“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
"A compact, thoughtful debut addressing violence, immigrant identity, and the long shadow of the Vietnam War. . . . A poignant, relevant synthesis of cultural studies and true-crime drama."
"This contemplative, moving meditation on the ongoing effects of war emphasizes stories of dislocation, transgenerational trauma, and the feelings of shame that permeate 'the narratives of both relocation and repatriation.' By drawing attention to the plight of all those harmed by the Vietnam War—not just American soldiers but also 'Asian allies and foes, the children we left behind, and the refugees we took in'—Rekdal deepens the understanding of the far-reaching cost of war."
"Beyond past wars, the book also considers the plight and conditions of refugees, as well as the homeless. It is those layers of exploration that make The Broken Country so compelling, its argument summarized in the book’s subtitle: On Trauma, A Crime, and the Continuing Legacy of Vietnam. Rekdal explores trauma theory and narrative theory and brain science, as well as her own history as the daughter and niece of Vietnam-era veterans."
—Ellen Fagg Weist, Salt Lake Tribune
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.
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