Chapters on Vietnam War playwrights Rabe, Lanford Wilson, and Arthur Kopit can be found in Kimball King’s 1982 Ten Modern Playwrights: An Annotated Bibliography.85
A variety of approaches are taken in the essay collections that exist. Early studies such as William J. Searle’s 1988 Search and Clear: Critical Responses to Selected Literature and Films of the Vietnam War,86 Owen W. Gilman Jr., and Lorrie Smith’s 1990 America Rediscovered: Critical Essays on Literature and Film of the Vietnam War87 and Philip K. Jason’s 1991 Fourteen Landing Zones: Approaches to Vietnam War Literature88 offer a number of individual essays on topics such as individual texts, form and technique, gender, genre, trauma studies, film, myth, and symbol, many of which were presented at annual meetings of the Popular Culture Association, which provided an active forum for scholars of Vietnam War literature as did the conferences held by Vietnam Generation. Robert Slabey’s 1996 collection The United States and Viet Nam from War to Peace: Papers from an Interdisciplinary Conference on Reconciliation brings together more than twenty primary and secondary works about the war and the subject of reconciliation that were presented at a 1993 conference at the University of Notre Dame, a forum with more than 200 participants that included such well-known writers as Lynda Van Devanter, W. D. Ehrhart, Larry Heinemann, John Balaban, Robert Olen Butler, and Neil Sheehan who presented and interacted with literary scholars, historians, and physicians, among others.89 The thirtieth anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War was celebrated at another milestone conference in 2005 at the University of Hawaiˊi, at Mānoa and the East–West Center. That three-day gathering resulted in the publication in 2009 of Thirty Years After: New Essays on Vietnam War Literature, Film, and Art, editor Mark Heberle, a volume significant not only in the inclusion of thirty essays by scholars in the field but also in the publication of keynote addresses by such established writers as Tim O’Brien, Wayne Karlin, Philip Beidler, and Andrew Lam.90 The seven essays in Brenda Boyle’s 2015 collection, The Vietnam War: Topics in Contemporary North American Literature, treat both established writers and newcomers to the field, especially more recent writers like Denis Johnson and Karl Marlantes and works by North Vietnamese and Asian American writers.91 Authors Tim O’Brien and W. D. Ehrhart have also received individual essay collections,92 and Tim O’Brien and Yusef Komunyakaa have been featured in volumes of interviews.93
By the early 1970s, periodicals were devoting special issues to Vietnam War literature. In September 1972, Poetry magazine devoted a single issue to the war’s protest poetry, featuring almost thirty poets, and the Journal of American Culture made “Poetry and the Vietnam War,” the focus of their Fall 1993 issue, treating canonical poetry, the work of soldier-poets, and Vietnamese and women writers. Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction featured “The Fiction of Vietnam” in its Winter 1983 issue, and this same journal, later renamed Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, devoted its Fall 1994 issue to Vietnam War fiction. In a Summer 1981 issue, “Focus: The Vietnam War,” the Journal of American Culture included three essays on Vietnam War literature, and in Spring 1984, Modern Fiction Studies allotted four articles to the fiction of the Vietnam War in a special issue, “Modern War Fiction.” Issue three of the 1993 Amerasia Journal was one of the earliest forums to feature essays on Vietnamese American writers and the diaspora. Vietnam Generation, published between 1989 and 1996, has done much to advance the study of Vietnam War literature as has War, Literature, and the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities since its inception in 1989. Another forum, Viet Nam War Generation Journal, published only between 2001 and 2002, has also made contributions to the war and its literature.
Several libraries house special collections that focus on the Vietnam War and its literature. In 1975, The Vietnam War Literature Collection was established at Colorado State University. This collection primarily consists of more than 4,000 imaginative works of fiction, poetry, drama, cartoons, and sketches. The largest collection on the war, “Imaginative Representations of the Vietnam War Collection,” is housed at the La Salle University Connelly Library Department of Special Collections in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Vietnam Center and Archive at Texas Technical University in Lubbock, Texas, provides access to more than 4 million pages of resources on the Vietnam War, including miscellaneous items of war writers like Tim O’Brien, whose own papers are housed in the “Tim O’Brien Papers” at the Harry Ransom Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin and in the Seymour Lawrence Collection at the University of Mississippi Libraries in Oxford, Mississippi.
