Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Freedman, Russell. Vietnam: A History of the War.

Freedman, Russell.  Vietnam: A History of the War.  Holiday House  2016  150p      $20.00 ISBN 978-0-8234-3658-3      hs/adult  Nonfiction  E-BN                 

After reading the first chapter of this book, any reader would be able to surmise that Russell Freedman is an award-winning author.  One does not have to read the back cover to know that many of his books have won widespread praise. His style is very readable.  In addition, his choice of information to include in  a book that could easily have been a ten-volume set and his strategic choice and placement of photographs combine to make this a stellar book.  His vocabulary is as rich as his narrative style, and he has a way of presenting nonfiction that makes it read like fiction.  Nonfiction is often a tough choice for young adults to make when settling down to read.  This book will not be a tough choice.  Because of the great notoriety of the Vietnam War, the book will be read, and read by many.  One could easily see a social studies teacher centering an entire unit on this book.  There is certainly enough content to encourage lots of debate, both written and oral. It showcases the years of oppression suffered by the Vietnamese and portrays the indomitable spirit of a people who despised being under the control of others, starting with the Chinese, followed by the French, and continuing with the Americans (who, as Freedman mentions, were viewed as an oppressor by the North.)  With nonfiction it can be difficult to refrain from showing one’s bias, but Freedman does a wonderful job of presenting controversial data by using lots of primary sources.  As Freedman notes, had the United States agreed to Ho Chi Minh’s wishes, the war could have been prevented.  He describes the dismay of the American people at finding themselves embroiled in a war to prevent the spread of Communism, when actually, the Vietnamese people suffered far greater harm during the war than they might have under a Communist dictatorship.  Freedman leaves it for the reader to decide who was right and who was wrong in this war.            

Summary: Freedman’s book starts with pre-history, goes through the French occupation, continues with the rise in power of Ho Chi Minh, and describes the details of the war, both politically and emotionally, with statistics, dates, principle characters and aftermath.

 Vietnam War                                                                                                              —Martha Squaresky

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