Archive for June 2013

Writers Who Mine the Immigrant Experience

It was natural when I began working in Vietnam to read all I could about the country, its people, its culture, and its history. For three years I read almost nothing else. In the process I read fiction by writers like Robert Olen Butler (A Strange Scent from a Distant Mountain), Nelson DeMille (Up Country), Anthony Grey (Saigon), the war books of James Webb, Phillip Caputo, Tim O’Brien, and Karl Marlantes as well as the North Vietnamese novel The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh. Along the way I was introduced to the writing of Vietnamese immigrants and the children of those immigrants – writers like Andrew Lam and Angie Chau. The immigrant voices and their stories of exile and adjustment are deeply affecting.

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Black Women, Civil Rights, and Two Documentary Films

In 1954 the United States Supreme Court literally opened the door for people of color to attend the same public schools as their white peers. In 1964 Congress further acted against discrimination by opening doors to the workplace, public accommodation, and voter registration. In 1965 it followed up by passing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In the fourth volume of his biography of LBJ, (The Passage of Power) Robert Caro describes in detail how Johnson, following the assassination of JFK, moved an ossified, entrenched Congress dominated by segregationist Southern Democrats to pass his Great Society package, reform the tax code, and, most significantly, push through the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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