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  Viet Nam Generation Journal & Newsletter

V3, N3 (November 1991)

This text, made available by the Sixties Project, is copyright (c) 1991 by the Author or by Viet Nam Generation, Inc., all rights reserved. This text may be used, printed, and archived in accordance with the Fair Use provisions of U.S. Copyright law. This text may not be archived, printed, or redistributed in any form for a fee, without the consent of the copyright holder. This notice must accompany any redistribution of the text. The Sixties Project, sponsored by Viet Nam Generation Inc. and the Institute of Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, is a collective of humanities scholars working together on the Internet to use electronic resources to provide routes of collaboration and make available primary and secondary sources for researchers, students, teachers, writers and librarians interested in the 1960s.

Lynda Van Devanter and Joan A. Furey, eds. Visions of War, Dreams of Peace: Writings of Women in the Vietnam War.

Warner Books, 1991.

Delores A. Koenning. Life After Vietnam: How Veterans and Their Loved Ones Conceal the Psychological Wounds of War.

Paragon House, 1991.

Reviewed by Sandy Primm

But we're still here condemned to stay
To fight the memories that rage today
For safety's sake, we've zipped our shells.
To hide in our worlds of living hells.

--from ""Cordwood," Penny Kettlewell

Survivors of calamities other than war may find these books of interest. After all, doesn't everyone hide behind masks?

Both these books focus on how to see behind disguises and how to reach deeper truths which can offer happiness and insight to the afflictions of a complex world. The poetry of Visions of War, Dreams of Peace is unexpectedly moving, in part because most of these poems have been written by women who were nurses on active duty during the U.S. war in Vietnam.

Many of these poems are awkward and sentimental, many rely on limp rhymes, many wear their hearts on their sleeves. Most ache with wounds that will never heal. The authors' courageous struggle to face the eternal suffering of war, to try to find words to express how others' suffering has deeply moved them, gives some of these works a rough edge that cuts the reader to the soul.

This is from "Montagnard Bracelets," about a once popular souvenir of the largest hill tribe in Vietnam:

     I used to wear them a lot
And never paid much attention 
     To the spots that I thought
     Were a flaw in the metal.
     It was only last year
     When I polished them
And part of the spot came off
     That I realized
     It was his blood.
          -- Sara J. McVicker

Handling the closeness of death gives Life After Vietnam an urgency which transcends this particular conflict. Delores Kuenning's book will help anyone who suffers from unexpected tragedy realize how to move ahead, how to cope.

Hundreds of organizations have sprung up to help U.S. veterans of the war in Vietnam. For many the pain of this war will never end, nor will the pain of the War in the Gulf end easily for others.

Each chapter of Kuenning's book deals with a particular kind of loss suffered by veterans and their families physical, emotional, chemical, sexual, spiritualit's all here. If your affliction isn't covered, this book will give enough clues to know where to start a search for healing.

Some may wonder what makes Vietnam veterans different than their fathers who faced the "duration plus six months" of World War Two. A chapter here explains the unique psychological after-effects of the Indochina war, on U.S. veterans and their families.

Another chapter deals with spiritual recovery, compound grief and memory healing. Not light reading, but essential stuff and, ounce-for-ounce, this book is cheaper and works better than booze.

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Updated Sunday, January 24, 1999

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