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
soldiersone 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.