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Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War (Harvard University Press)
All wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory. From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer comes a searching exploration of the conflict Americans call the Vietnam War and Vietnamese call the American War—a conflict that lives on in the collective memory of both nations.
From a kaleidoscope of cultural forms—novels, memoirs, cemeteries, monuments, films, photography, museum exhibits, video games, souvenirs, and more—Nothing Ever Dies brings a comprehensive vision of the war into sharp focus. At stake are ethical questions about how the war should be remembered by participants that include not only Americans and Vietnamese but also Laotians, Cambodians, South Koreans, and Southeast Asian Americans. Too often, memorials valorize the experience of one’s own people above all else, honoring their sacrifices while demonizing the “enemy” —or, most often, ignoring combatants and civilians on the other side altogether. Visiting sites across the United States, Southeast Asia, and Korea, Viet Thanh Nguyen offers penetrating interpretations of the way memories of the war help to enable future wars or struggle to prevent them.
Drawing from this war, Nguyen offers a lesson for all wars by calling on us to recognize not only our shared humanity but our ever-present inhumanity. This is the only path to reconciliation with our foes, and with ourselves. Without reconciliation, war’s truth will be impossible to remember, and war’s trauma impossible to forget.
Praise for Nothing Ever Dies:
"Beautifully written, powerfully argued, thoughtful, provocative".--Marilyn B. Young, author of The Vietnam Wars, 1945-1990
"Nothing Ever Dies provides the fullest and best explanation of how the Vietnam War has become so deeply inscribed into national memory. Nguyen's elegant prose is at once deeply personal, sweepingly panoramic, and hauntingly evocative."--Ari Kelman, author of A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling over the Memory of Sand Creek"
"Is there hope for an ethics of memory, or for peace? Nothing Ever Dies reveals that, in our collective memories of conflict, we are still fighting the Forever War. Nguyen's distinctive voice blends ideas with family history in a way that is original, unique, exciting. A vitally important book."--Maxine Hong Kingston, author of To Be a Poet"
"Inspired by the author's personal odyssey, informed by his wide-ranging exploration of literature, film, and art, this is a provocative and moving meditation on the ethics of remembering and forgetting. Rooted in the Vietnam War and its aftermath, it speaks to all who have been displaced by war and revolution, and carry with them memories, whether their own or of others, private or collective, that are freighted with nostalgia, guilt, and trauma.--Hue-Tam Ho Tai, editor of The Country of Memory: Remaking the Past in Late Socialist Vietnam"
Viet Thanh Nguyen, the author of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Sympathizer, was born in Vietnam and raised in America. His stories have appeared in Best New American Voices, TriQuarterly, Narrative, and the Chicago Tribune and he is the author of the academic book Race and Resistance, and a new work of nonfiction, Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War (Harvard University Press, March 2016). He teaches English and American Studies at the University of Southern California and lives in Los Angeles. He tweets at @viet_t_nguyen.
Tom Hayden is an the author of 20 books, activist, and was a California legislator for 18 years. His forthcoming book is The Power of Protest: The Forgotten History of the Vietnam Peace Movement (Yale University Press, 2017). He has lectured and taught at Harvard's Institute of Politics, UCLA Labor Studies, and Scripps, Occidental, and Pitzer Colleges. As a State Senator and Assemblyman he chaired committees on labor, environment and higher education, and authored bills creating the first Central American Studies program (at Cal State LA), the largest national resources bond in US history, back wages for sweatshop workers, trigger locks on handguns, criminal penalties for domestic violence, college savings trusts, a ban on carcinogens reaching drinking water, tripling of tobacco taxes, requirements for renewable energy set-asides, tattoo removal, Holocaust survivors insurance claims, and World War 2 slave labor compensation. He authored anti-sweatshop ordinances for the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco. Hayden has spent over 50 years in social movements, beginning with the Freedom Rides of 1960, the founding of Students for a Democratic Society in 1962, community organizing in Newark 1964-68, leadership in the anti-war movement 1968-75, participation in the peace and justice movements, 2000-2015. He was Governor Jerry Brown's first solar energy commissioner (1979) and continues in a leading role in forging a model green energy economy in California.