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Grove at Home: March 28-April 3

Welcome to Grove at Home!

Every weekday, from now until we’re all out of the house again, we’ll be sharing a couple of links — some fresh, some from the vault — to say hi, remind you to keep reading, and let you know what’s on our minds.

 

Monday, March 29

Mark Bowden on the US war in Vietnam

Today is National Vietnam War Veterans Day in the US, an occasion first observed by Barack Obama in 2012, and made a recurring annual commemoration by Donald Trump in 2017. More than fifty years after the last US combat troops left Vietnam, opinions remain sharply divided on the war America fought there. Here, from late 2017, is journalist and Hue 1968 author Mark Bowden sharing his view from half a century out: “Democracy is not something that can be imposed or gifted.”

 

Viet Thanh Nguyen on the American War

Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer, The Refugees, and The Committed, isn’t a veteran of the war, but it had a powerful effect on his life — North Vietnam’s final invasion swept through his hometown, making refugees of his family, who emigrated first to South Vietnam, and then to the US. The war remains a vital force in his thinking and writing. In this 2019 interview with Helen Scott for Guernica, Viet reflects on how that war impacted his life — and on the plight of today’s refugees, the difference between “disremembering” and “ethical memory,” and more.

The Sympathizer uses political satire to demonstrate that American intervention in Vietnam was born out of America’s own imperialist and racist tradition. This perspective makes many Americans uncomfortable, but I felt it was important to counter the dominance of the ‘well-intentioned American’ argument, particularly as a Vietnamese refugee. People like me are not expected to say these things. We’re expected to be grateful to the United States for rescuing us, but the novel satirizes that idea, by saying ‘we’re grateful for being rescued but maybe we wouldn’t have needed it if you hadn’t bombed us in the first place.’” Continue reading…

 

Karl Marlantes on what war tell us about human aggression

In this short clip from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s PBS series The Vietnam War, Karl Marlantes — who fought in Vietnam with the US Marine Corps and has written several acclaimed books inspired by his experiences there, including Matterhorn and What It Is Like to Go to War — talks about some of the more violent human truths he learned during his military service.

 

Robert Olen Butler remains haunted by the Vietnam War

Author Robert Olen Butler served with the US Army in Vietnam, and what he saw there has continued to inform his writing ever since, including his Pulitzer Prize-winning collection A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, and his novel Perfume River, the translation of which into French provided the occasion for this 2018 interview with Eve Jackson for France 24’s Encore! “For most people, the [Vietnam] War was not directly about the horrors of battle — it was about the collision of cultures… There were no front lines… You were always in a kind of intense, heightened state of sensual being.”