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Book Review: Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam by Elizabeth Partridge

Publisher’s description

bootsAmerica’s war in Vietnam. In over a decade of bitter fighting, it claimed the lives of more than 58,000 American soldiers and beleaguered four US presidents. More than forty years after America left Vietnam in defeat in 1975, the war remains controversial and divisive both in the United States and abroad.

The history of this era is complex; the cultural impact extraordinary. But it’s the personal stories of eight people—six American soldiers, one American military nurse, and one Vietnamese refugee—that create the heartbeat of Boots on the Ground. From dense jungles and terrifying firefights to chaotic helicopter rescues and harrowing escapes, each individual experience reveals a different facet of the war and moves us forward in time. Alternating with these chapters are profiles of key American leaders and events, reminding us of all that was happening at home during the war, including peace protests, presidential scandals, and veterans’ struggles to acclimate to life after Vietnam.

With more than one hundred photographs, award-winning author Elizabeth Partridge’s unflinching book captures the intensity, frustration, and lasting impacts of one of the most tumultuous periods of American history.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

I always expect nothing less than powerful mastery from Partridge. Her ability to present nonfiction in an immensely readable way is unrivaled. If you’re looking to read more nonfiction, or develop your nonfiction collection at work, I suggest Partridge’s books, along with my other favorites, Jim Murphy, Susan Campbell Bartoletti, and (the late, great) Russell Freedman.

 

In BOOTS ON THE GROUND, Partridge presents the Vietnam War from various perspectives, including that of multiple presidents, soldiers, a nurse, and a Vietnamese refugee. The personal stories, many pictures, facts, and historical context all come together to show the reader what it was like during this time, what it was like to go to war, and what it was like to survive (and be haunted by) the war. The stories of those she interviewed speak to the fear, uncertainty, anger, patriotism, sorrow, and frustration that accompanies war and everyone it affects. The people Partridge writes about are diverse (including black, Asian American, and Mexican American soldiers, a biracial nurse, and Chinese American Maya Lin, the designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial), and she covers important events that happened around the war, including Woodstock, Kent State, protests nationwide, Martin Luther King Jr’s stance on the war, wartime and post-war refugees in Vietnam, and life after the war for veterans. The photographs add a lot to the narrative, driving home just how young these soldiers were, how horrible the conditions were, and how many lost their lives. 

 

These personal stories are riveting and, of course, heartbreaking. For me, born shortly after the war ended, to parents who had been in the military and stationed in Germany during the war, parents who then came home to protest the war, this was a compelling read about a war I feel like I know a fair bit about. But for younger readers, like my middle school-age son, who are just starting to learn more about America’s involvement in various wars, this book will prove invaluable. Readers will walk away knowing a lot about the historical context, but more importantly, knowing firsthand stories about what people experienced during and after the war. An outstanding and moving look at the Vietnam War. Essential for all collections. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780670785063
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 04/10/2018

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