Cover Image: Other Moons

Other Moons

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When I think about #vietnameseliterature, my mind instantly goes to refugee narratives. Over the years, I've enjoyed a lot of these books written by American and Canadian authors of Vietnamese descent, but reading OTHER MOONS showed me that I've only been exposed to one perspective regarding the Vietnam War. This anthology is a collection of short stories written by celebrated Vietnamese authors. Many of these authors still live and work in Vietnam and therefore have a different understanding of the war compared to the mostly southern Vietnamese who escaped to other parts of the world following North Vietnam's reunification of the country. 
I really appreciated that the editors and translators, Quan Manh Ha and Joseph Babcock, wrote quick introductions for each short story in order to provide context and help the reader understand the message behind the story. So many different aspects of the American War (as the conflict is known in Vietnam) were touched upon, such as the difficulties of waiting for soldiers to return home, the long-term effects of Agent Orange poisoning, and the continued trauma that people experienced after the end of the war. It was extremely eye-opening to learn about a perspective of the war in Vietnam that is rarely heard of here in North America. Have you ever read a book that completely changed your point of view on an event or a subject that you thought you knew a lot about?
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for someone who doesn’t know a lot about this specific war, or at least nothing that doesn’t come from the American perspective, I think this is a great place to start to learn more or even just a great place to start reading Vietnamese literature because it’s an anthology of works by different authors. I really liked a lot of the stories because, although they were all set in or around the same time period, they were all vastly different. I especially liked those stories that discussed life post-war for veterans, particularly for women who had fought in the war but were treated as second-class citizens afterwards, expected to once again adjust to society’s expectations of women. I enjoyed learning about common themes in Vietnamese literature, such as the moon, recurring throughout many of these stories. I cannot judge on how well the translation was done of course, but it never felt jarring in any way. I also really appreciate the notes at the beginning of the anthology, explaining a bit about the history of the war itself as well as of the literature surrounding the war, and the notes on the authors and their works at the beginning of each story.
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I don’t read short story anthologies very often but I was extremely intrigued by Other Moons because of the subject material. The Vietnam War is taught to us in the US very different than it’s taught in Vietnam. The impacts of the Vietnam War/The American War are widespread and not discussed very often. This war, like so many others, has been sensationalized as  the US “saving” another country when really it’s impetus is capitalism, racism and imperialism. 

Other Moons is an anthology of short stories written by Vietnamese authors about the war - both before, during and after and the far reaching impacts on Vietnamese and American people. My two favorite stories were “Ms. Thoai” and “The Sorrow Wasn’t Only Ours” but many of them were beautiful and heartbreaking. If you’ve never read any books or stories from Vietnamese authors about the American War I’d highly recommend this one. 

“The older I get, the more I realize that the most precious thing in life is the ability to forgive.”
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I am the epitome of Other Moons' intended audience - a military veteran obsessed with the American War in Vietnam, but yearning for stories about those who were most affected by it, and least heard from (Vietnamese foot soldiers, women, children, villagers torn between both sides of the conflict). This book did not disappoint. I found the stories openhearted, honest, moving, and insightful. In a melancholy way, I loved the ghosts and the unrequited sorrow of characters throughout. They seemed to speak - never maudlin, though - as lingering effects of the conflict. I was introduced to writers I would not otherwise have met (Bao Ninh was the only name I recognized) and I am so glad for it. This is a tremendously important anthology, and I appreciate the chance to read and review (and recommend) Other Moons ahead of its wider distribution.
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Having read about the America-Vietnam war during High School history, I was acquainted with some facts like the Agent Orange poisoning and the toll of the war, but that didn't prepare me for these stories of life during and after the war. These stories don't portray any combat or battle. Except for the occasional flashback of a traumatized veteran, the actual fighting stays off the page. Rather, they portray the cost of war which has been passed on as a generational legacy be it in the form of biological effects of exposure to Agent Orange, or the fissures in a family caused due to two sons fighting on opposite sides, or the problems female veterans faced adjusting to a patriarchal society which expected them to fulfill traditional roles after returning from the battlefield.

The foreword titled, 'Writing about War is Writing about Peace' by Bao Ninh, author of The Sorrow of War, gives a context to the collection by charting out a concise history of Vietnamese literature arguing that the humanist values which are slowly being introduced in Vietnamese literature represent a return to these values which were already present several years ago. This foreword is an illuminating read in itself and paired with the Introduction by the editors provides valuable context to readers like me who are unfamiliar with Vietnamese literature. 

The thematic and stylistic variety of the stories provides this collection a depth and nuance which makes for a very satisfying experience. The story which stood out for me is Nguyen Ngoc Thuan's Love and War, which is not only stylistically different from the other stories in its surrealism, but it is also shockingly thought-provoking. It portrays a man who is in love with a cannibalistic woman and keeps returning to her despite losing his limbs every time he is with her. He returns in part due to his love and in part due to her manipulation which prompts him to blame everyone other than her for his loss, even doubting his own memory thinking he may have lost his limbs in war and forgotten because the war was so long ago. 

Even though they deal with war, many of these stories are not dark, but rather optimistic like 'An American Service Hamlet' , by Nguyen Thi Thu Tran, whose narrator Bach holds the belief, "that in difficult situations people were still able of showing some kind of natural kindness toward one another. " 

Thanks to Netgalley and Columbia University Press for providing me with an ARC of this book.
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This collection of 20 short stories is a first of its kind to be translated from Vietnamese by a diverse range of authors. Each story is based around the American War and how it impacted them, giving us a new perspective/side to the story that’s often overlooked. How the Vietnamese people aren’t just the enemy, they were victims too, and both sides had their fair share of death. 

I liked how the moon was a recurring symbol, often associated with romance and unrequited love. One story included wondering spirits and their ability to move on, another blurred the lines between reality and a dreamlike state with a hint of cannibalism. 

The men that enlisted were really boys that had never been in love, but there were women willing to make these boys ‘men’ before they died in battle. The difficult decision of moving on when your spouse died in battle (but then they came back). The empty promises of the revolution when the war ended, and the people who survived having to pick up the pieces and rebuild their lives again. 

Each story was unique and a preface of the author was included at the beginning, to give a little insight into their background & what message they intended to convey in their story. Even tho the war ended in 1975, for some it never really ended at all.

Thank you Netgalley and Colombia University Press for providing me with this arc in exchange for my honest review.
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OTHER MOONS is a collection of 20 Vietnamese short stories, all of which have been translated to English for the first time in this anthology.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed the foreward and introduction, which are essential to read as they provide valuable context to the stories. On the same vein, each story is also prefaced by a brief introduction of the author and their work. All of the stories are related to the American War (what the Vietnam War is called in Vietnam), and it was interesting to see all the different perspectives - no matter who you were, the impact of the war was inescapable.

There were some stories I liked more than others, which is to be expected when there is such a diverse array of authors, writing styles, and topics. I appreciated getting a better understanding of female soldiers as well as the after effects of Agent Orange, subjects that have piqued my interest lately but are rarely, if ever, talked about in mainstream Western narratives.

My favorite story in the collection was LOVE AND WAR by Nguyen Ngoc Thuan, a surrealist story about a man who experiences both love and denial as his lover literally devours him. Everyday he wakes up to find that new parts of his body have gone missing, and readily rationalizes the loss by telling himself that appendage was always missing, and the war is to blame - all to avoid upsetting her with accusations. I read it as a satirical commentary on the cost of peace and reunification at the expense of free thought and individualism. The individual undergoes this transition as they become more devoted to, and brainwashed by, the Communist party and its ideals. Surrealism isn't usually my cup of tea, but boy I do love me some satire. This story was excellent. 👌

There were several recurring themes around trauma, loss, and sacrifice in these stories. Seeing them come together as a collective whole was instrumental in helping me understand the perspective and sentiment in Vietnam in regards to the war. Here are a couple that I jotted down as I read these stories:

• Women were often depicted as idealized and tragic figures, often willingly sacrificing their own happiness for a man's - this was more common in the stories written by men but I noticed it in some of the stories written by female authors as well.
• The impact of the war on a male veteran emphasizes his mental struggle; for female veterans, the emphasis is on their loss of youth, beauty, and eligibility for marriage.
• The characters forego simply communication and instead sacrifice themselves for the happiness of their romantic partner, though in many cases the couple could have come to a happy resolution if they had communicated properly. This trope frustrated me, but I have noticed that Vietnamese people don't like to talk about feelings so it didn't seem entirely unrealistic either? Disclaimer: I'm making this observation through my admittedly narrow lens as a Việt Kiều - Vietnamese diaspora.

