I’m doing pretty well with the Cannonball this year, but this week may push me behind. It might be time to break out the Dresden novels and YA. Recommendations?
This week I am moving away from the historical fiction and into the histories of Vietnam. I’m taking a class on the Vietnam wars (yes, plural) and will be reading a few books this semester. The first Vietnam: Rising Dragon by Bill Hayton was a nice introduction to the current situation in Vietnam. Keep in mind we are simultaneously reading scholarly articles on the ancient history of Vietnam, so I think the professor wanted to give us a vision of what is to come so that we didn’t all drop the class.
Bill Hayton is a journalist who works for the BBC and was working as a reporter in Vietnam, and his book provides a clear and comprehensive picture of the issues facing the country. Each chapter covers a particular area of life from a focus on the environment, to the development of democratic institutions, to corruption, ethnic relations, and more.
After this book was published in 2010 the Vietnamese government banned Hayton from traveling to the country. You can understand why the book would cause alarm as it covers so many of the problematic areas in Vietnamese life, especially the tendency for personal interests of elites to be predominant in decision-making. He doesn’t make any broad proclamations about Vietnam’s trajectory but sees it on the cusp of either a bright future with many changes or stagnation and mismanagement (and environmental destruction). It is a shame that he was banned because it is pretty obvious throughout the book that he loves the place and wants it to be a “rising dragon.”
This is not just for the Vietnam bound or Southeast Asian fans. Read this if you are interested in international politics and the rising areas of influence in the world. Considering Vietnam is the 13th most populous country. Considering President Obama has proclaimed a Pacific Pivot. And considering the rising dragon is nestled in the armpit of China, this is a country to watch.