I trust that all of you had a Happy Thanksgiving with friends and family. My Thanksgiving included an invitation to join a team of educators and historians from the United States and Vietnam to develop an interactive, inquiry-based set of instructional materials that will align with the upcoming commemorations and anniversaries of the American Vietnam War for use in the secondary and post-secondary classroom. The project is being organized by the National Humanities Center in Durham, North Carolina.
The first stage of the project will focus on the French-Vietnamese conflict of the 1950s and the political, social, cultural, economic, and historical threads of the Black River Region (Northwest Region). The key historical event that will frame our inquiry is the battle of Dien Bien Phu. Such a focus will provide many opportunities to create instructional resources that set students up to better understand the complexities of American involvement starting in the early 1960s.
Though my role will certainly evolve as the project develops, it looks like I will focus primarily on the landscape of the Dien Bien Phu battlefield along with its memory and commemoration. It goes without saying that I am very excited about this opportunity, which includes 10 days on the ground in Vietnam next summer.
I certainly have a good deal to learn and that is where you come in. I recently read and thoroughly enjoyed Viet Thanh Nguyen’s, Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War, which was a finalist for this year’s National Book Award and is one of the finest memory studies that I have ever read. My familiarity with the relevant historical literature is pretty good, but I am always interested in recommendations. So, what should I try to read before next summer and please don’t confine your suggestions to history?