The Official Voice of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

March/April 2004
OFF THE SHELF
 
 

Dakota Sons In Vietnam Genre Blending

REVIEWED BY JOHN CLARK PRATT

One of this book's dust-cover comments aptly sums up the nature of this intriguingly different work: "It is at once an easy and a difficult read.'' Most of the scenes set in Vietnam and South Dakota are precise, well written, and easy to comprehend. The book's difficulty results from the overall structure, some time-frame problems, and an inconsistent point of view. The author, Mark St. Pierre, calls this "creative non-fiction,'' but at least one reviewer has described the book as a novel. It is actually a blend of both genres.

Problems aside, Of Uncommon Birth (University of Oklahoma, 283 pp., $27.95) presents a rarely considered aspect of the Vietnam War: the participation and attitudes of Native Americans in and out of combat. Seen primarily through the eyes of two soldiersone a white man of Scandinavian descent; the other a member of the Lakota tribe--the story begins in 1968 in South Dakota and Iowa. Frank Jealous-of-Him and Dale Nielsen alternately consider the Vietnam War and their decisions to enlist in the Army. They meet during AIT in Seattle, are sent to Vietnam, and see each other only while in country.

St. Pierre did not serve in Vietnam. But he has done extensive research and interviews, especially with the man who was the model for Dale. Frank Jealous-of-Him is engagingly portrayed and the book ends with a photo of a real tracing of his name on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The scenes set in Vietnam and on R&R in Australia are varied and generally accurate. Readers who believe they already know a lot about the Vietnam War will discover how much they've never known they've missed.

VVA member John Pratt is the author of Vietnam Voices, The Laotian Fragments, and other works about the Vietnam War.
 

   

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