The War Comes Home
This book is about the Vietnam War coming home, not in the form of body bags or POWs, but as children with half-American faces searching for their fathers. In 1988, after passage of the Amerasian Homecoming Act, the United States began airlifting the natural children of American soldiers out of Vietnam. This was thirteen years after the war officially ended.
Known as bui doi, children of dust, abandoned by their fathers, often homeless and illiterate, these Amerasian kids suddenly found themselves transported into America's inner cities. Here they became the wards of refugee agencies that clothed and fed them. Vietnamerica is the story of two cultures colliding — not in war, but peace — as the children of America's Vietnam veterans fight their own battle for a decent "homecoming." It is also the story of the thousands of Amerasians who remain in Vietnam, some by choice, others against their will.
"In his exactly rendered, dramatic account of the lives of the children we fathered in Vietnam and left to the mercies of fortune, Thomas Bass lays bare the souls of two nations. His chronicle of unforseen consequences is a troubling, unflinching, profoundly humane achievement; it will undoubtedly prove to be one of the essential documents about that war and, by implication, all wars."
—Tobias Wolff, In Pharaoh's Army
"This is an astonishing and harrowing and deeply moving book about people who embody both the divisions and the unity of our country. The Amerasian children of the Vietnam War are now adults and living among us, and they call us to understand anew what it means to be an American. Vietnamerica is a very important book."
—Robert Olen Butler, Good Scent from a Strange Mountain
"As a mother of two Amerasian sons, I have been living in between two countries, Vietnam and America. I know about struggling for a place in two worlds. This book is shocking and invaluable."
—Le Ly Hayslip, When Heaven and Earth Changed Places
"In his new book Vietnamerica, the American journalist Thomas Bass has written a moving story of the Amerasians and their battle for identity against indifferent bureaucracies here and abroad. Vietnamerica is also a book about the erosion of memory and resolve, the intractable traditions that made these children strangers at home, and the pain of their (too-infrequent) encounters with their fathers in America, a country dealing with its own racial intolerance. ... In the book's title itself, Bass smartly conflates the intertwining destinies of America and Vietnam, destinies that still link the countries a generation after the war. With incisive wit, compassion, and formidable intelligence, Bass has shown how, until the repatriation issue is settled, the Vietnam War is ever with us, an apocalypse for now and always."
—Michael E. Ross, Salon
"Bass weaves interviews with U.S. and Vietnamese officials, social workers, and above all, the children themselves into a sorry tale of racism and fraud, corruption and inefficiency that continues to keep these by-now young adults outcasts in a world that often regards their very existence as a mistake. Although Bass admits that not all the stories he recounts may be true in every detail, Vietnamerica compellingly depicts a pain behind the stories that is all too real and all too enduring. This book is a poignant, effective reminder that America's longest war did not end when the shooting stopped."
A book of "enormous emotional impact."
—Dan Cragg, The Washington Times
"A wrenching account by Thomas A. Bass of the war's forgotten victims, the "Amerasians" born of American fathers and Vietnamese mothers. Largely shunned by both cultures, they've lived in a hellish purgatory. Bass has done a masterful job of chronicling their lives as fatherless pariahs.... [He] has done a magnificent job of showing us why our own Vietnam ghosts will be with us just as long. Because they're made of flesh and blood. And because they deserve a better life."
—Bill Morris, News and Record
"The stories that Bass tells outrage—but also allow hope; they are about individuals who have been given the rawest deal possible but who still survive and persevere and love. In doing that—and because the character of a nation can be defined by how it takes care of the consequences of its actions—the Vietnamericans give us a second chance to live up to our best idea of ourselves.... With compassion and anger and considerable eloquence, Thomas A. Bass chronicles their lives, taking us with him on a harrowing odyssey to the refugee centers in Vietnam, the Phillippines, and Upstate New York, telling us their stories with an ear for the true anguish under their sometimes adaptable versions of the truth."
—Wayne Karlin, The Washington Post
"This powerful, moving, and intensely disturbing book...is a moving and important contribution to the literature dealing with the Vietnam War."
"The true subject of Bass's book is much bigger than the calamitous resettlement attempt, bigger even than the idea that the United States itself would have to be a better place for such a program to be any better than it is. The Amerasians, with their dashed expectations, their disguises and failed plastic surgeries, reveal to us what the war of ours has always done: shown us what we look (and sound) like to others; shown us who (and what) we are. [Bass] is both an able interpreter and the purveyor of a potent code."
"Outcasts in Vietnam and pawns of America's postwar diplomacy, the children of American servicemen and Vietnamese women grew up impoverished, scorned, and unwanted in both countries.... In Vietnamerica, Thomas Bass sets out to tell their story.... Many came to the United States hoping to find their fathers and a sense of belonging, only to discover they were out of place in both countries.... The book leaves one with a haunting awareness that the United States has not done right by the offspring of a war the country lost and is still trying to forget."
—The New York Times
“The Spy Who Loved Us is a marvelous combination of straight-up spy story and intricate historical narrative. Thomas Bass—Dante to Pham Xuan An’s Virgil—guides us through the hellish wars that shaped modern Vietnam. It is an irresistible story, the reality behind the novels of Graham Greene and John le Carré, as ambiguous a moral tale as any of their inventions.”
"A disturbing and totally compelling account of the lives of Amerasian children left behind in Vietnam; transported to the U.S., dumped in detention centers; used in factory jobs; fated to wander rootless from place to place. Bass ... forces us to look our past square in the face."