Vietnam War literature is obviously a prolific body of work, a canon of its own, that continues to expand in focus and to significantly interest scholars. As Lucas Carpenter points out, “one of the most frequently observed ironies of the war is that the one war the United States lost has also given rise to its most distinguished war literature.”94 The study of the war and its extensive literary oeuvre remains ongoing and serves as a major influence on the literature emerging from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Links to Digital Materials
- Catherine Calloway. “Vietnam War Literature.” Oxford Bibliographies in American Literature. New York: Oxford University Press.
- “Imaginative Representations of the Vietnam War Collection.” LaSalle University Department of Special Collections.
- Texas Technical University. The Vietnam Center and Archive. Last modified 30 November 2016.
- Vietnam Generation Journal Archive. VIETNAMGENERATION.
- Appleman, Philip. “Peace with Honor.” War, Literature & the Arts 10.2 (1998): 91.
- Bartimas, Tad, et al. War Torn: Stories of War from the Women Reporters Who Covered Vietnam. New York: Random House, 2002.
- Bausch, Robert. On the Way Home. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2000.
- Bly, Robert. The Light Around the Body. New York: Harper & Row, 1985, c1967.
- Butler, Robert Olen. A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain. New York: H. Holt, c1992.
- Cao, Lan. Monkey Bridge. New York: Penguin, 1998.
- Caputo, Philip. A Rumor of War. New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, c1977.
- Coleman, Charles. Sergeant Back Again. New York: Harper & Row, c1980.
- Cowen, Ron. Summertree. New York: Random House, 1968.
- Davis, George. Coming Home. Washington, DC: Howard University Press, 1984.
- Del Vecchio, John. The 13th Valley. Toronto; New York: Bantam, c1982.
- Duarte, Stella Pope. Let Their Spirits Dance. New York: Rayo, c2002.
- Duong Thu Hong. Novel without a Name. Trans. Phan Huy Duong and Nina McPherson. New York: Penguin, c1995.
- Durden, Charles. No Bugles, No Drums. New York: Viking Press, 1976.
- Eastlake, William. The Bamboo Bed. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1989, c1969.
- Ehrhart, W. D., ed. Carrying the Darkness: The Poetry of the Vietnam War. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, c1985.
- Ehrhart, W. D. “Hunting.” Unaccustomed Mercy: Soldier Poets of the Vietnam War. Edited by W. D. Ehrhart, 58. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 1989.
- Ehrhart, W. D. “A Relative Thing.” Unaccustomed Mercy: Soldier-Poets of the Vietnam War, 59–60. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 1989.
- Ehrhart, W. D., ed. Unaccustomed Mercy: Soldier-Poets of the Vietnam War. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 1989.
- Ehrhart, W. D. Vietnam-Perkasie. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1983.
- Elwood-Akers, Virginia. Women War Correspondents in the Vietnam War, 1961–1975. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1988.
- Emerson, Gloria. Winners and Losers: Battles, Retreats, Gains, Losses, and Ruins from the Vietnam War. New York: Random House, c1976.
- Fall, Bernard. Hell in a Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1967.
- Fall, Bernard. Street Without Joy: The French Debacle in Indochina. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, c1961, 2005.
- Flowers, A. R. De Mojo Blues: De Quest of High John de Conquerer. New York: Ballantine, 1985.
- Ford, Daniel. Incidents at Muc Wa. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1967.
- Franklin, H. Bruce, ed. The Vietnam War in American Stories, Songs, and Poems. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press, 1996.
- Freedman, Dan, and Jacqueline Rhodes. Nurses in Vietnam: The Forgotten Veterans. Austin: Texas Monthly Press, c1987.
- Garson, Barbara. Macbird. New York: Grove, 1967.
- Ginsberg, Allen. “America.” Selected Poems 1947–1995, 62–64. New York: Perennial Classics, 1996.
- Greene, Graham. The Quiet American. New York: Penguin, 1996.
- Groom, Winston. Better Times Than These. New York: Summit, c1978.
- Groom, Winston. Forrest Gump. New York: Vintage, 2012.
- Grooms, Anthony. Bombingham. New York: Free Press, c2001.
- Guare, John. Muzeeka. New York: Dramatists Play Service, 1998.
