Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

BOOK REVIEW - Tales from a Mountain City by Quynh Dao

Wow! What a story! This is a true account about a family during the Vietnam War and the rise of Communism. This powerful story is told by one of the daughters in the family. The writing of this memoir is excellent and contains many bits of history as well as family stories.

When the Communists move into Vietnam this family is thrown out of their house with nowhere to go. The troops want to use their house as a base for their operations and living quarters. The family finally finds refuge with a lady that the mother of the family had done business with in the past. They stay in the attic of her house along with another family who has fled their home. Many people lost homes to the troops. You were especially in danger of being homeless if you were wealthy and had a big house. Everyone was experiencing a time of great upheaval with normal daily life abruptly changed. Books were burned in the streets and Communists broadcasts blared out through speakers erected in the towns and on the streets.

The author shows how they had to live during this turbulent time, accounting for every place they went and told if and when they could come and go. At this time a lot of brainwashing began with the children having to learn slogans at school as well as having to dig trenches and go on other assignments as needed to help the troops instead of studying regular school subjects. At a certain age everyone had to fill out a form called "the declaration of personal background," which was basically your whole family history. The communists wanted to find all the counter-revolutionaries in the country. These undesirables were then either executed or sent to prisons, or as they called it "re-education camps" until they were reformed. Many friends and relatives were sent to prison to be reprogrammed. Some fled to the woods where a lot of them perished because of disease and lack of food. Luckily most of this family escaped that fate, although as a teen the author was taken from her home in the middle of the night by the soldiers with no explanation to her parents as to why. When taken by the cadres you never knew if you would be reunited with your family or not.

The soldiers would come along and take the young people to do various tasks for them. The author was in a group of other girls who had to pick tea at a secret location for a month. Others taken weren't as lucky as they had to dig up land mines, etc. Living during this time was quite dangerous. Everything was very uncertain and food was terribly scarce. Many people starved to death. Families would set up stands to sell what they could, hoping to make enough money to buy rice and other necessities.

This family, along with many of the Vietnamese people, witnessed some dreadful scenes as people were executed and everyone lived in fear from day to day. Bombs, air raids and gunfire became a regular occurrence.

This is a heart wrenching story of sacrifice and a family's hope to escape the horrible atrocities they had to live with everyday. This book also contains some wonderful old family photos.

Some of the things in this book are shocking and some will make you mad because you really care about this family and what happens to them. Quynh Dao shares a couple of funny moments as well, which lightens the mood of this book. I highly recommend this behind the scenes look into the lives of real people living under Communist rule.

No comments: