The Broken Country
On Trauma, a Crime, and the Continuing Legacy of Vietnam

Paisley Rekdal
Selected by Michael Steinberg

An exploration of the enduring ramifications of the Vietnam War


“With subtlety and insight, with precision and passion, Paisley Rekdal explores the consequences of the Vietnam War for Vietnamese, Americans, and herself. The result is The Broken Country, a moving and often gripping meditation on the fallout of war, from violence and racism to melancholy and trauma.”
—Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

The Broken Country is an audacious and extraordinary story of war’s endless effects. Paisley Rekdal unearths from the forgotten wreckage of one life a sweeping and necessary account of America, Vietnam, and the lives lived in their shadow. Assembling a remarkable range of materials and testimonies, she shows us both the persistence of war’s trauma and how we might more ethically imagine those it harms. She is the boundlessly sympathetic witness and clear-eyed investigator we need.”
—Beth Loffreda, author of Losing Matt Shepard: Life and Politics in the Aftermath of Anti-Gay Murder

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The Broken Country uses a violent incident that took place in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2012 as a springboard for examining the long-term cultural and psychological effects of the Vietnam War. To make sense of the shocking and baffling incident—in which a young homeless man born in Vietnam stabbed a number of white men purportedly in retribution for the war—Paisley Rekdal draws on a remarkable range of material and fashions it into a compelling account of the dislocations suffered by the Vietnamese and also by American-born veterans over the past decades. She interweaves a narrative about the crime with information collected in interviews, historical examination of the arrival of Vietnamese immigrants in the 1970s, a critique of portrayals of Vietnam in American popular culture, and discussions of the psychological consequences of trauma. This work allows us to better understand transgenerational and cultural trauma and advances our still complicated struggle to comprehend the war.

Association of Writers and Writing Programs Award for Creative Nonfiction

Page count: 160
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5


List price: $24.95

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Paisley Rekdal is the Poet Laureate of Utah and a professor of English at the University of Utah. She has been honored with a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, and a Fulbright Fellowship to South Korea. Her work has been published in numerous anthologies, including Legitimate Dangers and the Pushcart Prize Anthology.