- Halberstam, David. One Very Hot Day. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1968.
- Haldeman, Joe. 1968. New York: Morrow, c1995.
- Haldeman, Joe. War Year. New York: Open Road Media, 2014.
- Hasford, Gustav. The Short-Timers. New York: Harper & Row, c1979.
- Hassett, Steve. “And what would you do, ma.” Carrying the Darkness: The Poetry of the Vietnam War, 131. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, c1985.
- Hayslip, Le Ly. When Heaven and Earth Changed Places: A Vietnamese Woman’s Journey from War to Peace. New York: Plume, 1990.
- Heinemann, Larry, Black Virgin Mountain: A Return to Vietnam. New York: Doubleday, 2005.
- Heinemann, Larry. Paco’s Story. New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 2005.
- Hemingway, Ernest. Across the River and Into the Trees. Toronto: HarperCollins, 2012.
- Herr, Michael. Dispatches. New York: Everyman’s Library/Alfred A. Knopf, 2009.
- Hollenbeck, Peter. “Anorexia.” Carrying the Darkness: The Poetry of the Vietnam War, 136–137. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 1985.
- Huggett, William Turner. Body Count. New York: Dell, 1973.
- Johnson, Denis. Tree of Smoke. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.
- Jones, James. From Here to Eternity. New York: Scribner’s, 1951.
- Karlin, Wayne. Wandering Souls. New York: Nation Books, 2009.
- Karlin, Wayne, Le Minh Khue, and Truong Vu. The Other Side of Heaven: Post-War Fiction by Vietnamese and American Writers. Willimantic, CT: Curbstone, 1995.
- Komunyakaa, Yusef. Dien Cai Dau. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1988.
- Koppit, Arthur. Indians: A Play. New York: Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1969.
- Kovic, Ron. Born on the Fourth of July. New York: Akashic, c2005.
- Lederer, William J., and Eugene Burdick. The Ugly American. New York: W. W. Norton, 1999, c1986.
- Levertov, Denise. “What Were They Like?” The Sorrow Dance, p. 84. New York: New Directions, 1963, 1966.
- McNally, Terrence. Botticelli. Coming to Terms: American Plays and the Vietnam War. Introduction by James Reston Jr., 67–76. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1985.
- Mahoney, Phillip, ed. From Both Sides Now: The Poetry of the Vietnam War and Its Aftermath. New York: Scribner, 1998.
- Mann, Emily. Still Life. Alexandria, VA: Alexander Street Press, 2005.
- Mariscal, George, ed. Aztlán and Vietnam: Chicano and Chicana Experiences of the War. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.
- Marlantes, Karl. Matterhorn. New York: Atlantic Monthly, c2010.
- Marlantes, Karl. What It Is Like to Go to War. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2011.
- Mason, Bobbie Ann. In Country. New York: Harper & Row, c1985.
- Marshall, Kathryn. In the Combat Zone: Vivid Personal Recollections of the Vietnam War from the Women Who Served There. New York: Penguin, 1987.
- Moore, Robin. The Green Berets. New York: Skyhorse, c2007.
- Moore, Sandra Crockett. Private Woods: A Novel. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988.
- Nguyen, Viet Thanh. The Sympathizer. New York: Grove, 2015.
- Ninh, Bao. The Sorrow of War. London: Secker & Warburg, 1993.
- O’Brien, Tim. Going After Cacciato. New York: Delacorte Press/Seymour Lawrence, c1978.
- O’Brien, Tim. If I Die in a Combat Zone/Box Me Up and Ship Me Home. New York: Broadway Books, 1999.
- O’Brien, Tim. In the Lake of the Woods. Boston: Houghton Mifflin/Seymour Lawrence, c1994.
- O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, c1990.
- O’Nan, Stewart. The Vietnam Reader: The Definitive Collection of Fiction and Nonfiction on the War. New York: Anchor Books, 1998.
- Owen, Wilfred. “Dulce Et Decorum Est.” The Collected Poem of Wilfred Owen. Edited and introduced by C. Day Lewis, 55–56. New York: New Directions, 1963.
- Pelfrey, William. The Big V. New York: Avon, c1972.
- Pham, Andrew X. Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Journey Voyage through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam. New York: Picador, 1999.
