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We Gotta Get Out of This Place

by Kaite Mediatore Stover on December 4, 2017

Contact Kaite at kaitestover@gmail.com. Kaite is currently reading Nomadland: Surviving America in the 21st Century by Jessica Bruder and listening to The Devil Finds Work by James Baldwin, narrated by Dion Graham.

Our country is in the midst of great social upheaval. As polarizing and volatile as our current political and cultural climate is for many, this is not the first time America has seen this much civil unrest.

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s ten-part documentary film, The Vietnam War (2017), will be the centerpiece for many conversations this fall for veterans, protestors, historians, and others seeking answers to the what, why, and how questions.

In addition to the ALA Public Programs Office’s The Vietnam War: A Programming Guide for Libraries (2017) the following books and movies may make good springboards for a long overdue conversation.

Tim O’Brien’s seminal novel on the Vietnam War, The Things They Carried (1990) was shortlisted for a Pulitzer Prize and won many other awards in 1991. This book can be handed to all readers. The compact, interrelated stories question the absurdity and terror of war, even as O’Brien’s squad members find small pockets of redemption, humanity, and humor. Don’t miss the 2013 audiobook version with Bryan Cranston as narrator.

Readers who need a crash course in the Vietnam War and the history leading up to it will do no better than Vietnam: A History of the War (2016) by Russell Freedman, winner of Newbery, Notable Book, Best Book, and May Hill Arbuthnot Awards.

Sometimes poetry provides an easy entry into emotionally charged subjects. John Musgrave’s Notes to the Man Who Shot Me: Vietnam War Poems (2009) may encourage other veterans to preserve their own thoughts and experiences in poetry if talking is too difficult.

Paper can be a fine listener as Lou Eisenbrandt learned while writing her memoir, Vietnam Nurse: Mending and Remembering (2015), a chronicle of her year with the 91st Evacuation Hospital in Chu Lai. Behind the warmth and wonder of a nineteen-year-old abroad for the first time in her life, Eisenbrandt presents the steely nerves of a nurse who cared for GIs, South Vietnamese civilians, Viet Cong, and NVA soldiers.

Music played an indelible role in this era, and Doug Bradley and Craig Werner understood the importance of rock ’n roll to all American soldiers. They place the music in a cultural context in We Gotta Get Out of This Place: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War (2015). You’ll never listen to an oldies rock station the same way again.

Only World War II has served as inspiration for more movies than the Vietnam War. The classics include The Deer Hunter (1978), Apocalypse Now (1979), Platoon (1986), and Full Metal Jacket (1987). Add some homefront films to the mix with Coming Home (1978), Born on the Fourth of July (1989), and Dogfight (1991).

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