“The Voice in the Picture”: Reversing the Angle in Vietnamese American War Memoirs

Helena Grice

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5 Citations (SciVal)


Vietnam in the American consciousness is a confluence of images of conflict; where Vietnamese appear they are backdrop to displays of US heroism. There is another story, which Vietnam veteran and filmmaker Oliver Stone calls “the reverse angle, what the war was like from the perspective of the people living in Vietnam.” If America's memory of the conflict is dominated by US perspectives, this is also in images rather than in words. Pictures of monks immolating themselves and people scrambling to board US helicopters have produced a generation who know of Vietnam only through images. One of these images is a bombing mission which dropped napalm on some villagers. AP photographer Nick Ut captured a severely burned Kim Phuc running screaming in the streets; his photo won the Pulitzer Prize and became one of the most infamous images of conflict ever captured; her recently published life story is the reverse angle and, with similar texts by Le Ly Hayslip, Andrew X. Pham and Duong Van Mai Elliot, represents an emergent perspective, a counternarrative of Vietnam, and a new kind of American literature of peace. My essay explores the inscription of the Vietnamese American perspective on the conflict via life writing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)941-958
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of American Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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