- Phillips, Jayne Anne. Machine Dreams. New York: Dutton/Seymour Lawrence, c1984.
- Pfarrer, Donald. Neverlight. New York: Dell, 1982.
- Quiñonez, Naomi Helena. “America’s Wailing Wall.” Aztlán and Vietnam: Chicano and Chicana Experiences of the War. Edited by George Mariscal, 282–285. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.
- Rabe, David. The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel. New York: S. French, 1969.
- Rabe, David. Streamers. New York: Knopf, 1977.
- Rabe, David. Sticks and Bones. Alexandria, VA: Alexander Street Press, 2007.
- Remarque, Erich Maria. All Quiet on the Western Front. New York: Fawcett, c1929.
- Reston, James, Jr., intro. Coming to Terms: American Plays and the Vietnam War. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1985.
- Roth, Robert. Sand in the Wind. New York: Pinnacle Books, c1973.
- Rottmann, Larry, Jan Barry, and Basil T. Paquet, eds. Winning Hearts and Minds: War Poems by Vietnam Veterans. Brooklyn: 1st Casualty Press, c1972.
- Scarborough, Elizabeth Ann. The Healer’s War. Norwalk, CT: Easton, 2001.
- Sloan, James Park. War Games. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1971.
- Stone, Robert. Dog Soldiers. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1997.
- Strom, Dao. Grass Roof, Tin Roof. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003.
- Tafolla, Carmen. “La siembra.” Aztlán and Vietnam: Chicano and Chicana Experiences of the War. Edited by George Mariscal, 180–181. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.
- Terry, Megan. Viet Rock. Alexandria, VA: Alexander Street Press, 2003.
- Terry, Wallace. Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans. New York: Random House, c1984.
- Thúy, lê thi diem. The Gangster We Are All Looking For. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003.
- Van Devanter, Home Before Morning: The Story of an Army Nurse in Vietnam. New York: Beaufort, c1983.
- Van Devanter, Lynda, and Joan A. Furey. Visions of War, Dreams of Peace: Writings of Women in the Vietnam War. New York: Warner, c1991.
- Vargas, Adrian. “Blessed Amerika.” Aztlán and Vietnam: Chicano and Chicana Experiences of the War. Edited by George Mariscal, 236–237. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.
- Vasquez, Diego, Jr. Growing Through the Ugly: A Novel. New York: W. W. Norton, c1997.
- Walker, Keith. A Piece of My Heart; The Stories of Twenty-Six American Women Who Served in Vietnam. Novato, CA: Presidio, 1986.
- Walsh, Patricia. Forever Sad the Hearts. Library Journal 107 (1982): 197.
- Webb, James. Fields of Fire. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2000.
- Weller, Michael. Moonchildren. Alexandria, VA: Alexander Street Press, 2005.
- Wilhelm, Kate. “The Village.” The Vietnam War in American Stories, Songs, and Poems. Edited by H. Bruce Franklin, 123–132. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press, 1996.
- Williams, John A. Captain Blackman. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1972.
- Wright, Stephen. Meditations in Green. New York: Scribner’s, c1983.
- Ybarra, Lea. Vietnam Veteranos: Chicanos Recall the War. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2004.
- Alter, Nora M. Vietnam Protest Theatre: The Television War on Stage. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996.
- Beidler, Philip D. American Literature and the Experience of Vietnam. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1982.
- Beidler, Philip D. Re-Writing America: Vietnam Authors in Their Generation. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1991.
- Bibby, Michael. “‘Where Is Vietnam?’ Antiwar Poetry and the Canon.” College English 55.2 (1993): 158–178.
- Boyle, Brenda M., ed. The Vietnam War: Topics in Contemporary North American Literature. London: Bloomsbury, 2015.
- Franklin, H. Bruce. “The Vietnam War as American Science Fiction and Fantasy.” Vietnam and Other American Fantasies. By H. Bruce Franklin, 151–172. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2000.
- Gilman, Owen W., Jr., and Lorrie Smith, eds. America Rediscovered: Critical Essays on Literature and Film of the Vietnam War. New York: Garland, 1990.
- Gotera, Vince. Radical Visions: Poetry by Vietnam Veterans. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1994.
