An invaluable insight into the opposing side in the Vietnam War, Truong Nhu Tang's A Vietnam Memoir: An Inside Account of the Vietnam War and its Aftermath provides illuminating details heretofore unavailable to most Western readers. As a student in Paris during the 1940s, Truong encountered and was mentored by the future leader of North Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh. Ho, of course, was the Vietnamese nationalist leader who had hoped to negotiate with the French for his country's independence following Vietnam's liberation from the Japanese. The story that follows details the author's rise within the nationalist movement (he would be appointed minister of Justice in the Provisional Revolutionary Government in 1960 and continue to serve in that capacity until his defection), the Marxist influences that would subvert opportunities for a peaceful resolution of his country's division into north and south, and the devastation wrought by the U.S. military efforts in defense of the south. Truong would flee the nation he helped to forge as a founder of National Liberation Front, a moniker often associated with the Viet Cong guerrillas who terrorized the south and against whom many American battles were fought.
A Vietnam Memoir is invaluable because it provides a perspective alien to most American readers. Vietnam War literature is abundant, but overwhelmingly -- and understandably -- reflective of the American perspective. Truong had the proverbial front-row seat to the political intrigues occurring among the North Vietnamese leadership over such issues as relations with the Soviet Union, its main patron, and with the Chinese, who share a border and an ideology with the Vietnamese revolutionaries but with whom the two countries have had a rocky relationship. Following his 1978 defection, an act that involved immersing himself, while concealing his identity, among the throngs of Vietnamese also escaping the brutal dictatorship Ho and his comrades were systematically installing across the country, Truong began to speak out against the regime he had helped to found. His memoir is the comprehensive account of his life from childhood through the execution of his dangerous decision to flee Vietnam.