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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Last Night I Dreamed of Peace: The Diary of Dang Thuy Tram

Posted by Irish in Review6 Comments

Publisher: Harmony Books
Publication Year: 2007
ISBN: 0307347370
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 256

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Last Night I Dreamed of Peace is a book that just showed up on my doorstep one day. It arrived from Random House as part of their Read it Forward program. This book was published in United States 2007 and the book that I received was a beautiful hardcover ARC copy of it. Dang Thuy Tram was a young women who volunteered to be an Army doctor during the Vietnam war. She gave up a lucrative internship to move South in order to give aid to soldiers and civilians caught in the fighting. She was killed during a raid by American soldiers on 22 June 1970 at the age of 27. Her diary was found by one of the American soldiers and he was ordered to burn it. He defied that order and brought the diary home with him. In 2005 he was able to return the diary to Thuy’s mother. It was later in that year that the diary was published in Vietnam.

Thuy’s diary chronicles her life from 1968 to 1970. She was a pasionate writer and there were many times while reading this book that you felt she was talking directly to you. Her words are also timeless and I can understand how her diary has been compared to that of Anne Frank. Thuy rants and rails at times over the injustices of the war. Of the horrors that she sees every day. The diary is also filled with hope. Hope for peace in her nation.

I admit, that before reading Thuy’s diary I didn’t know much about the war in Vietnam. Most of what I know comes from movies and things heard about in passing. So much of what I knew was very pro-American and painted the Vietnamese in a very ugly light. Thuy’s diary turns the tables on all that. It forced me to look at what I knew of the war in a different light. Thuy’s diary shows just how horrible that the American soldiers could be….every bit as evil and horrific as I have always heard the Vietnamese people to be.

While reading Thuy’s diary I started to flag phrases and passages to quote later on when I wrote my review. By the end there were so many flags that it became impossible to choose just what to share. Thuy’s diary is captivating. I didn’t want to put it down. Yet at the same time I didn’t want it to end…so I would force myself to put it aside….wanting to prolong the story for as long as possible. The best way to describe Last Night I Dreamed of Peace is to take an excerpt from the book flap “At times raw, at times lyical and youthfully sentimental, her voice transcends cultures to speak of her dignity and compassion in the face of the war’s ceaseless fury.”

I highly recommend this book to everyone. Thuy’s words are beautiful and her story is one that needs to be shared. So run out and buy her diary. You won’t regret it.

6 Responses to “Last Night I Dreamed of Peace: The Diary of Dang Thuy Tram”

  1. Anonymous

    Her writing style is actually very pedestrian, and this diary is an embarrassment to Vietnamese literature in many respects. Try Paradise of the Blind if you want to read something with real soul and prose, not merely histrionic ramblings.

  2. Irish

    Anon – thanks for taking the time to visit my blog and for offering up your opinion. However, I don’t appreciate your dissing mine. Every reader feels differently about books. I really enjoyed this book and liked the writing for what it is, a diary. Diaries aren’t usually published and so its not going to be perfect. Also, a personal diary its bound to have much more emotion to it than a fictionalized account.

  3. voi

    I have read this book, both in English and Vietnamese, very touchable. Thanks for the nice review!