- Heberle, Mark, ed. Thirty Years After: New Essays on Vietnam War Literature, Film, and Art. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2009.
- Herzog, Tobey C. Vietnam War Stories: Innocence Lost. London: Routledge, 1992.
- Herzog, Tobey C. “Writing About Vietnam: A Heavy Heart-of-Darkness Trip.” College English 41.6 (1980): 680–695.
- Hillstrom, Kevin, and Laurie Collier Hillstrom. The Vietnam Experience: A Concise Encyclopedia of American Literature, Songs, and Films. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1998.
- Jason, Philip K. Acts and Shadows: The Vietnam War in American Literary Culture. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2000.
- Jeffords, Susan. The Remasculinization of America: Gender and the Vietnam War. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989.
- Malo, Jean-Jacques, ed. The Last Time I Dreamed About the War: Essays on the Life and Writing of W. D. Ehrhart. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2014.
- Mersmann, James F. Out of the Vietnam Vortex: A Study of Poets and Poetry Against the War. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1974.
- Pelaud, Isabelle Thuy. This Is All I Choose to Tell: History and Hybridity in Vietnamese American Literature. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2011.
- Ringnalda, Donald. Fighting and Writing the Vietnam War. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1994.
- Ryan, Maureen. The Other Side of Grief: The Home Front and the Aftermath in American Narratives of the Vietnam War. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2008.
- Searle, William J., ed. Search and Clear: Critical Responses to Selected Literature and Films of the Vietnam War. Bowling Green, KY: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1988.
- Slabey, Robert M. The United States and Viet Nam from War to Peace: Papers on an Interdisciplinary Conference on Reconciliation. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1996.
1. Australian texts about the Vietnam War include Barry Heard’s Well Done, Those Men: Memoir of a Vietnam Veteran, 3d ed. (Melbourne: Scribe, 2013), Rhys Pollard’s The Cream Machine (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1972), William Nagle’s The Odd Angry Shot (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1975), Kenneth Cook’s The Wine of God’s Anger (Melbourne: Cheshire-Lansdowne, 1968), and John Rowe’s Count Your Dead (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1968). For critical material, see a special issue of Vietnam Generation: Australia R & R: Representations and Reinterpretations of Australia’s War in Vietnam, eds. Jeff Doyle and Jeffrey Grey 3.2 (1991), Australia’s Vietnam War, eds. Jeff Doyle, Jeffrey Grey, and Peter Pierce (College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 2002), and Robert Mason and Leonie Jones “‘The Deep Black Hole’: Vietnam in the Memories of Australian Veterans and Refugees” in Looking Back on the Vietnam War: Twenty-first-Century Perspectives, eds. Brenda M. Boyle and Jeehyun Lim (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2016), 110–125. French writer Marguerite Duras has treated Vietnam in her novel The Sea Wall (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1967; New York: HarperCollins, 1986). For a scholarly study of Vietnam and French literature, see Leslie Barnes, Vietnam and the Colonial Condition of French Literature (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2014). The best-known Japanese novels about Vietnam are perhaps Takeshi Kaiko’s Into a Black Sun, Trans. Cecilia Segaw Seigle (Tokyo: Kodansho, 1983) and Darkness in Summer, Trans. Cecilia Segaw Seigle (New York: Knopf, 1973). See also Mark A. Heberle’s critical essay “Darkness in the East: The Vietnam Novels of Takeshi Kaiko,” in Fourteen Landing Zones: Approaches to Vietnam War Literature, ed. Philip K. Jason (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1991), 189–199. Representative Korean texts about Vietnam include Suk-Young Hwang’s The Shadow of Arms, Trans. Chung Kyung-Ja (Ithaca: Cornell East Asia Program, 1994), Yŏng-han Pak’s River of Songba (Seoul: Minŭmsa, 1992), and Jonghyo Ahn’s White Badge (New York: Soho, 1989). See also Jinim Park’s Narratives of the Vietnam War by Korean and American Writers (New York: Peter Lang, 2007).
2. Tom Colonnese and Jerry Hogan, “Vietnam War Literature, 1958–1979: A First Checklist,” Bulletin of Bibliography 38.1 (1981): 26–31, 51.
3. See, for instance, John Newman, and others, Vietnam War Literature: An Annotated Bibliography of Imaginative Works about Americans Fighting in Vietnam, 3d ed. (New Jersey: Metuchen, 1996).
