Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63

The family of law student-turned-artist Marcelino Truong was intimately involved in the Vietnam War's early events; his father served under the Diem regime in South Vietnam before the 1963 military coup that took down Diem and his family. With Such a Lovely Little War, Truong offers a child's (and expatriate's) perspective of two years during that period.

This riveting graphic memoir is the story of little Marco, the youngest son of South Vietnamese diplomat Khanh. When Prime Minister Diem recalls Khanh to Saigon in 1961, Marco's family--French mom Yvette and siblings Mireille and Domi--must leave the idylls of their Washington, D.C., home. Marco's quiet life is further disrupted when Yvette's inability to cope with her new environment triggers bipolar disorder. As bombs approach their Saigon apartment, the Truong family must make the decision to leave or stay against the increasing threat of war.

Truong's art moves in gauzy, home movie-like orange hues across the page, breaking into blue-gray palettes to describe historical elements outside of Marco's social sphere. He also strikes a delicate balance between childhood innocence and adult experiences. In the Washington suburbs, Domi's and Marco's otherness provokes thinly veiled racism when neighborhood boys engage them in a "Commies" play battle. Later, in their Saigon apartment, Domi and Marco play-act North versus South Vietnamese battles against the backdrop of their mother's escalating emotional volatility. Perhaps the passage of time has added an objective and journalistic vantage point for this eyewitness account, making a pivotal moment in American, French and Vietnamese history so meaningful and gripping. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

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