A Review of Susan Brownmiller's Seeing Vietnam

by Global Directions, Inc., Oct 1, 1994 | Destinations: Vietnam / Hanoi

Susan Brownmiller's desire to get beyond the standard media images of Vietnam and to see "the country in peacetime, its problems and progress" fueled her 1992 trip to Vietnam and the resulting new book Seeing Vietnam: Encounters of the Road and Heart, published by Harper Collins.

Travel anecdotes, historical remembrances and philosophical insights interweave to create this sophisticated portrait of today's Vietnam--a country in flux as it hovers on the threshold of major changes. Traveling from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City via Danang and Hue, Brownmiller illuminates the current reality of this mysterious country against a backdrop of wartime perceptions. Brownmiller explores the cultural richness in Vietnam through having tea with Buddhist monks in Hue, foraying into a local nightclub, bargaining with local merchants, and joining free tai chi classes in Hanoi's parks.

In the sixties, Brownmiller was an ABC television network news writer who helped put the Vietnam War on the nation's television screens every night. Like many young people at the time, she was repelled by the war and the justifications, and eventually quit her job. Thirty years later, traveling through Vietnam as a tourist allowed her to confront the specter of war and to present the reality of a country we never understood.

"It was a grandly adventurous time to be entering Vietnam on an American passport, to have a purposeful mission that carried a minimum of emotional freight, to look with fresh, open eyes at the skinny, curving, strip of Southeast Asia that had haunted us since the mid-sixties," says Brownmiller.