4. Sandra M. Wittman, Writing About Vietnam: A Bibliography of the Literature of the Vietnam Conflict (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1989).
5. Catherine Calloway, “Vietnam War Literature and Film: A Bibliography of Secondary Sources,” Bulletin of Bibliography 43.3 (1986): 149–158.
6. The Quiet American was directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and released by United Artists in 1958. It was followed by The Ugly American, which was directed by George Englund and released by Universal-International in 1963. The Green Berets, which starred John Wayne, was directed by John Wayne and Ray Kellogg and released by Warner Brothers in 1968.
7. Edward Frederick Palm, “American Heart of Darkness: The Moral Vision of Five Novels of the Vietnam War” (PhD dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1983), 41.
8. Philip D. Beidler, American Literature and the Experience of Vietnam (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1982), 34.
9. Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried (Boston: Mariner Books, 1990), 179.
10. Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried, 179.
11. Tim O’Brien, Going After Cacciato (New York: Dell, 1978), 320.
12. Edward Tabor Linenthal, “From Hero to Anti-Hero: The Transformation of the Warrior in Modern America,” in Religion and Politics in the Modern World, eds. Peter H. Merkl and Ninian Smart (New York: New York University Press, 1983), 241.
13. H. Bruce Franklin, “Kate Wilhelm,” in The Vietnam War in American Stories, Songs, and Poems, ed. H. Bruce Franklin (Boston: Bedford Books, 1996), 123–124.
14. Malcolm Cowley, The Literary Situation (New York: Viking, 1954), 23.
15. James Webb, Fields of Fire (Englewood Cliffs: New Jersey, 1978), 29.
16. James Webb, Fields of Fire, 258.
17. Beidler, American Literature and the Experience of Vietnam, 54, 169.
18. Stephen Wright, Meditations in Green (New York: Scribner’s, 1983), 96, 91.
19. Ward Just, To What End: Report from Vietnam (Boston: Houghton, 1968), 2.
20. Beidler, American Literature and the Experience of Vietnam, 167.
21. Jacqueline E. Lawson, “‘Old Kids’: The Adolescent Experience in the Nonfiction Narratives of the Vietnam War,” in Search and Clear: Critical Responses to Selected Literature and Films of the Vietnam War, ed. William J. Searle (Bowling Green: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1988), 27.
22. Michael Herr, Dispatches (New York: Knopf, 1977), 6.
23. Michael Herr, Dispatches, 244.
24. Maria S. Bonn, “The Lust of the Eye: Michael Herr, Gloria Emerson and the Art of Observation,” Papers on Language and Literature 29 (1993): 29–30.
25. Vince Gotera, Radical Visions: Poetry by Vietnam Veterans (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1994), xii.
26. Edward Lense, “The Assyrian Lion Above the Soybean Fields: Bly’s Light Around the Body as Prophecy Against the Vietnam War,” Journal of American Culture 16.3 (1993): 90.
27. For more information on the 1st Casualty Press, see Caroline Slocock, “Winning Hearts and Minds: The 1st Casualty Press,” Journal of American Studies 16.1 (1982): 107–117.
28. See “Poetry and the Vietnam War,” eds. Vince Gotera and Theresa L. Brown. Journal of American Culture 16.3 (Fall 1993): 1–122.
29. Lorrie Smith, “A Sense-Making Perspective in Recent Poetry by Vietnam Veterans,” The American Poetry Review 15.6 (1986): 14.
30. Larry Rottmann, Jan Barry, and Basil T. Paquet, Winning Hearts and Minds: War Poems by Vietnam Veterans, eds. Larry Rottmann, Jan Barry, and Basil T. Paquet (Brooklyn and New York: 1st Casualty Press, 1972), v.
31. Subarno Chattarji, Memories of a Lost War: American Poetic Responses to the Vietnam War (Oxford: Clarendon, 2001), xiv.
32. W. D. Ehrhart, “Hunting,” in Carrying the Darkness: The Poetry of the Vietnam War, ed. W. D. Ehrhart (Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 1989), 95.
