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Review of Vietnam: A History of the War

Vietnam: A History of the War
by Russell Freedman
Intermediate, Middle School    Holiday    150 pp.
10/16    978-0-8234-3658-3    $20.00
e-book ed.  978-0-8234-3748-1    $20.00

Freedman opens his history of America’s second-longest war with the massive April 1971 protest against it, posing two questions that frame the entire text: “Was the Vietnam War a tragic mistake? Or was it…‘a noble cause?’” His conclusions, and straightforward reasons for them, are, respectively, yes and no. Without overwhelming young readers with excessive detail, he flashes back over two thousand years, outlining the many foreign powers that had subjugated Vietnam, beginning with China in the first century BCE. What emerges is a portrait of a country that had long fought for self-determination and by the end of WWII was ready to accept the charismatic Communist leader Ho Chi Minh as the man who would achieve that independence. Although the United States at first appeared to support Ho, when the specter of Communist domination reared its head, that support began to shift to more Western-friendly forces. Freedman doesn’t back down from America’s faulty vision and missteps in the war or the home-front opposition to it. Instead, he shows how war itself is complicated and horrific, and how a multitude of events can lead to armed conflict with no simple solutions. Archival photographs convey a sense of time and place. Appended with a timeline, source notes, a glossary, and an index.

From the January/February 2017 Horn Book Magazine.

About Betty Carter

Betty Carter, an independent consultant, is professor emerita of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University.

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