Paradise of the Blind

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

PARADISE OF THE BLIND provides Western readers with our first fictional glimpse into the internal political struggles of Vietnam from the 1950’s through the 1980’s from the very human perspective of those who suffered most, the working-class people caught in the chaos of changing ideologies and socioeconomic experimentation.

Hang, the central character, represents many of those victimized by the circumstances of the times. Daughter of a schoolteacher and small village property owner from a respected family who is branded by the communists “an exploiter of the people,” Hang is raised by her mother alone after her father is forced to abandon his family, village, and position, escaping into the anonymity of the northern hinterlands rather than face execution or a labor camp. In Hanoi, Hang’s formerly middle-class mother makes a living as a street vendor, supporting not only her daughter but also—in good Confucian fashion—her petty Communist cadre leader brother and his family. The fruits of capitalist entrepreneurship allow Communism to survive.

Amidst the politics and economics is the story of a young woman’s coming of age. Shamed by her fatherlessness and poverty, Hang nevertheless thrives in the back alleys of Hanoi, making friends, attending school, and delighting in life as she finds it. At ten, she learns of her parents’ past, visits their home village, and is introduced to the family matriarch, her father’s sister Tam,...

(The entire section is 497 words.)