33. W. D. Ehrhart, Just for Laughs (Silver Spring, MD: Vietnam Generation and Burning Cities, 1990), 17.
34. Lorrie Goldensohn, Dismantling Glory: Twentieth-Century Soldier Poetry (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), 249.
35. Steve Hassett, “And what would you do, ma,” Carrying the Darkness, 131.
36. W. D. Ehrhart, “A Relative Thing,” Carrying the Darkness, 96.
37. Peter Hollenbeck, “Anorexia,” Carrying the Darkness, 137.
38. Philip Appleman, “Peace with Honor,” Carrying the Darkness, 5.
39. Larry Lee Rottmann, “A Hundred Happy Sparrows: An American Veteran Returns to Vietnam,” Vietnam Generation 1.1 (1989): 132–133.
40. Donald Ringnalda, Fighting and Writing the Vietnam War (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1994), 173.
41. Emily Mann, “Playwright’s Note,” in Coming to Terms: American Plays and the Vietnam War, ed. James Reston, Jr. (New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1985), 214.
42. N. Bradley Christie, “David Rabe’s Theater of War and Remembering,” in Search and Clear: Critical Responses to Selected Literature and Films of the Vietnam War, ed. William J. Searle (Bowling Green, KY: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1988), 112.
43. See Kathleen Puhr, Search and Clear, 173, and the statistics cited from Olga Gruhzit-Hoyt, Keith Walker, and Barthy Byrd in Maureen Ryan, The Other Side of Grief: The Home Front and the Aftermath in American Narratives of the Vietnam War (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2008), 63.
44. Deborah A. Butler, American Women Writers on Vietnam: Unheard Voices a Selected Annotated Bibliography (New York: Garland, 1990), xii.
45. Bettina Hofmann, Ahead of Survival: American Women Writers Narrate the Vietnam War (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1996) Hofmann does treat Home Before Morning in a later essay. See “On the Battlefield and Home Front: American Women Writing Their Lives on the Vietnam War,” in Arms and the Self: War, the Military, and Autobiographical Writing, ed. Alex Vernon (Kent: Kent State University Press, 2005), 202–217.
46. For information on Project 100,000, see Lisa Hsiao, “Project 100,000: The Great Society’s Answer to Military Manpower Needs in Vietnam,” Vietnam Generation 1.2 (1989): 14–37.
47. See Shirley A. J. Hanshaw, “Refusal to be Can(n)on Fodder: African American Representation of the Vietnam War and Canon Formation,” in Thirty Years After: New Essays on Vietnam War Literature, Film, and Art, ed. Mark Heberle (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2009), 123–141.
48. See, for instance, Leroy Quintana’s poem “Jump School-Detail,” Interrogations (Chevy Chase, Maryland: Viet Nam Generation and Burning Cities, 1992), 27.
49. Hanshaw, 124.
50. Wallace Terry, Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans (New York: Ballantine, 1984), xv.
51. For a list of thematic concerns in African-American literature of the Vietnam War, see Hanshaw, 123–141.
52. Charley Trujillo, ed., Soldados: Chicanos in Viet Nam (San Jose, California: Chusma House, 1990), VII.
53. Stella Pope Duarte, Let Their Spirits Dance (New York: HarperCollins, 2002), 8.
54. Diego Vasquez, Jr., Growing Through the Ugly (New York: W. W. Norton, 1997), 76.
55. Naomi Helena Quiñonez, “America’s Wailing Wall,” in Aztlán and Viet Nam: Chicano and Chicana Experiences of the War, ed. George Mariscal (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 283.
56. Carmen Tafolla, “La siembra,” in Mariscal, 181.
57. Adrian Vargas, “Blessed Amerika,” in Mariscal, 236.
58. Bill Ott, “Quick Bibs: Vietnam in Fiction,” American Libraries (May 1987): 324.
59. Sandra Crockett Moore, Private Woods: A Novel (San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988), 66.
60. David Behrens, “A Delayed Reaction: Vietnam Casualties at Home,” Ms. (March 1982), 39.
61. For a discussion of the “sick vet,” see William J. Searle, “Walking Wounded; Vietnam War Novels of Return,” in Searle, 147–159.
62. Philip D. Beidler, “Thirty Years After: The Archaeologies,” in Thirty Years After: New Essays on Vietnam War Literature, Film, and Art, ed. Mark Heberle (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 18.