Thank you to NetGalley and Columbia University Press for providing this eARC. OTHER MOONS is available now.
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Thank you to Columbia University Press for providing an advance copy via NetGalley. A well curated book of touching stories on the consequences of war on the human condition. The overarching style is socialist realism and the stories contain lots of symbolism and are often allegorical.  All the stories are from a Vietnamese perspective and provide the reader with an appreciation of the human toll the so-called enemy absorbed. It’s the first time I read any work by a Vietnamese author and I appreciate how each author’s simple and direct style is used to craft poignant stories. #OtherMoons #NetGalley
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A beautiful book written by a diverse set of authors each having their own original and bold voice. This book showed me a new side of the war and explored it’s aftermath from the Vietnamese perspective.
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Beautifully written. These short stories provide a different look at the Vietnam War and it's affects. 

More Vietnamese writers please!

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the opportunity to read and review.
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OTHER MOONS is a collection of short stories from various Vietnamese authors about the American War. (Yes, the American War, just like how we call it the Vietnam War here.) First of its kind to be translated into English, these stories depict narratives from the perspective of the Vietnamese communists that won the war. The authors of these twenty short stories all range in background and style, but they all share the same speech and publishing restrictions that were placed on them by the Vietnamese government, making this an impactful yet diverse anthology.

I am not an own voices reviewer of this book. I am Asian-American, but I am Korean and not Vietnamese (yes, we are different). And all the literature I’ve read on the Vietnam war has been mostly written by white men and all from the perspective sympathetic to Americans. And because of my lack of personal experience, I found tremendous value in these stories. 

While these stories are all about the traumas of war, the diverse narratives from the obvious victims, like the soldiers, to the not-so-obvious, like the women and children left behind, are what makes this really special. My favorite ones were UNSUNG HERO, THE CHAU RIVER PIER, AN AMERICAN SERVICE HAMLET, THEY BECAME MEN and LOVE AND WAR. I found the foreword to be extremely informative and the brief introduction of each story by the translator was also key in providing context for the story. . 

Thank you Columbia University Press for bringing these beautiful works to outsiders like me. I received a free digital copy for my honest opinion.
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Sad and lovely......the stories in this volume.  Will appeal to anyone who is from the Vietnam War era.
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Thank you NetGalley and Columbia University Press for this e-arc! 4.5 stars! Brilliant collection! The book explores the aftermath of war and I felt it was brilliantly done! I am reading Vietnamese writing for the first time and I am glad that I started it with this collection! Highly recommend !
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This collection of short stories written by Vietnamese authors is an important addition to Asian literature in English. Most of the stories are about--in one way or another--the American War, and the writers interrogate the legacies of the war in psychological and physical ways, writing about the effects of dioxin poisoning, the need for families to find the bodies of those who died and give them proper burials, the shattered and dysfunctional relationships caused by wartime service and social mores, the brutality and difficulties of village life during and after the war, and the complicated emotions that soldiering created. Each of the stories opened up entirely new understandings of Vietnam for me, shifting my thinking in important ways. I hope that these stories are taught in classrooms all over the English-speaking world, and that the collection gets the attention it deserves.
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It is rare that we of the United States hear the perspective of those who were once considered enemies, and this collection of stories gives us exactly that. The stories take place after the American War in Vietnam and explore the legacies of trauma and healing from the North Vietnamese viewpoint. They vary in tone and focus, but have a connecting thread that creates a steady rhythm throughout. It is significant that this is the first time these stories have been made available in English, and I hope that others can take away an increased awareness of the tragedies of war, as well a feeling of interconnectedness.
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A haunting and illuminating short story collection focused on The American War in Vietnam and it’s aftermath. Each story is beautifully written and offers a diverse selection of voices. There aren’t enough narratives published in the US that show the Vietnamese side of the war but this one does a fantastic job and is a very important read.
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Thank you to Columbia University Press & NetGalley for the Advanced Reader's Copy. 

