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Last Night I Dreamed of Peace
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About the Author

DANG THUY TRAM was a Vietnamese doctor who volunteered at the age of twenty-four to work in a Vietcong battlefield hospital in the Quan Ngai province. In the two years she worked in the hospital before her death in 1970, she recorded all she saw and felt in the pages of her diary.

FRANCES FITZGERALD covered the Vietnam War for The New Yorker. Her resulting book, Fire in the Lake, received the Pulitzer Prize. ANDREW X. PHAM is the author of the award-winning memoir Catfish and Mandala and The Eaves of Heaven.

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While serving with a military intelligence detachment in Vietnam, lawyer Fred Whitehurst was charged with combing through captured North Vietnamese documents and burning those without military value. As he tossed documents into the fire, an interpreter stopped him and said, "Don't burn this one, Fred. It has fire in it already." It was the diary of a young woman named Dang Thuy Tram, begun in April 1968 when Tram was 25 years old and serving as a chief physician at a Viet Cong field hospital in central Vietnam and abruptly ended two years later when she was shot and killed by American soldiers. Whitehurst brought the diary home, eventually locating Tram's family and returning it to them in 2005; the book was soon published in Vietnam and sold nearly a half million copies. Although the writing is at times scattered and filled with random questions and thoughts, as one might expect in a personal diary, Tram offers a poignant perspective on the human suffering experienced by America's opponent and provides insight into Tram's personal and political struggles. Recommended for public libraries and academic libraries with Vietnam war collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/07.]-Patti C. McCall, AMRI, Albany, NY Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

In 1970, while sifting through war documents in Vietnam, Fred Whitehurst, an American lawyer serving with a military intelligence dispatch, found a diary no bigger than a pack of cigarettes, its pages handsewn together. Written between 1968 and '70 by Tram, a young, passionate doctor who served on the front lines, it chronicled the strife she witnessed until the day she was shot by American soldiers earlier that year at age 27. Whitehurst, who was greatly moved by the diary and smuggled it out of the country, returned it to Thuy's family in 2005; soon after, it was published as a book in Vietnam, selling nearly half a million copies within a year and a half. The diary is valuable for the perspective it offers on war-Thuy is not obsessed with military maneuvers but rather the damage, both physical and emotional, that the war is inflicting on her country. Thuy also speaks poignantly about her patients and the compassion she feels for them. Unfortunately, the writing, composed largely of breathless questions and exclamations, is monotonous at times, somewhat diminishing the book's power. (Sept.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Adult/High School-Tram's extraordinary diary, which remained concealed in an American soldier's file cabinet for more than 30 years, brings to light the history, politics, trauma, and tragedy of the Vietnam War. It begins when Tram was 25 and covers two years, ending two days before she was shot by American troops. A doctor from a loving, urbane, and socialistic family in Hanoi, she decided to contribute her services for the war effort. Tram traveled deep into the jungle of Quang Ngai Province, where she worked at a series of inadequate clinics. Naive and idealistic, she originally enlisted out of love for her country and to follow (unsolicited) in the trail of her high school sweetheart, who became a soldier. Her clear, pure voice speaks of love, friendship, family, poetry, and music, as well as of longing for peace and independence for both North and South Vietnam. She was passionate about life while confronting bombs, immense and unalterable suffering, and the daily possibility of her own demise, and her words and presence linger long after the last page is finished. Photos showing a beautiful young woman and her family members, school, and home; footnotes describing historical, geographic, and cultural contexts; a detailed introduction; and an interactive Web site that contains study guides all add to the book's effectiveness. The volume will generate much discussion. It is an excellent source for nonfiction booktalks, book groups, World History and English classes, and public libraries everywhere.-Jodi Mitchell, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

"Now available for the first time in English - faithfully translated by Pulitzer Prize-winning Vietnamese American journalist Pham - [LAST NIGHT I DREAMED OF PEACE] is witness to the unjust horrors and countless tragedies of war, a reminder made more pertinent every day."
--The Bloomsbury Review

"Last Night I Dreamed of Peace is a book to be read by all and included in any course on the literature of war."
--Chicago Tribune "Remarkable. . . . A gift from a heroine who was killed at twenty-seven but whose voice has survived to remind us of the humanity and decency that endure amid--and despite--the horror and chaos of war."
--Francine Prose, O, The Oprah Magazine "As much a drama of feelings as a drama of war."
--Seth Mydans, New York Times "An illuminating picture of what life was like among the enemy guerrillas, especially in the medical community."
--The VVA Veteran, official publication of Vietnam Veterans of America "Idealistic young North Vietnamese doctor describes her labors in makeshift clinics and hidden hospitals during the escalation of the Vietnam War.
Tram did not survive the war. On June 22, 1970, an American soldier shot her in the head while she was walking down a jungle pathway dressed in the conventional black pajamas of her compatriots. Judging by her diary, rescued from the flames by another American soldier and first published in Vietnam in 2005, she died with a firm commitment to the Communist Party, the reunion of Vietnam, her profession and her patients, many of whom she saved in surgeries conducted under the most primitive and dangerous conditions imaginable. In one of her first entries, on April 12, 1968, she characterizes herself as having 'the heart of a lonely girl filled with unanswered hopes and dreams.' This longing and yearning--especially for the lover she rarely sees, a man she names only as 'M' -- fills these pages and gives them a poignancy that is at times almost unbearable. Early on, Tram records her concerns about being accepted into the Party. She eventually--and gleefully--is, but one of her last entries reveals the results of an evaluation by her political mentors, who say she must battle her 'bourgeois' tendencies. It's a laughable adjective to apply to a young woman dedicating her life to the communists' political and military cause. Tram blasts the despised Americans over and over, calling them 'imperialist, ' 'invaders, ' 'bloodthirsty.' She notes with outrage the devastation wrought by bombs, artillery and defoliation. Describing her efforts to treat a young man burned by a phosphorous bomb, she writes, 'He looks as if he has been roasted in an oven.'
Urgent, simple prose that pierces the heart."
--Kirkus Reviews

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