63. Frederick Downs, No Longer Enemies, Not Yet Friends: An American Soldier Returns to Vietnam (New York: Pocket Books, 1991), 293.
64. Van Devanter, 374–375.
65. Larry Heinemann, Black Virgin Mountain: A Return to Vietnam (New York: Doubleday, 2005), 243.
66. For a recent study of the Vietnamese refugee experience, see the individual essays in Looking Back on the Vietnam War: Twenty-first-Century Perspectives, eds. Brenda M. Boyle and Jeehyun Lim. (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2016).
67. Andrew X. Pham, Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Journey Voyage through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999), 183.
68. Ryan, 257.
69. For a more in-depth discussion of The Sorrows of War and Novel without a Name, see William J. Searle, “Dissident Voices: The NVA Experience in Novels by Vietnamese,” War, Literature, and the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities 10.2 (1998): 224–238.
70. John Hellmann, American Myth and the Legacy of Vietnam (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986).
71. Tobey Herzog, “Writing About Vietnam: A Heavy Heart-of-Darkness Trip,” College English 43.6 (1980): 680–695.
72. Andrew Martin, Receptions of War: Vietnam in American Culture (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993).
73. Milton J. Bates, The Wars We Took to Vietnam: Cultural Conflict and Storytelling (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996).
74. Philip K. Jason, Acts and Shadows: The Vietnam War in American Literary Culture (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000).
75. Jim Neilson, Warring Fictions: Cultural Politics and the Vietnam War Narrative (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1998), 6.
76. Renny Christopher, The Vietnam War/The American War: Images and Representations in Euro-American and Vietnamese Exile Narratives (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1995).
77. Isabelle Thuy Pelaud, This Is All I Choose to Tell: History and Hybridity in Vietnamese American Literature (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2011).
78. Maureen Ryan, The Other Side of Grief: The Home Front and the Aftermath in American Narratives of the Vietnam War (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2008).
79. James F. Mersmann, Out of the Vietnam Vortex: A Study of Poets and Poetry Against the War (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1974).
80. Gotera, xii.
81. Subarno Chattarji, Memories of a Lost War: American Poetic Responses to the Vietnam War (Oxford: Clarendon, 2001).
82. Michael Bibby, Hearts and Minds: Bodies, Poetry, and Resistance in the Vietnam Era (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1996), 5.
83. Nora M. Alter, Vietnam Protest Theatre: The Television War on Stage (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996).
84. Philip C. Kolin, David Rabe: A Stage History and a Primary and Secondary Bibliography (New York: Garland, 1988).
85. Kimball King, Ten Modern Playwrights: An Annotated Bibliography (New York: Garland, 1982).
86. William J. Searle, ed., Search and Clear: Critical Responses to Selected Literature and Films of the Vietnam War (Bowling Green, KY: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1988).
87. Owen W. Gilman, Jr. and Lorrie Smith, eds., America Rediscovered: Critical Essays on Literature and Film of the Vietnam War (New York: Garland, 1990).
88. Philip K. Jason, ed. Fourteen Landing Zones: Approaches to Vietnam War Literature (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1991).
89. Robert M. Slabey, ed. The United States and Viet Nam from War to Peace (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1996).
90. Mark Heberle, ed. Thirty Years After: New Essays on Vietnam War Literature, Film, and Art. (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2009).
91. Brenda M. Boyle, ed., The Vietnam War: Topics in Contemporary North American Literature (London: Bloomsbury, 2015).
92. See Alex Vernon and Catherine Calloway, eds., Approaches to Teaching the Works of Tim O’Brien (New York: Modern Language Association, 2010); Robert C. Evans, ed., Critical Insights: Tim O’Brien (Ipswich, Massachusetts: Salem Press, 2015) and Jean-Jacques Malo, ed., The Last Time I Dreamed About the War: Essays on the Life and Writing of W. D. Ehrhart (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2014).
93. See Patrick A. Smith, ed., Conversations with Tim O’Brien (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2012) and Shirley A. James Hanshaw, ed., Conversations with Yusef Komunyakaa (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2010).
94. Lucas Carpenter, “Vietnam War,” in Encyclopedia of American War Literature, eds. Philip K. Jason and Mark A. Graves (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2001), 349.