Available August 4th 2020

Set in the aftermath of the American War in Vietnam, "Other Moons" is one of the first English translations of Vietnamese writers. While the editors do discuss the impact of the current geopolitical atmosphere in Vietnam and their limitations on content, this was a diverse collection that is well worth the time.. Romantic stories are not what you would expect from a collection of war stories, but they fit nonetheless. The best part of the collection is the way it catches the pervasiveness of war time trauma. Even for those who are not on the battlefield, the women and children, feel the effects of violence. I applaud the editors for centering these voices & painting a poignant image of postwar Vietnam, one that outsiders rarely get to see.
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I’ve read quite a bit about the history of what Americans like myself refer to as the Vietnam War. However, most of what I have read has ultimately provided a lopsided perspective that has resulted in little exposure to the Vietnamese point of view for what they refer to as the American War in Vietnam. So when I picked up Other Moons, I received an abundance of brand new perspectives. Twenty different selected and translated stories, from twenty different Vietnamese authors of various backgrounds, composed in an equally diverse array of writing styles, with each story focusing on some different part of the war or its aftermath as part of each individual author’s effort to address and process the lasting effects of the conflict on their country. I, of course, can’t say that this excellent anthology has been able to balance out what is still ultimately an American-centric understanding of the conflict, but I feel like it’s definitely given me an excellent boost in the right direction, not to mention also providing me with a great general introduction to contemporary Vietnamese literature. This is definitely a book that deserves to start popping up on college courses’ required reading lists, and soon.
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What a brilliant collection of short stories. Not only did it educate me about the situation in Vietnam (in the past and the present) but it gave me beautiful prose to read. 

20 short stories by various Vietnamese authors are translated and compiled into this anthology of the American War and its aftermath. 20 diverse and distinct voices. Each story had a preamble by the translator that gave us an understanding of who the author is and what they’re trying to convey through this story. 

From stories about a dog who helped fight the war to a fantastical story where the author used cannibalism to symbolize getting eaten up by war to stories of love and mirth, the stories show the trials and tribulations that the people of the region went through during the war and even after. 

The introduction to the anthology was surprisingly one of my favourites - it was in depth and informative but also not too lengthy. I appreciated that it was explained that they really did try to get as many diverse voices as possible be it in terms of gender to age to where they were from. 

My favourite short stories were ‘Unsung Hero’ (which made me bawl), ‘Birds in Formation’, ‘The Most Beautiful Girl In The Village’, ‘The Storm’, ‘Love and War’, ‘Out of the Laughing Woods’ and ‘A Moral Murderer’. 

Thanks to NetGalley and Columbia University Press for sharing this ARC with me in exchange for my honest review.
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A beautiful anthology of stories set during the Vietnam War, I really enjoyed this one. Like all anthologies and collection, there were some stories that I loved and some I snoozed over.

Perhaps it's the fact that I don't read war stories often but this one covered so many aspects of the war from those directly affected by the war with PTSD, bodily injuries and health risks, to those indirectly affected by the war, like mothers and wives and inhabitants of towns that the war will go through.

My favourite story has to be the first one in the collection, "Unsung Hero", about a dog who soldiers encounter during deployment and who subsequently keeps the soldiers company, grounded and human. I also really enjoyed "Love and War", one of the shortest in the collection with essences of magical realism and fantasy about a man who thinks he lives with a cannibal because he keeps waking up losing body parts. On a deeper level, this is, of course, about bodily injuries from the war.

I also often don't read works in translation but I know for a fact that this anthology is special because, for the first time, wars from the Vietnam war will finally be accessible to Anglophone readers! I found the translated version so beautiful, melancholy and lyrical.
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